What Happens if You Don't Take Prenatal Vitamins?
Pregnancy is an exciting yet demanding time for a woman when the body goes through many physical changes as it responds to increased demands. Through this process, the demands for nutrition will rise as the mom-to-be has a second body to feed. In these circumstances, a prenatal supplement is recommended in order to best support a healthy pregnancy, birth, and baby. Inadequate nutritional status poses a higher risk for pregnancy and birth complications.
Is it really necessary to take Prenatal Vitamins?
If you've been a blog reader of ours for any period of time you would know that we believe a healthy diet always comes first and that we can't out supplement an unhealthy diet. We believe the same goes for pregnant women. Your diet should be the source of the majority of your nutrition however supplementation can act as a sort of insurance policy and bridge the gap between what you are eating and the levels of nutrients you should ideally be receiving.
Not to mention, for many women appetite and preferences often change throughout pregnancy and for many, it can be challenging to obtain enough nutrition. This can predispose women to nutrient deficiencies which could ultimately result in pregnancy complications and health issues for the mother and child. A daily vitamin and mineral supplement can help to support a healthy baby and mother with essential vitamins while preventing deficiencies. Particular vitamins are especially important during pregnancy and include:
Vitamin A: vitamin A is involved in fetal health and development as well as immune function. Though an essential vitamin for a healthy pregnancy, it's important to not get too much of it as excess can also cause problems. This is why it is not advised to exceed the daily recommendation indicated nor to supplement additionally with vitamin A. Check with your health care provider if you have any concerns with vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin A can be found in foods such as eggs, dairy, liver, kale, carrots, fish, and sweet potato.
Folic acid: naturally found in nature as folate and also known as vitamin B9, folic acid is an essential vitamin during pregnancy as it helps to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. It is required for healthy development and growth.
Food sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, eggs, and whole grains however, due to its vital importance for a healthy pregnancy, it is included in prenatal multivitamins to ensure adequate levels are being met. It is recommended for women who are looking to conceive to consume around 600 to 800 micrograms of folate daily from food and supplement sources.
Look for folic acid supplements that contain the form of l-methyl-folate to ensure proper absorption and assimilation.
Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is especially important for a robust immune system but also tissue repair, bone growth, and it promotes iron absorption. As it is water-soluble it can be depleted fairly quickly and should be consumed on a regular basis. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, kiwi, leafy greens, broccoli, tomato, strawberries, and bell peppers.
Vitamin D: Commonly deficient especially in the Northern Hemisphere where sunlight exposure is limited, vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system, bone growth and development, and calcium absorption. Though we can obtain vitamin D from the sun and foods such as mushrooms, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, tuna, and eggs, it is a commonly deficient vitamin and levels should be tested to determine proper supplementation.
Why Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
You may be wondering what is the difference between a regular multivitamin and prenatal vitamins? Well, it comes down mainly to the dosage of vitamins and nutrients included. A prenatal multivitamin is intended to support a healthy pregnancy, as nutrient demands will differ and likely increase while pregnant. Certain vitamins during pregnancy will be required in higher amounts such as folate, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin A but also other minerals such as iron, iodine, calcium, selenium, and zinc.
Taking a prenatal vitamin in addition to a healthy pregnancy diet can help to provide a safety net and extra reassurance that your body and baby are well taken care of. Of course, always check with your health care practitioner to ensure you are meeting your daily requirements.
When to Take Prenatal Vitamins
It is typically recommended to start supplementing with a Prenatal Supplement pre-conception, and ideally 3 to 6 months before trying to become pregnant in order to help your body prepare itself nutritionally.
This is because we want to support healthy follicle and egg development as early as possible while promoting the most ideal environment for pregnancy to occur.
In addition, the neural tube develops within the first month of pregnancy which later becomes the brain and spinal cord thus adequate nutrition will support the healthy development of the unborn baby.
Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter & how to choose
It is challenging to obtain enough nutrients we need from diet alone, and even more so when we have a baby on board. A prenatal supplement can supply a woman with an array of essential nutrients needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy and potentially avoid complications such as the risk of miscarriage, neural tube defects, and more.
If you are actively trying to conceive it is probably a good idea to add a prenatal vitamin to your supplement regimen while also making an effort to make your diet more nutritious.
Nowadays we have a wide variety of prenatal supplements at our disposal which can make it challenging to choose one.
When choosing your prenatal supplement there are a few things to look out for:
- Active forms of the vitamins (such as methylfolate, methylcobalamin, calcium citrate and magnesium citrate)
- Whole food sourcing, closest to nature as possible
- Soft gel and capsule over tablets, for superior absorption
- Includes folic acid, calcium, iron, choline, iodine and DHA
- Free of fillers, colors, artificial ingredients, and additives
- Third party certification to ensure quality control (Consumer Lab, NSF International, Informed Choice, ISURA, USP)
- Regulation (Look for an NPN number indicated on the bottle in Canada)
Do Prenatal Vitamins Help You Get Pregnant?
Prenatal vitamins are meant to support healthy conditions around conception, pregnancy, and birth so new mothers and babies are their healthiest. Though a prenatal supplement is not a guarantee, it provides extra nutritional support for expecting mothers, increasing the chance of conception.
Before pregnancy, a prenatal supplement can provide pre-conception care by supplying an array of nutrients to support egg quality, ovulation, sex hormone production and healthy uterine follicles.
During pregnancy, prenatal vitamins help support the variety of changes happening inside of a woman's body and the growth and development of the baby. They can also help to reduce the risk of birth defects and complications.
After birth and during nursing, a prenatal can provide additional nutritional support for the mother's physical needs while also supplying nutrients to their baby.
A prenatal vitamin alongside a healthy diet during pregnancy is a great way to ensure nutritional requirements are being met and for health conditions to be optimal for a newborn and mother.