The Best Vitamins To Take While Pregnant
Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, shares recommended vitamins to take while pregnant. Plus: additional supplements for a healthy pregnancy, other prenatal nutritional needs, and vitamins to avoid during pregnancy.
Is it safe to take vitamins during pregnancy? How about while breastfeeding?
These are two of the most common questions that dietitians get from expectant and new mothers. Its no secret that proper nourishment can better optimize your pre and postnatal care. But exactly which vitamins and supplements should you take during pregnancy?
In this article, were bringing things back to science-backed basics. When it comes to supplements and pregnancy, heres the information you need to have a safe and healthy term.*
*This information should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice. Always follow guidance from your OB-GYN and/or primary care physician.
Find Out Which Vitamins And Supplements Are Vital
It may come as a surprise to learn that only two nutrients are recommended as supplements during pregnancy. Despite this, many women choose to take a prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement as back up for any nutritional shortfall in their diet. Learn which nutrients are in most pregnancy supplements, when theyre most helpful and why a well-balanced diet is the best possible source of nutrition.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Have Side Effects
A lot of people wonder about about prenatal vitamins side effects. Some people get nauseated or constipated from taking prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, talk with your doctor about changing brands or the types of vitamins youre taking.
Prenatal vitamins come in tablets or capsules, so finding the kind that works best with your body can help ease side effects. Your doctor or midwife can help you find a prenatal vitamin that will work best for your body.
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Prenatal Vitamins Supplement Not Replace A Balanced Diet
Any balanced diet will contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, but you should still take a prenatal vitamin to make sure that you are getting enough of the nutrients your body and your baby needs. Additionally, since prenatal vitamins are formulated with the idea that the person taking them is eating a healthy diet, there is no need to seek out additional vitamin supplements in any form, be it a pill, diet drink, or fortified smoothie. Be sure to let your doctor know if you use any of these products so you can be certain you are not getting too much of a good thing.
Vitamin A Supplementation Versus Placebo
Nine studies assessed vitamin A supplementation compared to placebo or no treatment . Of these, one study was excluded from meta-analysis because it reported no poolable outcomes, but was narratively synthesized . Thus, eight studies were included in the meta-analyses . Four of these studies were conducted in the sub-Saharan Africaof which, two were in Ghana , one in Malawi and one in Tanzania . From East Asia and the Pacific, two studies were conducted in Indonesia , and from South Asia, one study took place in Nepal , and the other in Bangladesh . Three studies provided supplementation from enrollment till the end of pregnancy , whereas, two studies provided supplements from enrollment until 6 weeks postpartum and 12 weeks postpartum , respectively, and one study did not indicate the intervention endpoint .
Vitamin A supplementation, compared to placebo, showed no impact on maternal mortality 0.90, 95% Confidence Interval 0.68 to 1.18 studies = 3 GRADE: low-quality evidence), nor any effect on the risk of stillbirths or maternal hemoglobin concentration . Supplementation may have improved maternal serum retinol concentration .
Forest plot for comparison vitamin A supplementation versus placebo/no vitamin A baseline to post-intervention for maternal serum/plasma retinol concentration .
No subgroup analysis for primary outcomes was possible for this comparison due to an insufficient number of studies per subgroup of interest.
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Women Of Reproductive Age Need 400 Mcg Of Folic Acid Every Day
- All women of reproductive age should get 400 mcg of folic acid every day to get enough folic acid to help prevent some birth defects because
- About half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, and
- Major birth defects of the babys brain or spine occur very early in pregnancy , before most women know they are pregnant.
- When taking folic acid, a higher dose than 400 mcg of folic acid each day is not necessarily better to prevent neural tube defects, unless a doctor recommends taking more due to other health conditions.
- When planning to become pregnant, women who have already had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect should consult with their healthcare provider. CDC recommends that these women consume 4,000 mcg of folic acid each day one month before becoming pregnant and through the first 3 months of pregnancy.
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What Are The Best Prenatal Vitamins
You can get prenatal vitamins over the counter in the pharmacy, but you can also ask your healthcare provider to recommend the best brand for you. Prenatal vitamins typically contain
Folic acid. This helps prevent neural tube defects, which are serious abnormalities of the spinal cord and the brain.
Iron. This helps support the development and growth of your baby, and it can also help prevent anemia, which is a low number of healthy red blood cells.
CalciumCalcium helps your baby build strong teeth and bones. You can read more about the important role iron and calcium play in your pregnancy here.
Vitamin D. This vitamin works together with calcium to help your baby develop her bones and teeth, but itâs also important for you, too, as vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women.
You may benefit from a prenatal vitamin that also contains
You may wish to choose a prenatal vitamin with DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids that can help promote your babyâs brain development, especially if you donât eat fish or other foods rich in this substance.
Discuss taking prenatal vitamins with your healthcare provider, and always check with your doctor before taking any new kind of supplement.
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Why Do I Need Folic Acid In Pregnancy
Folic acid , plus vitamin B12, is needed to form red blood cells .
“Folic acid is important for pregnancy because it can help to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida .”
The neural tube is a structure in the embryo that later develops into the babys brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid before you conceive and while you’re pregnant might prevent up to seven out of 10 cases of neural tube defects .
Why Trust Verywell Family
As a Registered Dietitian, Sydney Greene takes supplement recommendations seriously. Every product has been researched and vetted by her against clinical research, product reviews, and third-party testing websites. These are products she would not only feel comfortable recommending to her clients but she would take them herself if needed.
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Vitamin D Supplementation Versus Placebo
Eleven studies were included in the meta-analyses for vitamin D supplementation compared to placebo or no vitamin D . More than half of the studies were conducted in South Asiaof which, two were in Bangladesh , two in Pakistan , and two in India . The other half of the studies were conducted in the Middle East and North Africa regionall of which were in Iran . Six studies provided vitamin D supplementation until the end of pregnancy , while three studies specifically stated that supplementation was provided for eight weeks , nine weeks , and 10 weeks from the time of enrollment, respectively.
Findings showed that vitamin D supplementation may have reduced the risk of preterm births by 36% , though the upper limit of the confidence interval just crossed the line of no effect . It was noted that studies that strictly gave vitamin D showed a greater reduction in preterm birth risk , compared to studies that provided additional supplements such as iron and folic acid .
Forest plot for comparison vitamin D supplementation versus placebo/no vitamin D on the risk of preterm births.
Vitamin D supplementation made no difference on the risk of infants born SGA , the risk of having a Caesarean section as a mode of delivery , or maternal serum/plasma calcium concentrations , but did significantly increase the vitamin D concentrations in pregnant mothers .
No subgroup analysis was conducted for this comparison as no primary outcomes were reported for this comparison.
When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
In fact, its often best to take a prenatal vitamin every day if theres a chance you could get pregnant at all, even if youre not planning for it. Thats because crucial neurological development takes place during the first month of pregnancy, when folic acid would offer the most protective benefits.
I recommend starting prenatal vitamins as soon as you start thinking of trying to conceive. Ideally three months before conception, Dr. Nwankwo says.
If youre planning on breastfeeding, Dr. Nwankwo recommends you continue to take your prenatal vitamins for a minimum of about six months, if not throughout.
If youre already pregnant and havent been taking prenatal vitamins, no need to worry! Just start as soon as you can.
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When Do You Need Extra Vitamin B9
- Those pregnant with twins, your doctor could have your take 1,000 mg daily
- Overweight women may need more than 400mg a day, ask your doctor before you become pregnant and before you take extra
- Those taking anti-seizure or diabetes meds may be told to take more daily
- If your developing baby has already developed an NTD, your doctor may have you take 4,000 mg daily
- If you have Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, a genetic mutation that makes it harder to produce folic acid in your body
It is important you understand all the prenatal vitamin limits when choosing your prenatal vitamins.
What If I Follow A Special Diet
If you are a vegan, a vegetarian, or follow any other kind of special diet due to food intolerances or religious reasons you may not be getting enough of certain nutrients from diet alone. For example, you may find it difficult to get enough iron or vitamin B12 through food alone. Let your doctor know about your dietary habits and she will be able to check what additional supplements you may need to take.
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Why It Is Important To Do This Review
Several existing systematic reviewsmany of which include trials conducted in LMICshave examined the impact of single and multiple micronutrient supplementation interventions in pregnancy . However, among the reported results, significant heterogeneity exists this has not yet been explained by subgroup analysis. Further, for several micronutrient supplementation interventions, such as folic acid supplementation for maternal health outcomes and calcium supplementation for pregnancy and infant outcomes, there are inconclusive results that necessitate further investigation. Recently, concerns have been raised regarding the safety of iron supplementation in women with high hemoglobin concentrations, and the potentially negative long-term consequences that unabsorbed iron may have on child morbidity . Moreover, many of the systematic reviews are several years old, highlighting the need for current and updated evidence, including newly completed trial data. This is especially important given the constantly changing nutrition landscape globally and the growing triple burden of obesity, malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency. Lastly, there is a gap in research examining the effectiveness of antenatal micronutrient supplementation interventions in a real world setting.
Best With Methylated Folate: Megafood Baby & Me 2 Prenatal Vitamins
Folate is a key nutrient for women during their reproductive years, but it’s important to get the right form. Many brands use folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, but this form isn’t necessarily the most bioavailable for everyone. For this reason, whether you have the MTHFR mutation or not, it’s important to select a prenatal vitamin with methylated folate.
Megafood’s Baby & Me 2 contains 600 micrograms of L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 170 percent of the daily recommended value for pregnant women.
Megafood is one of the most trusted brands in the supplement industry because of its commitment to transparency. Their products are certified glyphosate-, GMO-, soy-, gluten-, and dairy-free and have been tested for over 125 pesticides and herbicides.
When you’re pregnant, your iron needs increase by 50 percent18 milligrams for adult women to 27 milligrams per day for pregnant adult women. The growing baby requires adequate iron to support the healthy growth of cells, tissues, and organs and mom needs extra iron to support the increase in blood volume when pregnant.
The extra red blood cells that are produced carry oxygen to the baby and, without enough iron, mom can develop iron-deficiency anemia which has been associated with increased risk of low-birth-weight infants, premature delivery, and infant mortality.
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How Prenatal Vitamins Increase Your Chances Of Pregnancy
Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specifically designed to support womens nutrition when trying to conceive, and once pregnant.
Women trying to conceive and pregnant women need additional nutrients, especially extra Folic Acid and Iron. Today you will learn why prenatal vitamins are so important, when you need to start taking them and how they impact your fertility.
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How To Choose A Prenatal Vitamin
Choosing which prenatal vitamin to take can feel like an overwhelming task, but the most important thing to remember is simply that you should take one. Prenatals are an essential part of a healthy pregnancy and there are lots of options to discuss with your doctor are having trouble deciding which is best for you.
Below are the recommended guidelines for key vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists.
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Important Vitamins And Minerals Before Conceiving:
- Folic acid is most important before conceiving, and in the early stages of pregnancy. This is when the bulk of neural tube formation occurs.
- Zinc, vitamin D and iron are often deficient in adults and are useful in increasing fertility, so likewise, these would be very beneficial before conceiving to increase your chances of success as well as contribute to producing a healthy baby.
Best Overall: Thorne Research Basic Prenatal
If you’re looking for an excellent overall prenatal, Thorne’s Basic Prenatal is the top pick, particularly for its highly absorbable form of folate. Adequate intake of folate is known to support the healthy development of the fetuss organs and tissues. In addition, it is especially critical for the closure of the neural tube, which is the precursor to the brain and spinal cord.
Though many foods like cereal, bread, and grains are enriched with folic acid and other b vitamins, supplementation is still recommended for pregnant women, as their need for this nutrient becomes 50 percent higher.
It is recommended that women consume 600 micrograms of supplemental folic acid, in addition to the folate found in food. Thornes Basic Prenatal contains 1,000 micrograms of metabolically active folic acid283 percent of the recommended daily intake for folate. In addition, this prenatal is gluten-, dairy-, soy-, and artificial flavor-free.
Thornes facility is NSF- and cGMP-compliant and they rigorously test for 760 contaminants to verify the identity, potency, and purity of each ingredient listed on their product labels.
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Supplements To Take During Pregnancy
In addition to the vitamins and nutrients discussed above, here are two of the best supplements to take while pregnant.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Doctors will often encourage their pregnant patients to take a fish oil supplement. Heres why.
Why theyre important: Omega-3 fatty acid stores tend to deplete quickly throughout pregnancy. Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids provide DHA, one of its most biologically active acids.
DHA can help ease the risk for an early preterm birth . Additionally, low DHA levels can influence changes in brain function. Consequently, this can lead to genetic variations, decreased learning abilities, and impaired vision.
The benefits of taking omega-3 fatty acid extend to postnatal nutrition, too. Researchers suggest that rapid depletion of fatty acids during pregnancy and breastfeeding can contribute to the baby blues. In turn, taking this healthy omega can have a positive influence on maternal well-being.
Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- cold-water fish
- plant oils
The ACOG recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish per week. However, pay special attention to avoid raw or undercooked fish. Additionally, you should also avoid fish with high mercury levels while pregnant.
That said, talk to your doctor about incorporating a high-quality fish oil supplement into your prenatal plan if you suspect youre getting enough DHA.
Record Menstrual Cycle Frequency
A woman who wants to have a baby should monitor whether the first days of her periods tend to occur the same number of days apart every month, which is considered regular. Conversely, her periods may be irregular, meaning her cycle lengths vary from month to month. By tracking this information on a calendar, a woman can better predict when she might be ovulating, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine. This is the time every month when her ovaries will release an egg. There are also some apps that can help with the tracking, such as GlowOvulation period tracker .
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