What are the Most Important Prenatal Vitamins to Take?
At One Community Health in Sacramento, our highly trained team treats every expecting mom with personally-tailored care throughout the entire journey to parenthood. This includes prenatal to postpartum care. An important component of prenatal care is taking quality prenatal vitamins. The nourishment of a developing baby depends entirely on the nutritional status of his/her mother. So, what are the best prenatal vitamins? And why are they important?
Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins
Inadequate nutrition during the prenatal period may have significant negative impacts on your child’s development, not only in the womb, but long term, as well. Research has shown that prenatal vitamins help:
- Increase fertility
- Prevent stunted growth
- Prevent skeletal malformations
- Prevent congenital abnormalities
- Lessen the severity of morning sickness
- Reduce the risk of premature birth
Keep in mind that while prenatal vitamins can fill in nutritional gaps that may exist in your diet, it is still important to eat a well balanced, nutrient-rich diet throughout the course of your pregnancy.
When should you take prenatal vitamins?
Ideally, you should begin taking prenatal vitamins before conceiving. It is never too early to start taking care of your child. The baby’s neural tube, which develops into the brain and spinal cord, forms during the first month of pregnancy—often before many women even know that they’re pregnant. Research indicates that a large percentage of women aged 18 to 35 have nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, many medical providers encourage all women in their reproductive years to take a prenatal vitamin regularly.
At One Community Health, we recommend that prenatal vitamins be taken daily, starting before conception and through your entire pregnancy. You may also be advised to to continue taking a prenatal vitamin after childbirth to help with postpartum recovery.
Taking them at the same time each day can help you remember to take them every day. Setting a daily alarm can also be helpful. If you have morning sickness and are less nauseated in the evenings, that might be an ideal time to take them—just be sure to take them with food as they can cause nausea on an empty stomach.
What are the best prenatal vitamins?
There are several important things to look for when choosing a prenatal vitamin:
1. Third-party certification
Third-party certification means that an unbiased organization has independently verified that the product is safe. Look for an independent seal of approval from one of these third-party certifiers:
- NSF (National Science Foundation)
- USP (United States Pharmacopeia)
- BSCG (Banned Substances Control Group)
- GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice)
- Consumer Lab
2. 600 mcg of folate
Folate prevents neural tube defects, which are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. As we talked about earlier, the neural tube develops in the first month of pregnancy, so defects can form before you even know you’re pregnant.
3. 150 mcg of iodine
Iodine is vital for proper fetal brain and thyroid development, especially if you eat a primarily plant-based diet.
4. 18 to 27 mg of iron
A supplement with 18 mg of iron is recommended if you could become pregnant or are trying to conceive. After conception, it is recommended that you take 27 mg of iron daily. Iron is necessary because:
- During pregnancy your blood volume increases by 50%. Iron is needed to produce enough blood for both you and the baby.
- It helps transport oxygen and vital nutrients for you and the baby.
- It forms the building blocks of a baby’s blood cells.
- It decreases the chances of iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause premature birth and/or low birthweight.
5. 600 IU (or 15 mcg) of vitamin D and 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. Vitamin D and calcium are necessary for bone health and proper skeletal formation. Studies also show that sufficient vitamin D levels in the body can help prevent preeclampsia.
6. 220 to 300 mg DHA
DHA is an essential fatty acid, which means that our bodies can’t make it—it has to come from our diets or a supplement. Very few women get adequate amounts of DHA in their diets. This essential fatty acid is particularly important for neonatal cognitive and visual development. Most women take a separate DHA supplement, along with their prenatal vitamin, because most don’t contain sufficient amounts of this essential fatty acid.
7. Other nutrients to look for:
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 3 mg of thiamine
- 2 mg of riboflavin
- 20 mg of niacin
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 15 mg of zinc
- 150 micrograms of iodine
Don’t Overdo it!
Too much of a good thing can be harmful—be sure to take your prenatal vitamin exactly as your doctor has instructed. Avoid taking extra prenatal vitamins or multivitamins in addition to your prenatal vitamins. High doses of some vitamins may be toxic for your baby. For example, excess vitamin A taken during pregnancy can potentially cause birth defects.
OB-GYN in Sacramento
At One Community Health, we understand that choosing the right prenatal vitamin might feel overwhelming. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our compassionate doctors. We will recommend the best prenatal vitamins for you, based on your individual needs—regardless of your ability to pay.