If you want to give your baby the best head start in life, good nutrition during pregnancy is essential. While you can’t beat getting vitamins and minerals from fresh foods, supplements can be useful to keep nutrition levels topped up. However, with so many different pregnancy vitamins available, how can you tell which ones you should be taking?
Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins and the best ones you can take to keep you and baby healthy.
What’s The Difference Between Multivitamins And Prenatal Vitamins?
Many women stock up on multivitamins once they discover they’re pregnant. It’s logical to think they’re your best option due to the sheer number of vitamins and minerals they contain. However, did you know they may not contain the right level of nutrients to keep you and baby 100% healthy?
While they will provide some health benefits, it’s actually better to opt for prenatal vitamins instead. The main reason being, multivitamins are designed to keep you healthy. They don’t accommodate for the needs of a growing baby. Prenatal vitamins on the other hand contain enough nutrients to support you and baby.
It’s important not to take both multivitamins and prenatal vitamins together. This is because doing so would potentially result in an overdose. While the effects may not be as severe as an overdose on pain medication, it could still lead to serious health problems. So, if you are planning on taking additional vitamin supplements, it’s best to stick to prenatal, rather than multivitamin supplements.
Do You Actually Need Prenatal Vitamins?
So, now we’ve established prenatal vitamins are the better option, the question is do you absolutely need them? The answer is no, technically prenatal vitamins aren’t considered essential, however they can have great benefits for you and baby.
There have been studies carried out to determine how essential prenatal vitamins can be over the years. However, these were largely carried out in developing countries. This means the women were already likely to have some form of nutrient deficiency, so prenatal vitamins would have proven more beneficial. In countries such as the US, such deficiencies are rare, but that isn’t to say prenatal vitamins aren’t beneficial.
Top Nutrients To Look Out For
As with any type of supplement, not all prenatal vitamins are the same. Some contain much higher doses of specific vitamins than others. Therefore, it’s important to know what to look out for when choosing the right prenatal vitamins for you. The key nutrients you’ll want to focus on in your prenatal vitamin selection process, include:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin D
Out of the above, Folic Acid is by far the most essential. It’s actually known to prevent birth defects, specifically neural tube defects which are known to affect the spinal cord and the brain. They tend to occur within 28 days of the pregnancy which is often before many women even realize they are pregnant. Therefore, experts do recommend those looking to get pregnant start taking folic acid supplements before conception has even occurred. The minimum recommendation is 400 micrograms, but some experts suggest aiming for an increased 800 micrograms instead.
Calcium is equally important as it helps to prevent bone density loss. When you’re pregnant, your baby needs calcium in order for their bones to develop healthily. This means they absorb some of your calcium. If you’re not getting enough calcium to support the additional demand, you could therefore start to lose bone density, putting you at an increased risk of conditions such as Osteoporosis. The majority of prenatal vitamins contain between 200-300 milligrams of calcium, and you’ll still need to ensure you’re getting plenty in your daily diet.
Iron is another nutrient to look out for. It’s responsible for helping the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. Both you and baby need iron for this function so it’s important to keep your levels topped up. It’s said you’ll need around 27 milligrams of iron each day; something most prenatal vitamins provide.
Iodine is something you probably don’t know much about. In pregnancy, Iodine is especially important to ensure your thyroids are functioning correctly. If you have insufficient Iodine levels, it can cause some pretty serious issues for baby, including significant mental disability, deafness and stunted growth. It also has the potential to cause a miscarriage and increases the likelihood of stillbirth. So, you’ll definitely want to opt for prenatal vitamins which contain approximately 150 micrograms of Iodine.
Vitamin D actually works alongside calcium to ensure your baby’s teeth and bones properly develop. It also helps with the skin and your baby’s eyesight. This is one of the key vitamins you should look out for when buying prenatal vitamins as it’s one of the few which isn’t easy to get through diet alone. As most of our Vitamin D comes from direct sunlight, it’s even more important to choose Vitamin D enhanced supplements if you’re pregnant during the winter months. The majority of prenatal vitamins contain around 400 international Vitamin D units.
Finally, DHA helps to support baby’s healthy brain development. It’s an essential omega-3 fatty acid and is usually found in oily fish – something you’re advised to stop eating during pregnancy due to the high mercury content it contains. So, to make up for the potential deficiency, prenatal supplements containing around 800 milligrams of DHA are recommended.
These are the top nutrients you’ll want to focus on when choosing the best prenatal vitamins. With so many different brands available, it can be difficult knowing which ones are the best to take. That’s why it does help to have some knowledge of the top nutrients to look out for, as well as the amount you should be getting.
Before taking any prenatal vitamins, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pediatrician. They will be able to advise you on which would be most suitable for you and also inform you of anything you need to be wary of.
Overall, prenatal vitamins are good to take and can ensure you have a healthy pregnancy. You just need to know what to look out for and be aware of the nutrients you’re already getting from your daily diet.