What’s The Best Prenatal Vitamin For Me?
I’m pregnant with my second child, and I have to admit I did much more research to help me find the best prenatal vitamin for me this time around. (I actually don’t even remember what prenatal vitamin I took when I was pregnant with my daughter…!) If you’re newly pregnant (or – better yet – planning to become pregnant), you might be asking yourself, “What’s the best prenatal vitamin, and when do I need to start taking them?”
There are definitely a lot of prenatal vitamin options out there, so it can be overwhelming to know which to choose (and to know what prenatal vitamin ingredients to prioritize). It definitely is important, though, and worth researching (you know, when you take a break from shopping for baby outfits, baby gear, and maternity clothes, which is admittedly more fun!). To help with your research, here are some things to consider when choosing a prenatal vitamin for your pregnancy:
First, don’t forget the importance of whole food nutrition during pregnancy. Yes, taking a prenatal vitamin is something to prioritize, but don’t rely on your prenatal vitamin to provide all your key nutritional needs during pregnancy. There are lots of great resources with foods to focus on during each trimester of pregnancy, so separate from researching to find the best prenatal vitamin, it’s worth spending time looking into those food-related books, blogs, etc. as well.
As far as when to start taking a prenatal vitamin, ideally it’s something you’d introduce well before you’re actually pregnant. If you begin taking a prenatal vitamin months before you become pregnant, you’ll be helping to support and prepare your body for both the pregnancy and postpartum phases. By starting to take a prenatal vitamin pre-pregnancy, you’ll be giving your body the added support it needs right from the start of your pregnancy.
You can always ask your provider for some recommendations on prenatal vitamins as well. They’ll likely have some good go-to recommendations on what they deem the best prenatal vitamin options.
Okay, time to talk about a few of the key ingredients to look for in a prenatal vitamin. (Read this before just grabbing a prenatal vitamin off the shelf next time you’re at the pharmacy or grocery store or shopping online!):
Often, folic acid is the recommendation you’ll see for a prenatal vitamin, but for around 40% of women’s bodies have trouble utilizing folic acid. A better prenatal vitamin ingredient to look for is folate (or MTHF, which is methylated 4th generation folate), with that in mind. This ingredient is essential for brain and spinal cord development, so it’s one you won’t want to skip.
Ready for a crazy fact? About 33% of American women have a vitamin D deficiency. Yikes! We can increase our vitamin D intake with about 15 minutes of sunlight daily (perhaps longer for those with darker skin), but you can also get vitamin D through your prenatal vitamin. During pregnancy, correct levels of vitamin D will help you keep your blood pressure and blood sugar stable as well as decrease your chances of needing to deliver via C-section. Meanwhile, vitamin D in your prenatal vitamin will help your baby grow well and avoid a smaller birth weight. (Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium more easily.)
Magnesium, another ingredient to look for in your prenatal vitamin, is an electrolyte, meaning it’s a chemical that helps support hydration in the body, and hydration is of paramount importance while you’re pregnant (and later, too, if you choose to breastfeed!). Electrolytes are needed during pregnancy to help the baby develop well and to support the flow of blood to the baby’s brain.
This is one you’ve likely heard related to pregnancy, as iron deficiency during this phase of life can be common. To help avoid it, make sure your prenatal vitamin includes iron so your body can create enough blood during this time when your body’s blood volume increases in a huge way to help support both you and baby.
This one was so interesting to me during my pre-pregnancy prenatal vitamin research. I learned that many of us are deficient in iodine these days because now much of the salt we eat these days (think sea salt, Himalayan salt, etc.) isn’t iodized. I’m a plant-based eater, and therefore am at an even higher risk of being iodine deficient, so I wanted to make sure my prenatal vitamin included iodine as an ingredient. Iodine helps with a baby’s thyroid function and brand development – pretty critical!
As I mentioned, these are a handful of some of the key ingredients to look for when choosing the best prenatal vitamin for you. You’ll likely see other ingredients included. (Some other great ones to look for include calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc.)
To help ensure the iron in your prenatal vitamin (and in your diet) can work as hard for you as possible, look for vitamin C as a prenatal vitamin ingredient, which can help your body absorb iron more easily.
Being a vegan, this was another especially prenatal vitamin ingredient for me to prioritize. (Fish tends to be a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, but of course I don’t eat fish!) Omega-3’s support your baby’s brain development.
I’m big on vitamin B12 all the time, being plant based, and so it was something I knew needed to be part of my prenatal vitamin. It helps to maintain the health of your nervous system (whether you’re pregnant or not), and while you’re pregnant it works in combination with folate to help prevent spinal and central nervous system birth defects such as spina bifida.
Here’s to a healthy pregnancy – and don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins!