Whether you’ve been popping vitamins since your chewable Flintstone phase or are new to the world of nutritional supplements, one thing is certain: prenatal vitamins are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
What Are They and When to Take Them?
Prenatal Vitamins are compounds that are taken to provide nutritional supplementation, specifically for women who are, or are trying to become pregnant. Contrary to a popular misconception, these are ideally taken prior to conception, rather than once a woman finds out she has conceived. However, it is never too late to start them.
“Ideally, a woman wanting to build a family should start a prenatal vitamin before getting pregnant, since ensuring an adequate micronutrient status helps with fertility,” says Dr. Bucci. “Prenatal vitamins are the most often doctor-recommended dietary supplement, which gives a good idea of their importance. The benefits of prenatal vitamins have been scientifically proven through ample research.
Finding the Right Ones
Prenatal vitamins typically contain many nutrients in varying doses, intended to provide supportive nutrition for a female throughout pregnancy and preconception. Because of varying needs, it’s imperative to read labels and be knowledgeable about your body’s changing needs.
Dr. Bucci explains, “A massive amount of scientific evidence has shown the importance of good status for omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D3 and choline, in addition to the usual iron and folate needs. However, the majority of prenatal vitamins have not caught up with the science.” For example, many vitamins have an absence of omega-3 fatty acids, which have demonstrated an ability to improve the overall health of mothers and babies, as well as help in childhood development. He adds, “most prenatals do not have enough Vitamin D3 (2000 IU daily) to reap the advantages for mom and baby that research has consistently reported.”
Additionally, while folate is critical, “the most active and safest form of folate (called MTHF for short) is seldom seen, and using the usual Folic Acid does not work fully in about 1/3 or more of women because of common genetic variants of the enzymes that folate uses to make new cells and to make babies form correctly,” says Dr. Bucci. He explains that women can get tested for the genetic variation, and if you have one or more, then MTHF is what you should look for, not Folic Acid. He elaborated, “But even if you do not have gene variants, MTHF gives you the best possible function for your folate needs.”
The ideal forms of iron (ferrous bisglycinate) and choline, which few prenatals contain, are also important to look out for.
Prenatal vitamins are available in most grocery stores and pharmacies, health food stores, online shops and through prescription.
While this information is intended to inform, any questions or concerns regarding prenatal care or recommendations should be discussed directly with a physician.