Top 10 Nutrients You Need In A Prenatal Vitamin






Women can start taking prenatal vitamins at any point in time, but you definitely want to start taking a prenatal vitamin at least 3 months before you want to be pregnant. This will ensure that you will have the nutrition and materials to be able to produce a healthy baby. There are so many different prenatal vitamins out there, but they may not necessarily have the vitamins you need in the right amounts.

Below lists important nutrients to look for in a prenatal vitamin:




1. DHA/EPA omega-3 fatty acids

These fatty acids are incredibly important for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Omega-3s are especially important for the brain, eyes, and nervous system of the growing baby. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of deficiency of omega-3’s because fish is often limited during pregnancy. You can read more about the benefits of DHA and EPA from the American Pregnancy Association here.

Click here to read through a list of studies that look at the various benefits of DHA and EPA in pregnancy.

How to take:

It is recommended to take at least 300 mg DHA and 200 mg EPA.

Food sources:

Fatty fish like salmon



2. Folate

Folate, or folic acid, is a B vitamin (vitamin B9) that is essential for a healthy pregnancy because it prevents neural tube defects, which are defects that affect the brain and spinal cord.

How to take:

Guidelines recommend 600 mcg of folate or folic acid daily.

Note:

Women who have the MTHFR gene mutation need to take a methylated form of folate because they are not able to convert synthetic forms of folate to its active form.

Food sources:

Dark leafy greens like spinach, as well as other veggies including brussels sprouts and broccoli.



3. Vitamin D

Just about everyone can benefit from taking a supplement of vitamin D, but it is especially beneficial for pregnant women to take vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and helps to promotes strong teeth and bones in the growing fetus. Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased fatigue, depression, headaches, and dizziness – pregnancy can be hard enough, don’t make it harder by skipping out on this important vitamin!

How to take:

Take vitamin D3 at least 600 IU per day

Food sources:

Food isn’t really a good source of vitamin D, but eggs and meat have some.



4. Calcium

Calcium is important for development of bones and teeth in the growing baby. All women should aim to get enough calcium.

How to take:

Guidelines recommend 1,000 mg per day for all women over age 19.

Food sources:

Dairy products are the most bioavailable forms, which means you absorb the most calcium from dairy sources. Go for pasteurized cheese because women should not eat non-pasteurized cheese when pregnant.



5. Magnesium

Magnesium is important for the development of the baby’s bones. It also helps to relieve muscle cramps and helps to relieve constipation in the pregnant woman. I’ve also prescribed magnesium as a helpful sleep aid as well, mostly due to how it helps to relax tense muscles.

How to take:

I recommend taking at least 400 mg of magnesium per day.

Food sources:

Dark chocolate, avocados and nuts are great sources of magnesium.



6. Iron

You need more iron when you are pregnant because your blood volume doubles when you are pregnant, and iron is a building block of blood and to needed to transport oxygen throughout the body and to the growing fetus.

How to take:

Guidelines recommend at least 27 mg of iron. It is beneficial to take iron with vitamin C which will enhance its absorption.

Food sources:

Meat is the best source because it has the highest bioavailability. Go for grass-fed and organic meat only. Pregnant women should not eat rare or uncooked meat, and should avoid deli meats.



7. Vitamin C

Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in your body and is also great for your immune system. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, therefore, it is beneficial if it is included in the same supplement as iron.

How to take:

At least 85 mg of vitamin C

Food sources:

Oranges, bell peppers, and broccoli are all great sources.



8. Vitamin B12

This vitamin is important for making red blood cells as well as helping to maintain the developing nervous system in the growing baby.

How to take:

Guidelines recommend 2.6 mcg of methylcobalamin

Food sources:

The most bioavailable food sources of vitamin B12 come from animal products, such as beef, fish, and eggs – just make sure all are fully cooked if you are pregnant.



9. Choline

This is an essential nutrient that helps with the development of the brain and nervous system in a growing fetus. Studies have found that getting enough choline while pregnant is related to decreased chance of mental illness.

How to take:

Aim for 450 mg of choline per day.

Food sources:

Good sources include eggs, beef, and chicken.



10. Vitamin B6

Taking in enough vitamin B6 is essential for a healthy pregnancy because it helps with the development of the nervous system and brain of the growing fetus. It is also important for the production of neurotransmitters that control mood. Supplementing with vitamin B6 has been shown to help with morning sickness in pregnant women as well.

How to take:

It is recommended to take 1.9 mg per day

Food sources:

Good sources include starchy vegetables like potatoes, also chickpeas and salmon.




Main takeaways…

The above are incredibly important nutrients women need to support a healthy pregnancy. If you are having trouble finding a prenatal vitamin that has all of the above, you can certainly supplement with another vitamin. For example, say you’ve found a great prenatal vitamin but it doesn’t contain DHA/EPA. Then just find another good DHA/EPA supplement and take it along with your prenatal vitamin.



References

  1. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Nutrition-During-Pregnancy#and
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621042/
  3. http://www.omega-research.com/research11.php?catid=3&subcat=26
  4. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/omega-3-fatty-acids-faqs/
  5. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/natural-sources-of-vitamin-b6-during-pregnancy/
  6. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/listeria/
  7. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/makingdecisions.sec.aspx




About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy-league trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed in California with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab

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