What Is Prenatal Vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements made for pregnant women or women while trying to conceive to optimise their bodies the vitamins and minerals needed to support a healthy pregnancy.
Getting the proper nutrition is incredibly important to optimise fertility during pregnancy as a woman’s daily nutrient requirements increase, such as folate, iodine and iron. This ensures adequate fetus growth and development and minimises pregnancy complications. You may require to take prenatal vitamins in addition to a well-balanced even before you’re pregnant.
Many new prenatal vitamins are on the market with different ingredients and formulations. Knowing which one to buy and when to take them can become overwhelming. This blog post will share the dietitian’s guide on choosing a prenatal vitamin and what to look for in prenatal vitamins.
Choosing Your Best Prenatal Vitamin
Many of them are available to purchase in the local pharmacies without any prescriptions, and the different brand contains slightly different formulation depending on your nutritional goals and requirements. You also want to avoid taking a combination of many supplements as you could be at a higher risk of overdosing on a particular nutrient.
A fertility dietitian can work with you and advise on an appropriate prenatal supplement regimen to feel confident that the one you’re taking best suits your nutritional needs depending on your fertility journey and pregnancy stages.
Why Should You Take A Prenatal Vitamin?
Folate (Vitamin B9) is an umbrella term that includes those naturally occurring in food and folic acid found in fortified foods and supplements. You need folate for your cells to divide and make DNA and other genetic materials. It’s one of the most critical fertility & pregnancy nutrients.
Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate. Your body must convert folic acid into its active form (known as methylfolate) before it can absorb it. Unlike folic acid, folate found in foods is already active and ready for the body to use.
During pregnancy, our requirements for folate increase to facilitate foetal development. The recommended daily intake of dietary folate for women aged 19-50 is 400 ug per day, and during pregnancy, this need increases to 600 ug per day.
It’s recommended that you begin taking a 400 ug folic acid supplement daily in addition to the diet at least one month before falling pregnant and then continue for the first trimester of the pregnancy. Clinical trials have proven that folic acid can help raise and maintain your blood folate level within the ideal range to prevent the risk of neural tube defects.
The neural tube forms before most women are even aware that they are pregnant, so it is vital to increase folate intake before falling pregnant. A lack of folate in the body can cause the neural tube not to close properly when forming the brain and spine.
It’s important to note that many newer forms of prenatal vitamin formulations are available on the market these days. These include folic acid, folinic acid and levomefolic acid, a form of ‘activated folate’. With all these variations, please keep in mind that the only type of folate that has been proven to help prevent neural tube defects is folic acid.
Some conditions, including obesity, diabetes, malabsorption disorders, and MTHFR polymorphism, may mean you cannot effectively absorb folate. In this case, you may require a higher dose of folic acid supplementation or a different form of folate supplement.
Omega-3 (EPA & DHA) fatty acids are well known for their potent anti-inflammatory properties. There is also research to support egg development and embryo implantation and help to increase your chance of conceiving. In particular, the DHA fatty acid is responsible for the baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development.
It is reported that an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids in combination with a reduced intake of trans fats (unhealthy fats) may be beneficial for female fertility. Omega-3 has also been found to support foetus development.
The richest source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout, which provide over 2000mg of omega-3 per serve (150g). Other less oily fish that still contain high amounts of omega-3 per serve include John dory, bass and snapper. It is recommended to have 2-3 times of low-mercury fish in your diet every week.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian or not meeting the weekly recommended fish intake, look at your prenatal vitamin to check if it includes at least 300 g of DHA per serving. You may require to take a separate omega-3 supplement as most supplements in the Australian market don’t include a higher amount of DHA.
The Australian government also recommends that pregnant women with low fish intake take a supplement with 800mg of DHA daily, as this can help to reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Choline is a vital component of supporting prenatal development due to its role in supporting gene expression, cell membrane signalling and DNA methylation.
For women between 19 and 50, 425 mg of choline each day is considered an adequate intake, and our choline requirements increase to 440mg per day during pregnancy as per Australian recommendations. Unfortunately, many prenatal supplements only include a minimal amount of choline. Check whether your prenatal supplement added choline in the formulation and how much.
Choline is also responsible for the baby’s neural tube development and brain functions, so getting enough choline is essential even before becoming pregnant. A randomised controlled trial found that supplementation of choline of 480mg per day throughout the 3rd trimester of pregnancy was associated with improved cognitive functioning in offspring.
The number one dietary source of choline is eggs. One large hard-boiled egg contains 164mg of choline, which meet about 30-38% of your daily requirement. The egg yolk is essential as egg white does not contain any choline. Other choline foods include liver, soybeans, chicken breast, beef, potatoes, kidney beans and quinoa.
A fertility dietitian can help assess your diet quality and which nutrients you’re missing before customising a prenatal supplement regimen that best suits you.
4. Other Nutrients:
Some other nutrients you may like to look out for in your prenatal vitamin include iron, vitamin D, iodine and calcium. When shopping for prenatal vitamins, check for these primary nutrients that are also important during pregnancy.
When Should You Start Taking A Prenatal Vitamin Supplementation
It is best to start a daily prenatal vitamin at least three months before becoming pregnant.
Need More Help?
Book an initial nutrition consultation with me for personalised supplement recommendations and an eating plan tailored to your needs.
With all my love ,