By TMoM Team Member Anna Keller
Of course, the best way to give our body the key nutrients it needs is through our diet, but vitamins and supplements can play a helpful role in filling in the gaps when our diet doesn’t quite cut it. This can be especially important during pregnancy (and even when you’re trying to conceive), making sure your body gets all of the critical nutrients it needs to support a growing baby.
This can be particularly important in the first trimester, when it’s very common for women to experience queasiness or nausea, along with food aversions that make it difficult to get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals via their diet alone.
But before you pick up just any prenatal vitamin off the shelf at the grocery store or online, here are a few main qualities to look for to feel confident you’re providing your body with the best support:
- Folate: The recommendation typically tends to be to find a prenatal with folic acid – folate is critical in brain and spinal cord development – but for up to 40% of women it’s hard for their bodies to utilize folic acid. On the other hand, MTHF (methylated 4th generation folate) Folate is accessible for most women’s bodies.
- Iron: Adequate iron levels in the mother help her body create enough blood to supply oxygen to the fetus.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3 fatty acids (found naturally in many kinds of fish) help support a baby’s brain development. This can be an important element in a prenatal, especially if you don’t eat fish or other omega-3 foods frequently.
- Vitamin B12: This maintains the health of your nervous system – obviously important any time, including during pregnancy – and it’s also thought that B12, when combined with folate, can help prevent spinal and central nervous system birth defects (like spina bifida) in babies.
- Choline: Choline helps improve a baby’s cognitive abilities – and who wouldn’t want that for their little one?
- Iodine: We used to think about getting this in our salt, but these days many of us are iodine deficient (because the salt we consume isn’t iodized). Iodine helps with a baby’s thyroid function and normal brain development, and women who are vegan are especially at risk for being deficient (therefore needing to supplement through a vitamin).
- Vitamin D3: For mothers, vitamin D deficiency can lead affect blood pressure and blood sugar and increase the likelihood of a C-section. In babies, a deficiency can result in a small birth weight and small overall size. (An estimated 33% of U.S. women have a vitamin D deficiency.)
- Vitamin C: This can aid in your body’s absorption of iron, so it might be a good idea for you to supplement if you don’t get adequate vitamin C through your diet.
- Magnesium: This is perhaps the most important electrolyte (chemicals that support hydration in the body) to supplement during pregnancy, as it is required for healthy development of the baby and supports blood flow to the brain.
If you’re planning for pregnancy – even several months from now – go ahead and introduce a prenatal to help support and prepare your body during pregnancy (and postpartum). Most women find out they’re pregnant about 4-6 weeks into a pregnancy, and at that point so many critical developmental elements have taken place. Ideally, you’ll already have been giving your body the added nutrient support it needs right from the start.
And, as always, please always reach out to your healthcare provider for help making the best choice for you when it comes to prenatal vitamins!
Read more about Pregnancy and Babies here!
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