What to Look for in Prenatal Vitamins
By Kathleen Nguyen, BAPS, PharmD – Kathleen is a licensed Pharmacist and Principal at BumpVitamins.com
THE STAKES ARE HIGH when you are pregnant. You’re not just having to worry about your own health, but also the health of the baby that you are nourishing inside of you. Of course, you want what is safe and best for you and your baby, so that often means giving up things like sushi and alcohol or any number of other indulgences. But… it is not always about giving things up. Sometimes it is about adding things that are crucial to a healthy pregnancy, that you normally may not be getting enough of— sometimes with supplements. But, how do you find the best prenatal vitamins?
During pregnancy, your body changes drastically and requires several key nutrients in larger than normal amounts. Sometimes, the best insurance policy against nutrient deficiencies that may complicate your pregnancy, is through prenatal vitamins.
Unfortunately, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. So how do you know which one to choose? What ingredients do you need to make sure the prenatal has and in what amounts? Below are five nutrients you want to make sure are in your prenatal vitamin and a little background as to why these nutrients are important for you and your baby’s health:
1.) Folic Acid
Folic acid is probably one of the most important nutrients you need during pregnancy. It is essential in the development of a healthy baby. A lack of sufficient Folic Acid during pregnancy greatly increases the chances of developing Neural Tube Defects (NTDs). NTDs are severe abnormalities in the spinal cord and/or brain. A lack of Folic Acid can also lead to the development of spina bifida (1).
To prevent neural tubal defects, it is recommended by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) to consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily and to start at least three months before pregnancy and to continue throughout your pregnancy (1).
Food sources with high levels of Folic Acid include certain cereals, rice, spinach, and beans.
Calcium is commonly known as the main nutrient required to build strong, healthy bones and teeth. If you do not consume enough calcium during pregnancy, the body will pull the calcium it needs for the baby from your bones, which may cause bone loss and/or osteoporosis in the long term. Calcium also has a preventative function during pregnancy. Studies have shown that calcium supplementation in pregnancy may reduce the risk of having a hypertensive event. These hypertensive disorders (such as preeclampsia) are frequently associated with instances of maternal death (2).
WHO (The World Health Organization) recommends women take 1.5g to 2g of calcium a day until the end of pregnancy. Research shows intake of 2g of calcium a day decreases preeclampsia by 52%, reduces the risk of preterm birth, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis in pregnancy (2).
Food sources high in calcium include certain cereals, milk, yogurt, cheese, spinach, and salmon.
3.) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is produced naturally by your skin when it is exposed to direct sunlight. But if you work indoors, always wear sunblock, or live in a cold-weather climate, you may not be producing sufficient Vitamin D to meet your body’s needs, especially during pregnancy.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in our body and is needed to regulate both calcium and phosphate metabolism, which are required to build and maintain healthy bones for both you and your baby (3). If you are consuming enough calcium in your body but not enough vitamin D, the calcium would be going to waste because it would not be absorbed properly.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, it is safe to consume up to 4,000 IU (international units) of Vitamin D a day (3). Studies have shown a decrease in the complications of pregnancy such as cesarean section, hypertensive disorders, and comorbidities from pregnancy (4).
Food sources rich in Vitamin D include eggs, fish, milk, and other dairy products.
Iron is required to produce hemoglobin in our red blood cells. Red blood cells help supply and transport oxygen throughout our bodies. During pregnancy, you need an increased amount of iron to further supply blood and oxygen to the placenta and to your baby. Consuming enough iron is essential to supporting the healthy development of your baby.
Low iron may lead to anemia and during pregnancy, low iron levels may increase the risks of premature birth, low birth weight, and/or postpartum depression. Also, it is worth noting that during pregnancy and birth, you will lose significant amounts of iron in the placenta and during delivery itself, even more so if a cesarean is necessary (3).
To prevent iron deficiency, it is recommended to take at least 27mg of iron a day and throughout pregnancy for a healthy pregnancy (3).
Food sources high in iron include spinach, meats, fish, cereal, bread, and nuts.
5.) Omega-3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to your baby’s growth, especially when it comes to healthy brain development and vision. Omega-3 fatty acids have two main components, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA supports the cardiovascular system and inflammatory responses whereas DHA supports the brain, eyes, and the central nervous system (7).
Studies have recommended consuming at least 200mg of DHA per day to support the growth and development of the fetus. Omega-3s are also important after pregnancy to aid in the production of breast milk (8).
Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout. Although omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, there is sometimes a concern for mercury and other toxins that can be present in raw animal products. It is typically recommended to receive omega-3 fatty acids through dietary supplements while pregnant.
In order for you to ensure you are receiving all the nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy, it is important to contact your specialist to see which vitamins you may be lacking or which vitamins you should take depending on your circumstances. If you are thinking about starting a new vitamin or supplement, contact your specialist immediately to ensure it is safe for you and your baby. There are many supplements that may be harmful to the baby during pregnancy.
At BUMP vitamins we offer a variety of supplements for everyday health, but also vitamins designed for fertility, as well as prenatal and postnatal support. Whether you are planning on becoming pregnant, are pregnant, or recently gave birth… we have something that will meet your needs, no matter what stage of life you are in!
Unlike many of the vitamins you find in stores or online, all of our supplements are treated the same way that prescribed medications are. Every order is filled and shipped directly from a pharmacy… not a warehouse. Each order is also verified by a licensed pharmacist to ensure accuracy and safety. All of the vitamins we offer are made at GMP-certified facilities in the USA and are tested multiple times to ensure they are free from harmful contaminants and/or toxins.
You should always consult your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements. Talk with your doctor, pharmacist, and other healthcare providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. They can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines, or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (accessed June 8, 2021).“Folic Acid”.
- Kumar, A., & Kaur, S. (2017). Calcium: A Nutrient in Pregnancy.Journal of obstetrics and gynecology of India, 67(5), 313–318.
- Khazai, N., et al. (2008). “Calcium and vitamin d: Skeletal and extraskeletal health”. Current Rheumatology Reports, 10(2), 110-117.
- American Pregnancy Association. (accessed June 7, 2021). “Vitamin D and Pregnancy”.
- Mithal, A., & Kalra, S. (2014). Vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 18(5), 593–596.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. (accessed June 11, 2021). “Iron Nutrition During Pregnancy”.
- American Pregnancy Association. (accessed June 8, 2021). “Omega-3 Fish Oil and Pregnancy”.
- Coletta, J. M., et al. (2010). Omega-3 Fatty acids and pregnancy. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 3(4), 163–171.