Take a prenatal vitamin; it’s as easy as that. But what if it’s not? What if you need so much more than just a generic vitamin to ensure you are meeting the needs of your growing baby? We live in a world with shelves stacked full of options, all claiming that their supplement is the one needed to create a healthy baby. It becomes so overwhelming that the easiest solution is to grab a cheap all-in-one chew-able and walk away.
The information can be too much to take on, or perhaps there is just no good place to start. Doctors may seem like the most knowledgeable source, but are they always? Sometimes it is worth jumping off of the conveyor belt that our society has placed the pregnant woman on, and take the time to learn what your best options are. You only have 40 weeks to grow a baby, and you are not the same as any other mother that has come before you. Knowing your body and what nutrients you need will help you to grow the healthiest baby possible.
As a research writer and author of a well-known natural-minded pregnancy book, I have spent countless hours reading through studies and medical papers before creating the following list of nutrients and supplements. You can use this list as a jumping off point to decide what you want to include throughout your pregnancy. Keep in mind that it is most beneficial to begin including these nutrients at least three months prior to becoming pregnant and that all women within childbearing years should be including these nutrients on a daily basis.
I highly recommend knowing your methylation status to ensure you are taking the proper form of folate in your supplements. It is a simple blood test to learn your MTHFR status. You can also include a complete workup while blood work is being done. Knowing your vitamin D levels, as well as your iron gives you specific numbers to work with when supplementing.
Always talk to your birth provider about what you are taking, and feel confident by bringing in research to back your choices if needed. It’s a great way to spread current information!
The following list includes nutrients to look for when choosing a high-quality supplement. Please note that the quality of supplements chosen is very important, as most are comprised of fillers, sugars, dyes, and other ingredients that are not only unhelpful but potentially harmful.
Prenatal Vitamin with Folate (not Folic Acid)
Your vitamin needs to contain methyl folate, not the synthetic (and always recommended) version: folic acid. Folate is a general term for a group of b-vitamins (B9). Folic Acid is linked to:
- Incidence and recurrence of Neural Tube Defects (serious birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain which arise during the early development of the embryo, most common being spina bifida)
- Increased risk of certain cancers
- Elevated Homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke and many other health conditions
- Tongue and Lip Tie in infants
Folate is important to your health because of it:
- Aids the complete development of red blood cells
- Supports the nervous system
- Prevents neural tube defects in newborns
Omega 3’s (and Healthy Fats)
Your body cannot form omega-3 fats, so your baby must obtain all of his omegas from his you and your diet. The brain is over 60% fat, so these healthy fats are extremely important.
Researchers are now linking inadequate intake of omega-3 fats in pregnant women to increased risk of preeclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight, and to hyperactivity in children; and new studies show that Omega 3 intake while pregnant can lower the chances of childhood allergies and benefit the visual and cognitive development.
Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is easily one of the most important strategies pregnant women need to implement to keep both themselves and their new babies healthy.
- Probiotics are known to do the following:
- Reduce risk for preeclampsia
- Intake during the first trimester helps lose postpartum weight faster
- Help digestion and nutrient absorption
- Help reduce the risk for postpartum depression
Magnesium deficiency can lead to poor fetal growth, preeclampsia, or even fetal death. Proper magnesium levels also help a mom’s tissue growth and recovery during pregnancy and may help her baby receive more nutrition through the placenta.
The placenta utilizes a mother’s B12 to supply the growing baby, but it is important for the mother to replace this vitamin. Doing so through food or a B-Complex vitamin will ensure that you continue to have enough.
Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue in your body. Along with being essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, there is increasing evidence that low iodine is related to numerous diseases, including cancer. Iodine might also severely affect your child’s brain and intellectual prowess, as it is important for healthy brain development. New research now suggests an iodine supplement during pregnancy might help to boost children’s IQ scores.
Anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women—Pregnancy-induced hypertension and anemia are common and potentially dangerous. One of the primary causes for these conditions is the woman’s nutritional status. Chlorella may help improve these conditions in pregnant women, likely due to its high folate, B12 and iron content.
Prenatal supplementation with daily iron is effective to reduce the risk of low birthweight and to prevent maternal anemia and iron deficiency in pregnancy. If you have too little iron, you may experience fatigue, decreased immunity or iron-deficiency anemia, which can be serious if left untreated.
Elizabeth is a researcher, author, and content writer for My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear – one of the best online stores for the unique baby shower gifts like gender reveal kit, recordable stuffed animals and many more. She spends her days as the ringleader of a never-tiring circus; one full of tightrope walkers, Nerf-gun shooters, mess makers, and danger-seekers. She exists on toddler kisses, caffeine, and tears of (panic) happiness. Read healthy pregnancy blog to find out the dos and don’ts and other important things about pregnancy.