Be Well-Informed While Choosing a Prenatal
Good nutrition is key to a successful pregnancy.1 That said, mothers-to-be might not get the full spectrum of nutrients they need through diet alone.1 This is where prenatal vitamins come in.
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are combinations of vitamins that cater to expecting mothers and their unique nutritional needs.1 This means they generally contain more iron and folate than typical multivitamins.1
First off, there are few experiences in a woman’s life that place more demand on her body than pregnancy. Accordingly, creating a supportive environment for the baby—and for the physical changes mothers experience during pregnancy—is crucial.1
Folate, for example, can help to prevent neural tube defects affecting the baby’s brain and spinal cord, while iron promotes the baby’s development and is also beneficial for the mother.1 And the nutrients in prenatal vitamins don’t end there. Calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids are also essential to the mother’s and baby’s health.1
Some details of note surrounding prenatal vitamins: First, many women start taking prenatal vitamins before conception, which is wonderful, as science is starting to show that the preconception time period is a powerful window to improve the health of mother and baby in pregnancy.1,2 Women of reproductive age who wish to conceive should consider taking prenatal vitamins from preconception through pregnancy and delivery.1 Breastfeeding mothers are often encouraged to continue taking prenatal vitamins—or postnatals, if you will—until they’ve stopped nursing their babies.1 And if they desire to grow their family further, taking a prenatal vitamin throughout their reproductive years supports their body no matter when they are ready to conceive again.
Why take a prenatal vitamin?
Daily prenatal vitamins can give you the boost you need from conception through nursing in a variety of ways.
- When you’re trying. Preparation is essential to a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can provide nutrients such as folate, choline, and omega-3s, and can help women accommodate the changes taking place in the body.
- When you’re carrying. After conception, the right prenatal vitamins may protect the mother’s health while supporting her baby’s development.
- When you’re nursing. New mothers have a lot to balance after they deliver their babies. Prenatal vitamins can provide key nutrients to provide comprehensive nutritional support to a new mother. Look for prenatal vitamins packed with the nutrient docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid for nursing mothers as they support their little ones’ development. DHA supplementation is linked to positive cognitive related developments in early childhood.3
What should you look for in a prenatal?
If you’re searching for the right prenatal vitamins, don’t hesitate to contact your practitioner about the specific nutrients you should be focusing on.
These are some of the ingredients women can look for when selecting the necessary prenatal vitamins for their needs:
- Folate. As discussed, women require more folate during pregnancy, as the nutrient plays an important role in new cell growth.4 Specifically, folate supports the healthy development of the nervous system.5
- Choline. Choline supports fetal brain development.4
- DHA. We’ve touched on DHA already, but enough cannot be said about the importance of consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. DHA consumption during pregnancy is associated with healthy cognitive development, gestational duration, and other benefits.6
- L-carnitine. This amino acid is required to break down fats and glucose into energy. L-carnitine supports free fatty-acid metabolism, overall metabolic health, and even improved plasma levels during pregnancy.7
- Lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids play an important role in the fetus’ visual health and development.8
While the above nutrients are well-studied to be beneficial during pregnancy, expecting mothers should still maintain a healthy diet, with a focus on foods containing vitamin D, iron, calcium, and more.1
Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?
While prenatal vitamins are designed to promote a healthy pregnancy, some women may feel nauseous after taking them—at least in the beginning.1 Consult your practitioner if you take a prenatal and experience nausea. Discuss the following options to see if they would be right for you in alleviating this discomfort:1,9
- Take your prenatal vitamins with food or right before going to sleep at night.
- Take half of your prenatal vitamins in the morning and the other half later in the day.
- Chew healthy, naturally sweetened gum—or suck on a comparable hard candy—after taking your prenatal vitamins.
- If you still feel nauseous after making these changes, continue to work with your healthcare provider to find alternative solutions specific to your needs.
Regardless of which prenatal vitamins you choose, you will want to drink ample fluids, eat a high-fiber diet, and incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.1 Contact your healthcare practitioner to discuss the prenatal you choose and before making any dietary changes.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Prenatal vitamins: why they matter, how to choose. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945. Accessed July 26, 2019.
- Jacob et al. Obes Rev. 2019;20 Suppl 1:5-17.
- Helland IB. Pediatrics. 2003;111(1):e39-44.
- Angelo G. Pregnancy in brief. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/pregnancy-in-brief. Accessed July 26, 2019.
- Balashova OA et al. Dev Neurobiol. 2018;78(4):391-402.
- Braarud HC et al. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):529.
- Xi L et al. J Nutr. 2008;138(12):2356–2362.
- Zielińska MA et al. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):838.
- Prenatal vitamins. Minnesota Department of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/docs/people/wic/nutrition/english/pgprenatalvits.pdf. Accessed July 26, 2019.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team