Should All Pregnant Women Take Prenatal Vitamins
Proper nutrition is important for your babys health, and your baby depends on you for all of his or her nutritional needs, which includes important vitamins, supplements, and minerals that are necessary for embryonic and fetal development. Ideally, if you eat a healthy diet it should provide all of your growing babys nutritional needs however, doctors recommend taking prenatal vitamins if you are planning to conceive or are already pregnant, for your babys health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends multivitamin supplements for pregnant women who do not consume an adequate diet. However, your doctor or midwife may still recommend taking them unless your doctor refers you to a nutritionist for a nutritional assessment.
Are All Prenatal Vitamins Pretty Much The Same
No. Prescription vitamins are regulated by the Food and Drug administration, but they’re not required to contain certain nutrients. “There are many different formulations available, with different concentrations of each nutrient,” says Kukreja. Some have a little of everything others contain only a handful of nutrients. If you have special health considerations, your OB may suggest a supplement with added nutrients to meet your needs.
You May Not Need A Prenatal Vitamin
Most doctors recommend their pregnant patients take vitamin supplements, but they do not need to be specifically formulated for pregnancy. There are also some good multivitamins available that are safe during pregnancy.
In choosing a multivitamin, ensure that it has an adequate amount of folate or folic acid and the right amounts of other vitamins and minerals. Some vitamins, like vitamin A, in high doses, can cause birth defects. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A for pregnant people is 770 mcg.
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Nonprescription Prenatal Vitamins May Be More Potent
By Lisa Rapaport, Reuters Health
4 Min Read
– Prescription prenatal vitamins may have lower doses of key ingredients like vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium than nonprescription alternatives, a recent study suggests.
Even though prenatal vitamins are widely recommended to pregnant women to help meet the nutrient needs for mothers and babies, women may struggle to choose the right supplement because labeling is inconsistent and the amount of the active ingredients varies widely from one product to the next, researchers note in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Theres no single right choice, experts say.
Pregnant women should discuss their diet with their doctor before choosing a supplement, and try as much as possible to get needed nutrients from the foods they eat during pregnancy, said Deborah OConnor, a nutrition researcher at the University of Toronto who wasnt involved in the new research.
For the study, investigators examined labeling for 82 prescription and 132 nonprescription products in the U.S. They looked for doses of seven vitamins and minerals, non-nutrient ingredients, and safety information.
Overall, prescription products had higher amounts of folic acid, which helps prevent brain and spinal cord birth defects, the study found.
Prescription supplements typically had fewer vitamins 9 compared with 11 for nonprescription options and fewer minerals 4 compared with 8 for nonprescription products.
Can I Take Regular Vitamins Until I Get My Prenatal Vitamins Refilled
It is fine to take a regular, over-the-counter multivitamin for a short time until you get your prescription refilled. This would not be advisable for long periods of time because prenatal vitamins have different amounts of certain vitamins and minerals that are specially formulated for pregnancy. For example, there is more iron in a prenatal vitamin than in a regular multivitamin. And, most prescription prenatals have DHA, a fatty acid thought to be important in fetal eye and brain growth, whereas many over the counter formulations do not. You can also ask your practitioner to give you some samples to help you temporarily.
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Tell Your Doctor Youre Planning To Get Pregnant
Prenatal vitamins arent just for women who are already pregnant. In fact, some prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to help enhance a womans health before she conceives. If you are planning to get pregnant, be sure your doctor knows. He or she can make recommendations for your diet and lifestyle to help promote your ability to get pregnant, maintain a healthy pregnancy, and ensure your chances of postpartum wellness. These recommendations will likely be based on your personal medical history and current healthcare needs and may include adding a prescription prenatal vitamin to your daily routine.
Here are a few sample scripts to help get the conversation rolling:
- Im giving serious thought to starting a family. Are there any changes I should make to ensure my body is optimized for conception and a healthy pregnancy?
- My partner and I are trying to conceive. Should I start taking a prenatal vitamin now?
- If I start taking prenatal vitamins before I become pregnant, should I get a prescription vitamin, or just take something over the counter?
What Happens If I Overdose
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of vitamins A, D, E, or K or certain minerals contained in prenatal multivitamins may cause serious overdose symptoms or harm to the unborn baby.
Overdose symptoms may include hair loss, dry skin, rash, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, increased thirst or urination, weight loss, confusion, weakness, drowsiness, joint pain, muscle weakness, severe headache, tingly feeling, irregular heartbeats, yellowing of your skin, or unusual bleeding.
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When Choosing Prescription Or Otc Prenatal Vitamins Consider:
How much folicacid does a prescription vs. OTC prenatal vitamin contain?
Folic acid is an important B vitamin that supports the healthy development of your baby while you are pregnant. It helps lessen the risk of neural tube defects , including spina bifida and anencephaly.1*
The Centers for Disease Control recommends taking folic acid daily for at least one month before conception, and daily while you are pregnant. The CDC also suggests that women of childbearing age take folic acid daily, whether planning a pregnancy or not. This is an especially important statement since nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned.
Women who can get pregnant need just 400 mcg/day of folic acid, and they can get this amount from vitamins or fortified foods. This is in addition to eating foods rich in folate. But, your doctor might ask you to take more for certain reasons.
Many prescription prenatal vitamins contain 1,000 micrograms or more, while on the average most OTCs contain 800 micrograms or less.2
Learn more about FOLMAX, our proprietary immediate and modified release folic acid used in vitaMedMDs vitaPearl.
A quality prescription prenatal contains chelated iron. Chelation, the process of binding iron molecules to an amino acid, stabilizes iron so it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream while being gentle on the gastrointestinal tract.
Learn more about FePlus, our proprietary blended chelate-containing iron used in vitaPearl.
Vitamin C In Pregnancy
Vitamin C protects cells and helps keep them healthy.
It’s found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need.
Good sources include:
- soya drinks with added calcium
- bread and any foods made with fortified flour
- fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards
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Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamin
Pros: These are the best prenatal vitamins, and the prenatal vitamins I am currently taking. This prenatal vitamin is organic. It also contains methyl-folate, 200mg of DHA, and probiotics. It also contains 30mg of iron which is the daily recommended amount of iron for pregnant women and 150mg of Iodine!
Cons: It contains Vitamin D2 which is not as readily absorbed as D3. So you want to make sure you get vitamin D from the sun and/ or from your diet.
Like many of the other prenatal vitamins, it also does not contain any Choline, so you would need to take an additional choline supplement. While it does contain some Calcium, it only contains 200mg of Calcium and the recommended daily intake of 1000mg of Calcium.
Price: A bottle of 90 softgels costs $42.50. You only need to take one tablet per day. That means this vitamin is less than $0.50 per day, making it the most affordable recommended option on my list.
Patented Ingredients With Proven Benefits
Prenate® Vitamin Family products contain patented nutrient forms with scientifically proven benefits. Some over-the-counter prenatal vitamins may contain folic acid, iron, and calcium. However, they do not contain patented nutrient forms:
- Quatrefolic® is a patented form of folic acid that is found in Prenate Chewable®. It is bioavailable to all women regardless of their ability to process folic acid.
- Sumalate®is a patented form of iron found in several Prenate® Vitamin Family products, including Prenate Mini® and Prenate Pixie®. It is about three times more bioavailable than common iron forms. This means that a smaller dose is more efficient.2-4 Plus, patients report less nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain with Sumalate® than other common iron forms.3,5,6
- FormiCal® is a patented form of calcium formate. Several Prenate® vitamins contain FormiCal®. It is gentle on the gastrointestinal tract.7 Plus, it is absorbed more rapidly and more efficiently, and to a greater extent than calcium citrate and calcium carbonate .7
- Lactospore® is a commercial probiotic preparation containing L lactic acid producing microbial preparation from Bacillus coagulans, MTCC 5856 found in Prenate® Restore. Probiotics are invisible good bacteria that have health benefits for both mother and baby.8,9
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What Ingredients Should Vegans Look Out For In A Prenatal Vitamin
Here are ingredients vegans should look for in a prenatal vitamin:
Gelatin: Gelatin is one of the sneaky non-vegan ingredients. It’s made from animal skin, bones, ligaments, or tendons. It often makes its way into supplements with gelatin capsules or as a filler ingredient.
Lanolin: Lanolin is a sheep-derived ingredient. It’s commonly used for vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D2 is made from plants, but Vitamin D3 may be made from lichen or animals. So you either want to look for Vitamin D2 or lichen-derived Vitamin D3.
Bee Pollen: Bee pollen may be one of the ingredients in a prenatal vitamin, so be sure to avoid it.
Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids has an important quality called DHA that is fundamental to brain development. Omega-3 is naturally found in fish. However, there is a plant-based alternative where the DHA is derived from algae.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is difficult for any vegan to get from their food since it is most commonly available in meat. There are some plant-based options though. Look for fortified yeast or blue-green algae.
What Are The Best Prenatal Vitamins Of 2020
Prenatal vitamins are the first item you purchase in your journey to becoming a parent. You want to make sure you purchase the best prenatal vitamins. How do you know which brand of prenatal vitamins is best? There are so many to choose from it can be overwhelming. Here are the Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2020.
For my information on prenatal vitamins, checkout my other articles.
What are Prenatal Vitamins? They are multivitamins that contain folate, or folic acid, which is essential in pregnancy. Women should continue to take prenatal vitamins while they are breastfeeding. However, during breastfeeding you do not need a prenatal vitamin that contains iron because very little iron is transferred in breast milk. In fact, the recommended daily allowance of iron during breastfeeding is lower than for a non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding woman.
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Do I Need To Take Prenatal Vitamins
Stephanie MacNeill, a registered dietitian in Oakville, Ontario, says that even if you are eating healthfully, a prenatal vitamin may help fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet and support a healthy pregnancy.
Proper nutrition is important for your babys health, and a baby relies completely on you for all of his or her nutritional needs for embryonic and fetal development, she explains.
She encourages all pregnant women to look for a prenatal vitamin that provides the nutrients they need, in a format that they can tolerate.
Which Is The Best Prenatal Supplement For Pregnant Women
These vegan-friendly capsules help support both mom and baby before, during, and after pregnancy. Buy Ritual Essential Prenatals online. This liquid softgel multivitamin combines DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, with folate, iron, and other essential nutrients. The added DHA helps pregnant women meet their needs for this essential fatty acid.
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Which Nutrients Are Most Important
Not every woman will have the same nutritional needs however, there are generally four key ingredients that pregnant women, or women trying to become pregnant, should pay close attention to. These are:
- Folic acid 2
- Iron 2
- Vitamin D 3
- Calcium 2
Your doctor may also recommend vitamins with other nutrients to help support your specific needs. For instance, if you have given birth to a child with a neural tube defect in the past, your doctor may recommend that you take a separate supplement containing higher levels of folic acid, in addition to a regular prenatal multivitamin.2 That being said, its best to avoid increasing the dosage of any supplement without your doctors approval. High levels of certain nutrients can actually do more harm than good during pregnancy.2
Here are a few more sample questions and talking points to cover with your doctor:
- Which specific ingredients or nutrients should I look for in a prenatal vitamin?
- Is it possible to overdose on certain vitamins or minerals?
- If I eat more nutrient-rich foods, do I still need a prenatal vitamin?
How Are Prenatal Vitamins Different From Traditional Multivitamins
Lots of different prenatal vitamin types are available on the market. While theres not a specific formulation for all prenatal vitamins, youll likely find that prenatal vitamins contain at least these key nutrients:
Calcium. According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant and adult women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Prenatal vitamins typically have between 200 and 300 mg of calcium. This contributes to a womans calcium requirements but doesnt account for all of her daily calcium needs. Calcium is important for all women because it keeps their bones strong.
Folic acid. Taking in enough folic acid is linked with reducing neural tube defects like spina bifida. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women take in 600 micrograms of folic acid every day from all sources. Since it may be difficult to get this much folic acid from foods alone, a supplement is recommended.
Foods that have folic acid include beans, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, and broccoli. Many fortified foods including cereal, bread, and pasta have folate too.
Iron. This mineral is necessary to create new red blood cells in the body. Because a woman increases her blood volume during pregnancy, iron is a must-have. According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women need 27 mg of iron a day. This is 8 mg more than women who arent pregnant.
Prenatal vitamins often contain other vitamins and minerals. These could include:
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What Sets Over The Counter And Prescription Prenatals Apart
I will preface this by saying I am happy to leave it up to my patients to determine whether they want a prescription or not. What matters most to me is that they are taking a prenatal vitamin consistently and that they are without side effects. Many times when Im prescribing a prenatal vitamin, Im not choosing a specific brand over another. I look at the specific quantity of each nutrient and choose a prenatal that has all the doses we know are effective for pregnancy.
The only time this changes is if I have a patient who has had a neural tube defect in a prior pregnancy because then the recommended dose of folate is much higher and therefore easier to reach with a prescription prenatal.
One thing to remember is that the Food and Drug Administration doesnt regulate the safety or effectiveness of any over the counter prenatal vitamins before they become available on the market. As a result, not all over the counter prenatal vitamins are created equal. This makes it important to do your homework on an over-the-counter prenatal and make sure that you are buying from a trusted brand.
The only other big difference is actually a pretty important one to considercost and convenience. Over the counter prenatals range widely based on ingredient quality, so make sure to read the label carefully. Generally, you get what you pay for. .
How Do I Choose Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are readily available over the counter and a prescription is generally unnecessary.
If youre concerned about which to choose, dont be. Theres not much difference between over the counter and prescription prenatals, and both are adequate, assures Dr. Nwankwo.
Sometimes prescription prenatals may have special formulationsfor example, they may have a stool softener added to help with constipation, or they may have additional iron. The pills may also be smaller and easier to take. But its not necessary, she says. It also doesnt matter whether you take a tablet or a gummy, just make sure it has the right amount of vitamins you need.
Every vitamin can differ in the types and amounts of nutrients it contains because specific vitamin ingredients arent regulated by the FDA. If the vitamin you choose doesnt contain the full recommended daily amount of a nutrient, be sure to eat foods that are high in that vitamin or mineral.
When shopping for prenatal vitamins look for these four primary nutrients that are especially important during pregnancy, per Dr. Nwankwo and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists):
- Folic acid: 600 mcg
- Iron: 27 mg
- Calcium: 1,000 mg
- Vitamin D: 600 IU
The following vitamins are also essential during pregnancy, and you may not get enough of them through diet alone. Having these in your prenatals are helpful too:
- Vitamin A: 770 mcg
- Vitamin C: 85 mg
- Vitamin B12: 2.6 mcg
- Choline: 450 mg
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