Choosing a prenatal vitamin is confusing! So many milligrams, micrograms & ingredients to pronounce!
Confusing or not, you need to take a prenatal vitamin to best support your health and the health of your baby-to-be before, during, and after pregnancy.
You shouldn’t pick your prenatal based on a cute label, how tasty the gummies are (no gummies please), or even because your doctor gave it to you. The type of prenatal vitamin you choose is important, so let’s talk about why you need it and what should be in your prenantal vitamin.
For best preconception health for you and baby, you should start a prenatal at least three months, and ideally six months, before you start trying to get pregnant. I recommend that all women of child-bearing age who are considering or might become pregnant take a prenatal vitamin daily.
It takes 60 to 90 days for eggs and sperm to mature, so this will help you build up your nutrient stores and nourish your eggs and sperm from start to finish!
While including a prenatal multivitamin is best for mom and baby throughout pregnancy, remember that supplements are complements to a real, whole-foods diet. They should never replace the colorful, nutrient-rich plant and animal foods that should be on your plate every day.
Even the best of plates, however, can fall short of providing all the nutrients you need in a day. Especially since you need higher quantities of some nutrients during pregnancy.
Eating a a variety of colorful, nutrient-rich, whole foods should be the foundation for you and your baby. Foods provide additional nourishment that supplemental pills don’t.
While a prenatal vitamin can’t replace all the high-quality foods you eat every day, it should be part of your prenatal and pregnancy health plan.
But what nutrients should be in your prenatal vitamin? Here are some of the basics:
You need Vitamin B12 to develop baby’s brain and to make his DNA and red blood cells. These are huge needs in the first days & weeks of pregnancy. Methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are two highly-absorbable and well-tolerated forms of B12. Cyanocobalamin is not as well absorbed by many, so may not provide what you need for you & baby.
Folate is a must for the rapid cell division and development that takes place in the first weeks of gestation. Methylfolates and calcium folinate are better absorbed than folic acid. Many people don’t convert folic acid into the active, usable form of folate, so this gives your body something it can’t even use and may actually cause harm. I recommend that you avoid folic acid in all supplements.
Vitamin D supports your fertility, your baby’s development, and an overall healthy pregnancy. 4000 IU daily is safe and effective to provide what mom and baby need. This goes up even more when you’re breastfeeding. Check your blood levels to be sure that you're supplementing the right amount.
Iron is best when it’s not in your prenatal. Your iron needs vary throughout your pregnancy, and some women don’t need supplemental iron at all. Check your blood levels, along with ferritin, transferrin, and the rest of a full iron panel to see what your specific needs are and supplement from there.
Iodine helps your thyroid produce adequate thyroid hormone, especially in early pregnancy. The recommended intake for pregnancy is 220 mcg, so look for a prenatal close to this. I do not recommend supplementing with an isolated iodine supplement. This can be dangerous as iodine is easily overdosed. Stick to the 150-200 mcg that should be part of your prenatal.
Both zinc and selenium support a healthy immune system and optimal thyroid function. Your thyroid is under a lot of additional stress in the first trimester of pregnancy, so you need to have these two important helpers on board.
Choline barely makes an appearance in most prenatals. Like folate, choline is needed to develop baby’s spine and brain. Recommendations for pregnancy are 450 mg, & some women need even more! Look for a prenatal that contains up to 300 mg for a good daily dose. You can get additional choline from egg yolks, liver, whey protein, fish, and nuts and seeds.
In addition to containing the above nutrients, your prenatal vitamin should also be:
The supplement company should include rigorous, independent, third-party testing to ensure that the ingredients exceed the standards for purity, heavy metals, undisclosed ingredients, and other contaminants. Nobody wants these nasties!
The supplement should be free of additives, dyes, colorings, sugar, filler starches, and other extraneous ingredients.
Multiple capsules allows you to split your dose throughout the day for better absorption. A prenatal also can’t cram all you need into one pill. Better nutrients = more capsules.
In addition to a prenatal multivitamin, you and baby can benefit from a high-quality, high-DHA fish oil for brain and immune health.
My favorite prenatal supplements that meet ALL these and more are Full Circle Prenatal and Full Circle Fish Oil. My colleague and women's health expert, Ayla Barmmer developed both of these Full Circle supplements, and they are seriously some of the best prenatal supplements available. Check them out for yourself!
Do you need a trusted practitioner to help guide you and your partner in your prenatal nutrient needs? If you do, or if you have specific questions about your prenatal health, supplements, or fertility, click here to set up a FREE strategy session with me. We'll get started right away on nourishing you and your baby-to-be to the fullest!
In joy and health,
This information is not intended to be personal medical advice. Never start a supplement, change a medication, or make any other modifications to your health regimen without first consulting with your physician or appropriate health practitioner.