Prenatal vitamins…are they important? Yes!
Can choosing a prenatal vitamin be way more confusing than you would have thought? Also, yes.
When I got pregnant, maybe I was naive or just hopeful – but I really thought that most prenatal vitamins were the same and that I could just find one. But a prenatal vitamin, while not totally personalizable, can be tailored to fit what you and your growing baby need.
For example, someone living in a place where the sun doesn’t shine too often in the darker/colder months – a doctor would recommend a prenatal they know has a higher Vitamin D count than some others. If you’re naturally low in iron, your doctor may know of a prenatal vitamin that has a bit more iron than what they prescribed to your neighbor when she was pregnant. And we have a whole article dedicated to why Vitamin B6 is important in prenatal vitamins.
Like I said – prenatal vitamins aren’t totally customizable, but they are definitely not all the same!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Prenatal Vitamins with DHA: Explanation and Common Questions
- 3 Everything You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins (When to Start, What in Them?)
- 4 DHA…Are Prenatal Vitamins with DHA Better?
- 5 What are the Best Over The Counter Prenatal Vitamins?
- 6 Weight Gain, Nausea & Prenatal Vitamins
- 7 Related Questions:
Prenatal Vitamins with DHA: Explanation and Common Questions
First off – what is DHA? Docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) has become a standard nutrient a lot of prenatal vitamins.
Well, in short, DHA is an omega 3 essentially fatty acid (EFA). What you need to know about essential fatty acids (EFAs) are they while important to your health, they are not actually produced by our bodies – so they have to be added elsewhere (either in your diet or through a supplement).
The purpose of DHA specifically is that, together with another omega 3 called EPA, they can counterbalance the effects of omega 6. Why is that needed? Well, we eat way too much omega-6 because it can be found in corn oil, vegetable oil and other things used for cooking. And too much omega-6 can raise your blood pressure, lead to blood clots causing heart problems or strokes – and can also cause your body to retain water.
So – all that explained, you maybe have a clearer picture of WHY we need DHA in prenatal vitamins.
But as I will get into below, not all prenatal vitamins have DHA – so we’re going to break down some of the ones that do and explain why they are so great!
Here is a quick look at the top picks:
- MegaFood Baby And Me 2
- Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal
- Zahler Prenatal Vitamin with DHA
Everything You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins (When to Start, What in Them?)
When do I start taking a prenatal vitamin? Well, many women start prenatal vitamins before they start trying to conceive because taking prenatal vitamins before conception helps your baby to start with all the proper nutrients he or she needs.
What is in a prenatal vitamin? Prenatal vitamins contain vitamins, nutrients and minerals your baby needs for healthy development. These vitamins and nutrients are vital for proper growth and development.
During pregnancy, you need much higher intake of nutrients such as calcium, folic acid (folate) and iron. Even if you eat a varied and healthy diet (vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, grains and legumes), you may not get enough of each of the required vitamins and nutrients unless you supplement.
Folic acid, or folate, is a vitamin B and extremely important to your baby’s development.
Below is a little deep dive into the world of prenatal vitamins including when to start taking them, what vitamin to look for and some helpful information on what’s in your average prenatal vitamin.
What are the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins?
Consuming enough folate can reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida, cleft lip or palate and heart defects) by half! It may also reduce your chances of getting preeclampsia later in your pregnancy.
Folate is used by every single cell in your body, as it divides. As you can imagine when you’re growing a baby there is a lot of cell division going on.
Your baby needs the folic acid to grow and form appropriately. Because of the way folic acid is available for your body when broken down, the synthetic version in supplements is easier for your body to absorb and put to use. Be sure your prenatal vitamin has the recommended amount (or more) of folic acid (folate) for you and your baby. The recommended daily amount of folic acid (folate) is 600 mcg (micrograms) for at least the first trimester of pregnancy.
Iron is also very important as a mom-to-be. Most pregnant women do not get enough iron in their diets to meet their (and their baby’s) needs. Low iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which increases your risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight and infant mortality.
To avoid anemia, ensure you are taking the recommended daily amount of iron. When pregnant, the recommended daily amount of iron increases from 18 mg (milligrams) per day to 27 mg per day.
This is why the amount of iron you need shoots up during pregnancy from 18 to 27 milligrams (mg) per day. Because it’s hard to get enough iron through diet alone, you should start taking a prenatal vitamin with iron as soon as you want to, or become, pregnant.
Below is some information on prenatal vitamins and pregnancy…
DHA…Are Prenatal Vitamins with DHA Better?
In short, yes. Most prenatal vitamins contain the omega–3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is necessary during pregnancy for your baby’s brain and vision development.
Fish are a high source of DHA, but with the risks of mercury toxicity many doctors recommend taking a DHA supplement when pregnant. The recommended daily amount of DHA when pregnant (or breastfeeding) is 200 mg to 600 mg. Most adult women average less than 70 mg per day. Omega–3’s (such as DHA) are called essential fatty acids because you have to get them from diet or supplements. Your body does not produce it naturally. This is why it’s so important to consume enough DHA for yourself and your growing baby.
Here’s a little graphic on how DHA benefits you and your growing baby…
What are the Best Over The Counter Prenatal Vitamins?
Unlike medication sold in stores, nutritional supplements (including prenatal vitamins) are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). That means there is absolutely no regulation to ensure the prenatal you are taking contains what it says it does.
So, what is a pregnant woman to do?
Ask and Find Resources!
I recommend asking your doctor or midwife for a brand recommendation, buying only reputable and name brand prenatal, or buying store brand generics sold by major retailers. There are also brands that have been evaluated by third parties, such as the US Pharmacopeial Convention.
For me personally, I was prescribed because as a military wife I get them free. That is the ONLY reason. Mine did have DHA.
HELPFUL TIP: One really great source of verifiable information about prenatal vitamins is LabDoor (www.labdoor.com). LabDoor chemically analyzes the actual quantities of active ingredients and key nutrients in a product. This verifies the prenatal vitamin actually contains what they say it does. It also lists the nutritional value for each supplement, and if there are any ingredients that might be of concern.
Here are their top 3 highest quality:
Using another source, such as LabDoor, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of prenatal vitamins is vital to ensure you (and your baby’s) health and safety.
At a minimum, look for a prenatal vitamin that includes:
- Folate (Folic acid) —— 600 mcg (micrograms)
- Calcium —————— 1,000 mg (milligrams)
- DHA ———- ———- 200 mg (milligrams)
- Iron ———————- 27 mg (milligrams)
- Iodine ——————- 220 mcg (micrograms)
- Vitamin A ————— 770 mcg (micrograms)
- Vitamin C ————— 600 IU (international units)
- Vitamin D ————— 600 IU (international units)
- Vitamin B6 ————– 1.9 mg (milligrams)
- Vitamin B12 ————- 2.6 mcg (micrograms)
What is vitamin code raw prenatal?
Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal are produced by Garden of Life. They contain uncooked, untreated and unadulterated vitamins and minerals. There are no binders or fillers, and they are always dairy-free and gluten-free. Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal also contains clinically studied probiotics that (they claim) not only enhance the immune systems of mothers, but that of their babies as well.
These vitamins also include ginger to help reduce the nausea that some prenatal vitamins induce in pregnant women. Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal vitamins scored an overall grade of “A” from LabDoor, and is an excellent choice for many pregnant women.
If you’re interested in a deep-dive into the science of prenatal vitamins and the woman’s body – check out the video below where there are features from all kinds of researchers, doctors and pregnant women alike.
Weight Gain, Nausea & Prenatal Vitamins
Do prenatal vitamins cause weight gain? Prenatal vitamins do not cause pregnancy weight gain – pregnancy does!
There is nothing to suggest they increase weight gain. In fact, taking them can increase nausea in some women. HELPFUL TIP: To reduce nausea, you can try taking your prenatal vitamins before you go to bed. (This worked wonders for me!) Overnight, the pill dissolves and your body starts to absorb nutrients and vitamins you need, all wile you sleep. Some women find splitting their prenatal vitamins in half, and taking half in the morning and half in the evening, helps. I would suggest taking your prenatal vitamins with a light snack or food to ease the nausea.
Should I take prenatal vitamins before pregnancy?
Prenatal vitamins are extremely important before (and during) pregnancy to ensure a healthy delivery and baby. Ideally, women should start taking prenatal vitamins before they become pregnant.
Do I need a prenatal vitamin with DHA?
During pregnancy, you need 200 milligrams of DHA each day to help your baby’s brain and eyes develop. There are prenatal vitamins that do not contain DHA, however, so the best course of action is to ask your healthcare provider which prenatals you should be taking for your situation.
Are all prenatal vitamins the same?
No. As I mentioned above, some have things (like DHA) that other prenatal vitamins don’t have. This is because prescription vitamins like prenatals are regulated (by the Food&Drug administration) but aren’t required to contain certain things. That part is up to you and your doctor – to discuss your prenatal vitamin options and find what’s best for you.
What should I do if I have morning sickness and can’t keep my prenatal vitamins down?
Try taking them right before you go to bed. This way, you can lay flat or on your side in a still position and hopefully fall asleep before the nausea kicks in. (Tried and tested – it really does work to do it this way!)
Do I need to take anything in addition to my prenatal vitamins?
Of course, that is up to you. Some supplement with calcium if your doctor has explained that your prenatals don’t contain enough. And actually, a lot of prenatal vitamins don’t use enough calcium, as adding too much calcium to a multivitamin like prenatals can make it unstable. Vitamin D is also important, so make sure your prenatal has enough of that as well. If you aren’t too sure if you’re getting enough of what you need from your prenatal vitamins – talk to your doctor and get some more recommendations.
Can men take prenatal vitamins?
Most men might have a problem with the dose of nutrients in prenatal vitamins. They would probably be better off taking a multi-vitamin geared towards men’s health. However, they will not harm men and can be taken if desired. Some men with nutritional deficiencies (such as iron or calcium) may find prenatal vitamins beneficial.
Prenatal vitamins with DHA are very important for you and your baby’s health. Continue to take them as long as your doctor or midwife recommends. They help ensure a healthy delivery and a healthy baby!