There's no question that pregnancy is an incredibly important moment in a woman's life. Introducing a new family member to the world makes future moms (and dads!) proud, excited - and sometimes overwhelmed with uncertainty. What can you do to make sure your child is born healthy?
The best way to protect your baby is to follow medical advice to the letter and attend every single prenatal checkup. At these appointments, your doctor or obstetrician might suggest you take prenatal vitamins. Are you here to learn more about these mysterious supplements? Come with us - we've got great things to show you!
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The best Prenatal Vitamins: Our Picks
- 4 Buyer's Guide: What You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Prenatal vitamins are nutritional supplements designed for pregnant women or women trying to conceive. They provide vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids essential for fetal development.
- Your doctor or obstetrician is charge of deciding which micronutrients you should take, depending on your individual needs. Folic acid is prescribed for virtually all pregnant women.
- When choosing prenatal vitamins, pay attention to which nutrients it includes, their origin, the packaging quality, and the price point. There are also cruelty-free options for vegan moms-to-be.
The best Prenatal Vitamins: Our Picks
Prenatal vitamins are dietary supplements which should be taken with a doctor or OB-GYN's supervision. Health professionals may give you a certain degree of freedom to choose your own prenatal supplement. If you're in this situation, take a look at the prenatal supplements we've selected and recommended.
Buyer's Guide: What You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins
Mothers' nutrition affects unborn babies' health in important ways. When pregnant women have insufficient levels of certain nutrients, the fetus may not grow as expected and may be more likely to develop birth defects. Most specialists recommend that expecting mothers take prenatal vitamins to prevent these deficiencies.
Why Do I Need Prenatal Vitamins?
When pregnant women don't get enough vitamins, minerals, and calories during this crucial stage of life, their health and the health of the baby may suffer. For example, deficient amounts of folic acid (vitamin B9) can increase the odds of spina bifida, a spinal birth defect in newborns.
Plus, nutrient deficiencies can cause newborns to be more prone to illness in the future. These conditions include diabetes and high blood pressure. To prevent deficiencies, most specialists recommend vitamin and mineral supplements specially formulated for pregnant women's specific needs (1).
Which Vitamins Are Most Important?
- Vitamin A: This molecule is required for unborn babies to develop healthy eyes and strong immune defenses (3).
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6: These water-soluble vitamins help babies' bodies grow. Studies show that children who received adequate intake of these vitamins had healthier birth weights (4).
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B9): Folic acid helps create new cells. Specifically, vitamin B9 is involved in creating the fetus's spinal column and spinal cord. Low levels can cause the neural tube defects parents fear, as they lead to disability and birth defects (5).
- Vitamin B12: This molecule contributes to cell replication and helps form your child's nervous system. Any vitamin B12 deficiency could cause serious developmental defects and hinder the baby's brain from developing properly (6).
- Vitamin C: This important nutrient may promote normal fetal growth. Some studies also indicate that adequate vitamin C intake could reduce the risk of serious pregnancy complications like preeclampsia (high blood pressure and loss of protein) (7).
- Vitamin D: The "sunshine vitamin" assists fetal development, helps form bones, and possibly contributes to building unborn babies' brains and immune defenses. Adequate levels can prevent pregnancy complications including preeclampsia, infections, gestational diabetes, and premature birth (8).
- Vitamin K: Vitamin K is crucial for both mothers and children. This nutrient allows our bodies to slow and stop bleeding, so pregnant women and unborn babies need normal levels to avoid unnecessary danger during labor (9).
What Other Nutrients Are Important for Pregnancy?
- Calcium: An unborn baby's bones need calcium to grow properly. Healthy calcium intake may also protect mothers from suffering muscle pain, cramps, and changes in blood pressure (10).
- Iron: Fetuses use large amounts of iron to create new tissues, grow, and mature. Plus, expecting moms use it to form their own blood cells, which keeps away the dreaded anemia which can appear before or after giving birth (11).
- Magnesium: Meeting recommended intake for this nutrient can prevent multiple pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia. It also promotes healthy growth for babies in the womb (12).
- Iodine: Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid development. The thyroid gland located in your neck regulates your entire body's metabolism. Inadequate iodine intake can cause hypothyroidism in both mothers and children (13).
- Zinc: Healthy zinc levels could promote fetal development and prevent premature birth (14).
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fats are vital for nervous system development in unborn babies. Specifically, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 with a crucial role in forming the brain and the retina (the part of the eye responsible for receiving visual information) (15).
What Are the Risks of Prenatal Vitamins?
- Allergies. Women intolerant to gluten, lactose, fish, eggs, or any other common allergen should pay close attention to their prenatal vitamin's composition. We suggest consulting your doctor or obstetrician before taking a supplement if you have any uncertainty about possible allergens.
- Drug Interactions. If you're on regular medication, remember that these supplements could interact with your treatment. If you take certain drugs, your doctor may adjust the dosage of your prenatal supplement accordingly. For example, women who take medications for epilepsy tend to require higher doses of folic acid.
- Misuse. Some people take prenatal vitamins to stimulate hair growth. That's a bad idea! Prenatal supplements have extremely high nutrient content. People who take them and aren't pregnant or trying to conceive could develop a dangerous buildup of excess vitamins. Keep in mind there are products specifically designed to care for your hair.
As you've realized by now, the world of prenatal vitamins is a complex one. Your doctor or obstetrician should guide you through the process of choosing these products, ensuring your diet (or your partner's diet) is balanced and safe. We suggest you also keep these purchase criteria in mind when picking prenatal vitamins.
Vegan or Vegetarian Diets
There's no need for vegan and vegetarian women to struggle when looking for a supplement adapted to their dietary needs. These days, multiple plant-based products have been designed to ensure a healthy diet during pregnancy. Make sure they have a vegan quality seal and that they provide - in addition to folic acid - vitamin B12, which often eludes non-meat-eaters.
Packaging and Labeling
This is no time to experiment! A supplement as important as prenatal vitamins needs to offer clear, concise, and specific ingredient information. It should be similarly precise in the usage instructions and expiration date. Remember to save the label or package in case of any questions which may arise while taking supplements.
If your doctor or OB-GYN advises you to take a supplement with multiple micronutrients, ask them if you should specifically look for any of the following (19, 20):
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Source of Ingredients
It's crucial that prenatal supplements contain no toxic products or ingredients of questionable quality. If you've picked a supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, remember that these molecules tend to be derived from algae or fish. If they're derived from fish, you must make sure that the source material contained no mercury, a toxic substance.
Bringing life into the world is a wonderful experience. Doubts and fears are just another part of the emotional process of conceiving and giving birth. During every stage of your pregnancy, your doctor and obstetrician can help you resolve tricky issues like how to choose the perfect vitamin supplement.
If you or your partner are trying to conceive, remember that you should begin taking prenatal vitamins (specifically folic acid) at least one month before conception. We wish you the best of luck in your journey, and we hope you have a little one in your arms soon!
If this guide helped you choose a prenatal vitamin, feel free to leave a comment and share this article. We appreciate your support!
(Featured image source: Dolgachov: 38665052/ 123rf.com)
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