If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, you probably already know you should be eating a healthy diet in order to get the nutrients you need to have a healthy baby. But even if you ARE eating a nutritious diet, it’s a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin to cover any gaps in your diet and ensure you get the right amounts of the vitamins and minerals that are key to supporting a healthy pregnancy.
…That being said, figuring out which prenatal vitamin is best for you can be a maddening process! One source will say you need 100 mg of calcium in a prenatal vitamin, another will say you need 600, one will say you should take a supplement with vitamin A, another will say you absolutely shouldn’t…needless to say, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. So, what should you do?
First of all, let’s back up a second and make sure we’re all on the same page vis-à-vis prenatal vitamins. There are prenatal vitamins, and there are fertility supplements—but the two are not the same thing! Fertility supplements are intended to help couples become pregnant. Couples who have trouble conceiving or who want to improve overall reproductive health should take fertility supplements while trying to conceive and should stop taking them after conception has occurred. Our fertility counselors recommend FertilityBlend, a scientifically validated herbal/nutritional blend that comes in two unique formulations for Women and Men. It’s the only combination fertility supplement that has undergone the “gold standard” of scientific testing (a double-bind, placebo-controlled study).
Prenatal vitamins, on the other hand, are intended to support a healthy pregnancy and the development of a healthy baby. A woman should start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as she decides she wants to become pregnant, and should continue taking them throughout her pregnancy. Some doctors recommend that women continue to take prenatal vitamins after giving birth to ensure they continue to get essential vitamins and minerals, especially if they’re breastfeeding.
The most important difference between prenatal vitamins and regular multivitamins is that prenatal vitamins contain larger amounts of folic acid and iron. This is because it’s difficult for pregnant women to get enough folic acid and iron from the diet alone. Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, and iron reduces the risk of pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality. Iron also helps to prevent anemia in the mother and the baby.
Other nutrients included in many prenatal vitamins are calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin E, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and zinc. Some prenatal vitamins also include vitamin A, vitamin B6, copper, and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals. However, the amount of each of these nutrients that a woman should get from a prenatal vitamin depends on her personal nutritional needs.
One popular brand of prenatal vitamins recommended by our fertility counselors is Rainbow Light fertility vitamins, which are food-based and easy to digest. Many doctors will also recommend you include DHA omega-3 fatty acids in your diet when trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in the baby’s brain development, are not included in all prenatal vitamins. Carlson Cod Liver Oil is a good added source of omega-3 fatty acids.
In all, you’ll find a lot of varying information online about which prenatal vitamin is the best. But because many women have different nutritional needs, you should monitor your diet and consult with your doctor before deciding which prenatal vitamin is right for you. Remember, prenatal vitamins are a supplement—not a substitute!—to a healthy diet, and you should do your best to consume a diet rich in the nutrients listed above.