Congratulations, you're pregnant! Now it's time to start taking a prenatal vitamin right? While it's better than nothing, it's not exactly optimal. If a woman is trying to get pregnant it's best if she takes a prenatal months...years, in advance. This helps build up her nutrient stores prior to pregnancy and may improve the quality of her eggs and fertility. Ever wonder what makes a pre-natal vitamin so special? Not much other than the fact that they must contain 400mcg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects such as spinabifida. Like all supplements, prenatal vitamins are not subject to FDA regulation, and the quality of many is what I consider sub-par. Depending on your financial status, taking a big box store brand prenatal along with some healthy diet choices will go a long way; and is better than nothing. However, if you can afford it go for the best.
I have been taking the Ortho Molecular Prenatal with DHA for about 2 years and love it. The blister packs are super convenient and even during my 1st trimester I was able to take the capsules throughout the afternoon without any ill effects. Now in my 3rd trimester I've found that if I miss taking my pre-natal for a couple days my brain simply doesn't work as well. Makes me wonder if prego-brain has more to do with a high need for nutrients and less to do with hormones. But that's a different discussion.
What nutrients are important to include in or with a Prenatal?
DHA or Fish oil (may have to buy separately): After testing clients for just 5 months using hair and saliva analysis I have had 1 client not be deficient in either DHA, EPA, or both. What does this mean? You are most likely deficient, and I'm sorry but eating salmon 1x week will not meet your omega 3 needs. Some studies are inconclusive, but many others show a benefit to children whose mother supplemented with either DHA or fish oil. Benefits include better neurodevelopment, reduced risk of asthma, and reduced risk of pre-term birth. Even-though the Orthomolecular Pre-natal contains DHA, as I enter my 3rd trimester I am making a more concerted effort to eat salmon and sardines, usually in the form of salmon salad made with the Wild Alaskan Canned salmon from Trader Joes.
Folate v Folic Acid: They might sound similar but there is a difference. Supplements using FOLATE may be a better option for many people since the tetrahydrofolate form is activated. Most people these days have a hard time activating certain nutrients like due to genetics and lifestyle and environmental toxins. Folate bypasses this issue. Folic Acid is the cheaper version and still needs to be activated making it less beneficial. This is especially true for people with autoimmune diseases (20% of population) or those who carry certain MTHFR mutations (10-40% of population).
Iodine: As a proud member of the midwest, I have known for quite some time that I live in the 'Goiter belt.' Our soil is low in iodine which means all of our produce and meat is too. Since our only source of fish is fresh water, that is not a viable option for iodine either. Through nutrient testing I'm finding that many children with ADHD and other behavioral/developmental challenges are deficient in iodine, and this is supported by research. We have long known that iodine is important for proper growth, brain development, and thyroid function. Despite people eating a high sodium diet from processed foods, the salt used in most of these foods is not fortified with iodine. Instead we need to look to foods like sea snacks, salt water fish, iodized salt, and well formulated supplements to help improve iodine status.
Iron: Not all pre-natals contain iron. However, about 30% of the worlds pregnant population is iron deficient, and a large proportion of women become deficient during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, building a placenta, and growing another human who also needs blood. Many women complain that iron supplements make them constipated or give them an upset stomach, so far I have not found this to be the case with the Ortho Molecular pre-natal. Why iron? babies born to women who were moderately iron deficient tend to be smaller, and babies born to women with severe deficiency are at risk for still birth and newborn death. Yes you can eat foods high in iron (beef, liver, tuna, shellfish, beans, dark greens), but sometimes this just isn't enough. Even if your pre-natal contains iron and you eat a diet high in iron, know that there is still a chance you may need extra supplementation. This would be especially true for women who were anemic going into pregnancy, as well as for vegan/vegetarian women. If this is the case I typically recommend women take the Ortho Molecular Reacted Iron, most women (myself included) do not experience digestive issues with it.
Vitamin D: Unlike most multi vitamin supplements, the Ortho Molecular Prenatal contains a decent amount of vitamin D. 2000 IU to be exact. Vitamin D is incredibly important for supporting the immune system, calcium absorption, and mood regulation. This goes for mom and baby. Unless you are getting a solid 15 minutes of direct sunlight on most of your body, most days of the week, there is a good chance you're low in vitamin D. Many doctors and OB/GYNs will say that a blood serum level of >30 is fine. But who wants to be fine? Lets be optimal, and try to keep your vitamin D level somewhere between 50-80. For some people this will mean taking an extra vitamin D supplement.
This is my short list of important nutrients, I easily could have added vitamin A (retinol not beta-carotene), choline, and calcium, but then this post would go on, and on...
If you have trouble swallowing capsules let me suggest the Smarty Pants Prenatal. You will want to supplement with extra fish oil, since the amount int the Smarty Pants is quite low. Need a liquid fish oil? Ortho Molecular has you covered, it's even mango flavored. If you need extra iron and cannot swallow capsules, try this chewable.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.