A healthy pregnancy starts with a healthy diet. However, proper nutrition is difficult to achieve through diet alone for many pregnant women. That’s why it’s essential for expectant mothers to take a daily prenatal multivitamin to meet the nutritional needs of her and her baby.
Prenatal multivitamins contain essential nutrients like iron, calcium and folic acid. A combination of vitamins and minerals helps fill nutritional gaps for mother and baby before, during and after pregnancy. The nutrients listed below will help ensure a healthy pregnancy while supporting the baby’s growth and development.
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Folate (Vitamin B9)
It’s become increasingly clear that folate is an essential nutrient for both an optimal pregnancy and a healthy baby. Folate is a B vitamin that should be taken before and during pregnancy.
Folate plays a key role in the growth and development of the baby. It has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord. In fact, neural tube defects develop in the first month following conception before many women know they’re pregnant. It’s recommended that any woman planning to be pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
Natural folate is commonly found in foods like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts), fruit, eggs, nuts and beans. However, it’s difficult to meet the demand for folate through diet. As a result, folate is one of the common deficiencies among pregnant women. But, a prenatal multivitamin with folate can close the nutritional gap and provide the necessary nutrients for mothers-to-be.
In addition to folate (B9), the entire B Vitamin complex is critical for the baby’s neurological development and a healthy pregnancy. The Vitamin B complex, consisting of eight B vitamins, are included in prenatal multivitamins to foster a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – Helps the body produce new cells and supports immune system health.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – This antioxidant is important for red blood cell production, which is required for transporting oxygen throughout the body.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Helps maintain cholesterol within normal ranges throughout pregnancy.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Breaks down fats and carbohydrates, and supports production of stress hormones, including testosterone.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Supports the production of stress hormones like serotonin and melatonin to help improve mood and sleep cycles.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin) – Biotin is vital for baby’s development and may help diabetics control their blood glucose levels.
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) – Works with folate to help produce red blood cells and oxygen-carrying protein, hemoglobin.
Keep in mind that not all B vitamin supplements are created equal. It’s important to take a supplement with methylated (active form) B vitamins. Studies show that up to 30% of the population cannot metabolize un-methylated forms of B vitamins, specifically folate and B12. In those cases, the body will not be able to absorb or properly utilize these un-methylated nutrients.
It’s well-established that iron is an essential blood-building nutrient for mother and baby throughout the pregnancy. Iron is responsible for energy production, delivering oxygen to the baby, and creation of neurotransmitters, hormones and DNA. Iron deficiency is among the most common issues facing expecting mothers and could lead to a premature delivery.
One can’t deny the importance of iron supplementation during pregnancy. But, quality of iron is just as noteworthy. Many low-quality prenatal vitamins contain ferrous sulfate or ferrous gluconate, which can irritate the digestive tract, cause constipation, worsen morning sickness and expose the digestive system to free radicals. Only 3% of these lesser quality nutrients are actually absorbed by the body while they may lead to unintended side effects.
Iron Bis-Glycinate is a higher quality form of iron that helps improve iron absorption and storage, and increase hemoglobin levels to a greater extent than conventionally used iron salts. Iron Bis-Glycinate can also improve patient compliance since it’s easier to digest and won’t lead to gastrointestinal side effects.
Every prenatal multivitamin should contain ingredients to support digestive wellness. Probiotics such Lactobacillus rhamnosus provide immune and digestive support for both mother and baby during the pregnancy. After birth, a proper balance of beneficial bacteria can support the baby’s immune system health and wellness through nursing.
Ginger root extract is another important ingredient for digestive health in expecting mothers. It can help relieve the symptoms of morning sickness such as nausea and vomiting while aiding digestion and saliva flow.
Taking a daily multivitamin doesn’t replace a balanced diet but it’s a convenient way to ensure mom and baby receive essential nutrients. However, choosing the right multivitamin represents is a growing challenge with more prenatal multivitamins available than ever before.
That’s why it’s important to evaluate a vitamin for quality and form of its ingredients in order to choose the best multivitamin for a healthy pregnancy as well as the baby’s growth and development.