Thinking about your child’s health from the point of conception is one of the best things you can do for your unborn child. In utero, they spend time depleting the mother’s body of the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow.
As long at the mother has the nutrients available to support the growing fetus, everything goes along as planned. On the other hand, diets lacking in nutrition and appropriate support can affect the growth and development of the child. It’s great that so many new mothers walk into my office already using a prenatal multivitamin.
Not all prenatal vitamins are equal.
In fact, some of them have nutrients in such small quantities that a new mom would need to take several tablets just to get to the recommended minimum amounts.
While a healthy diet is most important, effective use of vitamin supplements in pregnancy and breastfeeding may be necessary. Here are some things to look for when selecting a prenatal vitamin.
- How much of each nutrient are you getting? Some prenatal vitamins have very little amounts of each nutrient. If you are not eating these nutrients in your diet, you may need higher dosages than those provided in standard prenatal vitamins.
- Are the nutrients in your prenatal easily absorbed? Some forms of vitamins are more easily absorbed by the body than others. It is important to have the most bioavailable forms to maximize absorption, in particular if you have other digestive problems that may inhibit your ability to break down and absorb nutrients.
- Are there unnecessary additional ingredients added to your vitamin? Often vitamins will include fillers, artificial colours, flavours, chemicals and other ingredients that provide no benefit in a vitamin, and may potentially be harmful during pregnancy.
Vitamin A – Large quantities of supplemental vitamin A is not recommended to be consumed via supplementation during childbirth. There are a number of studies that show the impact can have some teratogenic effects on newborns. I recommend my patients take a prenatal vitamin with low or no vitamin A in the product.
Vitamin K – There is scientific evidence that suggests that bone growth and development and susceptibility to vascular disease later in life are influenced during maternal nutrition.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Acting as an antioxidant, riboflavin can reduce damage in the cells as well as our DNA. It is also needed in the body to help change vitamin B6 and folate into useable forms for growth and red blood cell production.
Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) – Vitamin B12 is used to help the body absorb nutrients and increase (or maintain energy levels) while providing fuel for the body’s nerve and blood cells to make DNA and other genetic material. Using methylated B12 allows the body to spend less effort (and cofactors) to transform B12 into a useable form in the body. (Click here to read my blog on methylfolate for further explanation).
Folate (methyltetrahydrafolate – MTHF) – Folate helps the body make and repair DNA, mature the components of our blood and helps to increase quality of oocyte production along side many other benefits. Using a product with methylated folate allows the body to more readily absorb and use the nutrient. (Click here to read my blog on methylfolate for further explanation).
Iron – Iron transports oxygen in the blood to mom and baby. Tiredness, weakness, irritability and depression symptoms may all be reduce (or eliminated) by supplementing with iron throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is also important to have Vitamin C alongside iron, this helps to ensure iron is better absorbed in the body.
Iodine – Iodine deficiency is common in pregnant women. Fetuses pull from the mother’s stores of iodine while they are working to develop their own thyroid gland. If mom is already low, she may start to have symptoms of hypothyroidism. Iodine also helps the fetus develop a healthy brain.
Selenium – Selenium helps to support the thyroid similar to iodine, allowing the mother to avoid drain on her thyroid function while it is supporting both mom and baby.
Want to know more about what is in the most popular prenatal vitamins? A colleague of mine created a wonderful comparison chart. Review the chart here.
If you are out of your prenatal and want to try something new, get in contact with your ND, they will be happy to provide you with a recommendation based on your lifestyle in addition to the other supplements and medications you may be taking.
Vitamin K: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15018483
Vitamin K: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26381752
Vitamin K: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021393/