Prenatal vitamins are quite amazing. Their job is to provide the essential nutrients you need during pregnancy that you may not always get solely from your diet. They also support the development of your baby, both before and after birth. Additionally, prenatal vitamins are not just for expectant mothers; women who are planning to have a baby, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding should also take them.
Recommended vitamins and minerals during pregnancy
What nutrients do you need and in what quantities? Along with a healthy diet, prenatal vitamins can help you get the daily amounts recommended by the American Pregnancy Association for the following vitamins and nutrients:
• Folic Acid/Folate (400-800 mcg)
• Vitamin D (5 mcg/600 IU)
• Vitamin E (15 mg)
• Vitamin C (80-85 mg)
• Thiamine/B1 (1.4 mg)
• Riboflavin/B2 (1.4 mg)
• Niacin/B3 (18 mg)
• Calcium (1,000-1,300 mg)
• Iron (27 mg)
• Zinc (11-13 mg)
What to look for in prenatal vitamins
A well-balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, fats, and vitamins can provide many nutrients needed to support a healthy pregnancy and the growth of your baby. But with the additional nutritional demands that come with creating a new human being, even the best diet may fall short. That’s where prenatal supplements come in. They provide important vitamins and nutrients that you and your baby need, along with a good dose of peace of mind.
But with so many brands of prenatal vitamins to choose from, along with their different claims, nutrients, and ingredients, it can be confusing to figure out which nutrients you need the most. That’s why we conducted the research on your behalf, ensuring you’re informed about what to seek in prenatal vitamins.
Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Iodine
Folic Acid for fetal development
Folic acid is a B vitamin and an absolute necessity for expectant mothers. Think of it as a nutrient that nourishes your baby’s developing nervous system and protects against certain birth defects, including spinal and brain anomalies. While it’s important to include folate-rich foods in your diet, taking a prenatal vitamin can help fill nutritional gaps.
Foods rich in folic acid include:
• Leafy green vegetables like spinach
• Legumes or beans
Consider this: Some women may not fully absorb folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) found in most prenatal supplements. Enfamom™ Essential Prenatal Multivitamins have the active form of folic acid that women can fully absorb, ensuring both mom and baby get this vital nutrient they need.
Calcium is equally important to look for in a prenatal supplement. That’s because it’s crucial for the development of your baby’s precious little bones. Delicious foods like yogurt and cheese are sources of calcium, but a prenatal vitamin with calcium helps ensure you and your baby get the levels they need, which can be even more challenging if you’re lactose intolerant or simply don’t like dairy products.
Consider this: Your body can’t produce calcium, so you need to get it from foods or supplements. During pregnancy, aim for a daily calcium intake of at least 1,000 mg.
Iron for red blood cells
Iron supports your body’s production of red blood cells, those cells that carry oxygen throughout your body and to your baby. Since your blood volume increases by 30 to 50% during pregnancy,2 your iron needs also increase. Iron supports the development of the placenta and fetus and reduces the risk of anemia.
Keep in mind: Severe anemia can elevate the likelihood of delivering a premature or low-birth-weight baby. Eating more iron-rich foods, such as dark meat, fortified cereals, and spinach, and taking a daily prenatal vitamin with iron can help you avoid anemia.
Iodine for you and your baby’s thyroid
Iodine helps you and your baby’s thyroid hormones, which play a role in the development of the nervous system and your little one’s brain.
Consider this: The body doesn’t produce iodine, so it can only be obtained through diet. The most common source is salt and iodine-fortified supplements, including prenatal vitamins.3
What about other nutrients?
Other nutrients can also affect the health and well-being of you and your developing baby.
Omega-3 DHA for brain health
It’s obvious why omega-3 DHA gets so much attention in the baby community. This is because it’s a fatty acid that supports your baby’s brain health and cognitive function. Because this nutrient is found in foods like trout and sardines, it can be a bit more challenging to get the right amount just from your diet. Prenatal supplements with omega-3 DHA can play a crucial role in supporting your future ‘Einstein’s’ brain health.
Consider this: Typically, getting the recommended amount of omega-3 DHA for pregnant or lactating women requires taking multiple pills or a prescription. Enfamom has expert-recommended omega-3 DHA in a single easy-to-take soft gel.
Choline for brain and spinal cord development
Choline plays a role in your baby’s cognitive development. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recognized choline as a nutrient that “builds the brain.”⁴
Consider this: Sources of choline include eggs, chicken, fish, and pork.⁵
When to start taking prenatal vitamins
The optimal time to start taking prenatal vitamins is when you begin trying to conceive. It may be especially important to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. A study showed that women who took 400 micrograms of folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy could reduce the risk of their baby being born with a severe brain or spinal congenital defect by up to 70%.⁶
Side effects of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy
Prenatal vitamins offer many benefits, but like with many supplements, you may experience some side effects, such as nausea. Talk to your doctor if you have digestive issues. They may suggest switching to chewable or liquid vitamins, which can be gentler on your sensitive pregnant stomach.
Prenatal vitamins with iron may be associated with constipation. Some ways to help combat constipation include:
• Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water
• Eating a fiber-rich diet
• Taking a stool softener, but get your doctor’s confirmation first
• Staying active and exercising with your doctor’s approval
Now that you know what prenatal vitamins are and what nutrients to look for, talk to your doctor about a prenatal multivitamin that’s best for you and your baby.
1. Pregnancy: Vitamins and Nutrients
2. How to Treat Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
3. Treating Iron Deficiency Naturally
4. Nutrition in Early Childhood
5. Choline: Exploring the Growing Science on Its Benefits for Moms and Babies
6. AMA Supports Global Health Experts in Declaring Infertility a Disease