Are you planning to start or expand your family? Congratulations! Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, and ensuring that both you and your baby are in the best possible health is very important. One essential tool in this pursuit is a high-quality prenatal vitamin. In this article, we'll explore why prenatal vitamins are so crucial during pregnancy and discuss specific nutrients that are vital for your well-being and your baby's development.
It's worth noting that there are many different prenatal vitamins on the market. Some are fabulous, but most I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot-pole. Has your OB/GYN written you a prescription for a prenatal vitamin from your local pharmacy? Skip that, and opt for a much higher quality prenatal vitamin.
What this blog covers:
1. The benefits of a prenatal vitamin
2. Who should take a prenatal vitamin
3. What Dr. Morris looks for in a good prenatal vitamin
4. Highlights on Dr. Morris's favorite prenatal: Prenatal Plus
What are the benefits of taking a prenatal vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins are specifically designed to provide essential nutrients that support the health of pregnant women and their developing babies. Taking prenatal vitamins as recommended by healthcare professionals can offer several benefits, including:
- Folate supplementation: Adequate folate intake before and during early pregnancy is crucial for the development of the baby's neural tube, which eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord. It helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Your prenatal vitamin should have at the least 600 ug DFE of folate.
- Essential nutrients for fetal development: Prenatal vitamins provide a range of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the healthy development of the baby. These may include iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B12, zinc, and iodine, among others. These nutrients support the formation of bones, teeth, and organs, as well as the growth of healthy cells and tissues.
- Maternal health support: Pregnancy places increased demands on a woman's body. Prenatal vitamins help ensure that the mother receives adequate nutrients to support her own health and well-being during this time. For example, iron supplementation can help prevent iron deficiency anemia, which is common during pregnancy. I always say, "Baby gets what baby needs, and mom's body will suffer".
- Meeting increased nutrient requirements: Pregnancy increases the nutritional requirements for certain vitamins and minerals. Prenatal vitamins are formulated to provide higher levels of these nutrients compared to regular multivitamins, helping to meet the increased demands of pregnancy.
- Reducing the risk of nutrient deficiencies: Prenatal vitamins help reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies that can occur due to changes in appetite, dietary restrictions, or morning sickness. By providing a comprehensive blend of essential nutrients, they help bridge any nutritional gaps and support overall health.
Who should take a prenatal vitamin?
We certainly know that pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin, but my answer here might surprise you. I recommend a prenatal vitamin for most women that are of reproductive age? Basically, if you are still having periods, a prenatal is typically the best choice when it comes to picking a multivitamin. It's much more complex and has much higher quantity of nutrients than a 1-a-day multivitamin.
What Dr. Morris looks for in a good prenatal vitamin:
When picking up a prenatal vitamin, the first thing I do is scan the "additional ingredients" for food coloring, artificial flavoring, and sugars (or fake sugars).
The second glance I take is at the active nutrient label. I start by looking at the form of each nutrient included, and then I move on to the amount of each nutrient. If folate, choline, and B12 don't check my boxes of approval, it's not a good option.
Folate Over Folic Acid:
One of the most important nutrients during pregnancy is folate, hence the second mention of it. It's essential for the development of your baby's neural tube, which forms the brain and spinal cord. Adequate folate intake can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
It's worth noting that some women may have difficulty converting folic acid into its active form, especially if they have certain genetic variations. This is where folate shines. Prenatal vitamins that contain folate, preferably in the form of methylfolate, can ensure that your body gets the active folate it needs, without relying on conversion.
Choline is a lesser-known but equally important nutrient during pregnancy. Truthfully, it deserves a blog all of its own. Choline supports brain development, helps prevent neural tube defects, and aids in liver function. Unfortunately, many prenatal vitamins do not contain sufficient choline, so it's essential to choose a comprehensive formula that includes at least 200 mg of choline.
Methylcobalamin vs. Cyanocobalamin:
Vitamin B12 is vital for red blood cell formation and neurological development in your baby. Methylcobalamin is the active form of vitamin B12 and is more readily absorbed by the body compared to cyanocobalamin, the synthetic form often found in low-quality supplements. Opt for a prenatal vitamin with methylcobalamin.
Other Essential Nutrients:
In addition to folate, choline, and methylcobalamin, here are some other vital nutrients to look for in your prenatal vitamin:
Iron: Prevents anemia and supports proper oxygen transport. If you have high iron levels, you would want a prenatal without iron.
Calcium: Supports your baby's bone development.
Vitamin D: Aids in calcium absorption and supports immune function.
Vitamin A: Essential for vision, skin, and immune function. It's important to note that vitamin A is a teratogen. This means that high levels of vitamin A can cause birth defects.
Vitamin C: Boosts your immune system and supports tissue repair.
Iodine: Crucial for thyroid function and proper brain development.
It's worth also noting the importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in pregnancy. Omega-3's promote healthy brain and eye development. High levels of Omega 3's can be found in fatty foods such as sardines, but also in Super Omega, Dr. Morris's fish oil supplement.
Highlights on Dr. Morris's exclusive prenatal vitamin: Prenatal Plus
Of course I'm partial, but Prenatal Plus checks all of the boxes! We use only the highest quality vitamins and minerals, which are all 3rd party tested for purity. On top of its outstanding quality, it doesn't leave women feeling nauseous after taking it.
Yes, it's 5 caps per day. The capsules can be taken in divided doses. If I can be frank with you for a minute, any complete prenatal with a dosage of fewer than 5 caps/day should be left on the shelf. It's impossible to pack the necessary quantity of nutrients into fewer capsules. You can do it, mama!
Choosing the right prenatal vitamin can significantly impact your pregnancy journey and the health of your baby. Opt for a comprehensive formula that includes essential nutrients like methylfolate, choline, and methylcobalamin. These nutrients, along with others, will provide you and your baby with the support needed for a healthy pregnancy and beyond.
It's important to note that prenatal vitamins should be taken in addition to a healthy and balanced diet. They are not meant to replace a varied diet but rather to complement it. Healthcare professionals can provide specific recommendations on the appropriate prenatal vitamin formulation and dosage based on individual needs and circumstances.