When you find out you or your partner are pregnant, you want to do everything right to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Taking care of your body becomes priority number one, and nutrition becomes a crucial component of your day-to-day routine.
A prenatal vitamin is a key way to help you ensure you get the right amount of important nutrients alongside a balanced diet — but not all of these supplements are the same. It can be stressful to figure out all of the right answers regarding what you need out of one.
Fortunately, we at iwi life are happy to provide some insight and save you some valuable energy and brain power along the way. When searching for the right prenatal supplement, there are nine important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that should be included.
What Is a Prenatal Vitamin?
Also called a prenatal multivitamin, prenatal vitamins are over-the-counter supplements that provide a list of nutrients to support the health and wellness of pregnant women and growing children.
During pregnancy, the body develops a higher demand for certain nutrients than the average adult. The body requires higher amounts of these nutrients in order to meet the nutritional needs for supporting the growing baby and the mother. Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to provide the vitamins and minerals that become more necessary during pregnancy.
With the challenges of being pregnant, like morning sickness and fatigue, maintaining a perfectly healthy diet can be difficult. As a result, prenatal vitamins are an excellent way to support nutrition during pregnancy.
Healthcare providers recommend starting a prenatal vitamin at least a month before conception, throughout the duration of the pregnancy, and until the mother finishes breastfeeding. If you did not plan the pregnancy, you should generally begin taking a vitamin as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
Starting the supplement early allows the nutrients to build up in the body before the baby starts developing. Similarly, continuing until after birth allows the body to replenish the vital nutrients that the mother may be lacking.
What Are the Best Things To Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin?
Unfortunately, not all prenatal vitamins are the same with the same benefits. Therefore, it is important that you pay close attention to the vitamins and minerals they include to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
The following are the most important things to look for in a prenatal vitamin to make sure you aren’t missing out on key nutrients.
1. Folic Acid
Folic acid, also called folate, is a type of B vitamin that helps form red and white blood cells and support energy metabolism. Most importantly, folic acid supports the healthy development of the brain and spinal cord.
Fetal brain development begins during the first trimester, within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, so folic acid is one of the most important nutrients to begin taking early. You need at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of the nutrient each day.
Iron has a vital part in the development of the placenta and the baby’s blood. Iron is an important element for making hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells. As a result, healthy iron levels help support proper production of red blood cells, which serve as the foundation for new blood and carry nutrients throughout the body.
Since a mother needs to increase her blood supply to carry additional oxygen and nutrients to her and the baby, iron is crucial. On top of its role in supporting healthy blood flow, iron also helps to support healthy energy levels, which in itself is a large benefit during pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends consuming at least 27 milligrams (mg) of iron each day.
At any age, calcium is an important mineral we should be consuming daily. Calcium helps support proper nervous system and muscle functioning while also making up the foundation of our bones. As a result, a substantial calcium intake is crucial during pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby’s bones and teeth.
Any good prenatal vitamin should incorporate a considerable amount of calcium to support the baby’s growth. During pregnancy, women generally need at least 1,300 mg a day, according to experts.
4. Vitamin A
Vitamin A has a considerable list of benefits for your baby during pregnancy, promoting healthy skin, supporting bone growth, and playing an important part in developing healthy eyesight. This vitamin is also great for you toward the end of pregnancy, as it helps to support postpartum tissue repair and maintains healthy immune system function.
You should consume at least 770 mcg of this vitamin throughout your pregnancy. During pregnancy, though, that number jumps to 1,300 mcg. Pay attention to the type of vitamin A in your supplement, as it is possible to see toxic effects from too much vitamin A — vitamin A from beta carotene, though, is thought to be the safest option.
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a valuable nutrient for supporting the nervous system and maintaining the proper development of red blood cells. You should obtain at least 2.6 mcg of the nutrient each day.
B12 is important for everyone, but it is particularly difficult to obtain if you are on a plant-based diet since it is mostly found in animal products like meat, fish, dairy, and poultry. If you follow a plant-based diet, a prenatal vitamin with this nutrient is all the more important.
6. Vitamin C
As we know from every orange juice label, vitamin C plays an important role in supporting the immune system. A healthy immune system is important for you and your baby throughout pregnancy to promote overall health and wellness.
However, vitamin C has another valuable role. The vitamin also contributes to your body’s ability to produce collagen, a form of protein that makes up the structure of our skin, cartilage, bones, and connective tissue. As a result, you may need at least 85 mg of the vitamin each day.
7. Vitamin D3
Like in adults, vitamin D is an important nutrient for soon-to-be babies as it helps support proper calcium absorption and maintain strong bones. The nutrient also plays a helpful role in supporting immune function for both you and your baby, as well as supporting healthy skin and eyesight.
You can get vitamin D through sunlight, but including it in your prenatal vitamin helps you reach the daily recommended 600 international units.
Like folic acid, choline has an important part in supporting the development of a fetus’s brain and spinal cord. Experts recommend taking at least 450 mg of choline each day. This nutrient can be found in milk, eggs, peanuts, and soy.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in the body, and it is one of the most essential nutrients during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. This fat makes up an important part of cell membranes in the body, specifically in the brain and in the eyes.
As a foundational part of brain cells, DHA plays a critical role in the baby’s brain development. It is also found in the retina. Including DHA in your diet helps support the healthy development of the eyes and brain during pregnancy. Your child should also maintain a regular intake of the nutrient throughout childhood to support the brain and the eyes as they grow.
DHA is significant as, unlike the other items on this list, there are not many sources of the nutrient in a standard diet, so it is very easy to miss out on getting enough of the nutrient. Experts recommend getting between 200 and 500 mg of DHA during pregnancy, but the only common food that offers DHA is fatty fish, which is rarely a mainstay in the Western diet.
Therefore, a DHA supplement provides a huge advantage by filling in a gap in many people’s daily diets. Some people choose to utilize fish or krill oil supplements, which are high in DHA, but many others have allergies or a general distaste for fish.
Many women are hesitant to consume fish during pregnancy because of the risk of marine contaminants like mercury.
On the bright side, algae offers the perfect solution as it is rich in DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids, as well as antioxidants like chlorophyll. At iwi life, all of our algae is produced in pools in the desert, far away from marine contaminants, creating an excellent option for our algae-based supplements.
Are There Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are generally safe when used properly, but they can have some mild side effects. Before starting, it is important to know the ingredients in case you are sensitive to certain vitamins or minerals. As with any supplement, you should pay close attention to how your body responds in case you have any adverse effects.
Most of the drawbacks associated with prenatal vitamins are due to their iron content. As with an iron supplement, the high mineral concentration can lead to side effects like nausea, bloating, or constipation. Taking prenatal vitamins may be a challenge during symptoms of morning sickness, as nobody wants to try and stomach a pill while facing nausea.
The most important thing to consider when taking a prenatal vitamin is to avoid taking too much or doubling a dosage. Excessive amounts of vitamins A, D, and E can all result in toxic effects.
That said, the risks of prenatal vitamins are mild when taken in appropriate amounts. Still, you should always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplement, especially when pregnant. Consult your primary care provider or ob-gyn about which nutrients you need most to see what they recommend.
Select a Prenatal Vitamin That Has it All
Your nutrition during pregnancy is vital for the health of you and your baby. When choosing a prenatal vitamin, selecting an option that provides the nutrients you are less likely to get through your diet is crucial.
An iwi life prenatal vitamin makes your search easy, providing the most important nutrients the body needs throughout pregnancy. Complete with everything from folic acid to DHA omega-3s, our formula cuts zero corners, setting you and your baby up for long-term health. To learn more about all of our supplement’s ingredients and the potential benefits, shop our pregnancy health supplements today.