I often get asked the question of whether or not pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin. The short answer is yes. I typically always recommend my clients to take a prenatal vitamin, and here's why.
Many pregnant women suffer from nausea, especially in the first trimester. The nausea may make it hard for you to keep food down, no matter how hard you try. If you are not taking in enough calories or nutrients, you are not providing your body or your baby with what it needs to have a healthy development.
Pregnant women not only need more calories during pregnancy, but they need more of certain vitamins and nutrients as well. During pregnancy, you need 25 grams extra protein, 800 milligrams extra calcium, 400 micrograms extra folate/folic acid, 12 milligrams extra iron, and 600 milligrams extra DHA.
Folate and DHA are especially important during the very early stages of pregnancy as well as pre-pregnancy. Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida as well as severe abnormalities of the brain and spine. DHA is an Omega 3 fatty acid which is important for a healthy brain development of your baby. Omega 3's are broken down into ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is converted into the DHA that we need, however, even if you're consuming large amounts of food that contain ALA, it's probably not enough to create the DHA that you need. This is why taking a prenatal vitamin that contains DHA is imperative, or take a separate fish oil supplement if your prenatal is lacking.
It is crucial to read the labels on your vitamin, as not all prenatals contain all of these nutrients (none will contain protein). Look for vitamins that are organic and made from whole foods.
If you are eating a well balanced diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, fish, whole grains and healthy fats, it's possible you don't need to take a prenatal vitamin. A high quality prenatal can be a healthy addition to an already healthy diet since some of these nutrients can be harder to get at needed levels from your diet alone. I like to think of vitamins as a supplement. It is by no means supposed to take place of healthy eating, but it fills in the gaps, or supplements what is missing.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, nutrients that you may need to supplement are vitamin B12, zinc, iron, DHA and vitamin B2, or riboflavin.
Many vitamins and supplements have a lot of fillers in them, substances that we don't necessarily need. Again, this is why reading the label is important to make sure you are getting the good stuff you need, and leaving out the stuff you don't.
If you would like to talk to me about what prenatal vitamins I recommend, I would love to chat! You can contact me via my website or firstname.lastname@example.org.