As doctors we often get asked which are the best vitamins to take when you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or after having a baby? While there are some very important vitamins that every pregnant woman should be taking, the answer is actually not the same for everyone.
It turns out that, like with other vitamins, prenatal vitamin needs vary based on the individual. Pregnant and postpartum women are not all the same– they eat differently, have different lifestyle and other health concerns. Therefore they have different vitamin needs in terms of both actual vitamins and doses of the right vitamins. Taking a vitamin quiz is a great way to help determine exactly which vitamins you need.
First let’s talk about the vitamins that all women need to establish and support a healthy pregnancy. This includes the mothers’ health and the baby’s health and development. There are certain nutrients which are essential to this cause. These include folic acid, iron, calcium, iodine, Vitamin D3, and omega3s. So why are these important?
In brief, each one plays a vital function in different aspects of fetal development. Likewise they are all important to a mother’s health, as her nutritional reserves are sapped by the developing baby if not replenished.
Folic acid is often talked about as an essential prenatal vitamin. This is because it has been clearly established that mother’s who do not take in sufficient amounts of folic acid have babies with a much higher rate of birth defects, specifically those related to the brain and spinal cord. These babies can get a severely disabling problem called spina bifida, which often requires major spinal or brain surgery. The good news, is this risk can almost be eliminated by taking the right amount of folic acid.
Similar to folic acid, taking the right amount of iodine in pregnancy (and immediately before and after) is also important. Iodine helps support the mother’s thyroid function and in turn also the baby’s. Baby’s who do not get adequate iodine can suffer major issues with brain development and cognitive problems. Taking the proper amount of iodine, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is important. Taking too much can be harmful so caution must be used in dosing.
Iron is important since it is what builds and fuels red blood cells. Blood cells carry oxygen to all developing cells. Pregnancy is notorious for sapping a mother of her body’s iron stores. This iron deficiency can have profound and long lasting effects causing anemia, fatigue (as if having a baby isn’t tiring enough!), thinning hair, low energy, strange cravings (think eating clay and dirt), restless legs and more. It is especially important to continue taking a multivitamin with iron after pregnancy if you are nursing or not.
Calcium is a component of most prenatal vitamins because it is very important both as its role an element that is involved in many chemical reactions in the body but also because it plays a role in both fetal and maternal bone health. In a pregnant mother’s body, the baby’s bone’s take priority and the baby takes the mother’s calcium. Unfortunately, if the mother doesn’t have enough calcium this comes from her own bones. Thus, taking in enough calcium is key. While we typically recommend getting as much calcium as possible from diet, takin some calcium via a prenatal supplement is especially important during the prenatal and postnatal period (especially if nursing when calcium is also being used to create milk).
Vitamin D3 is an essential nutrient for moms and babies that is actually a hormone. Most of us are vitamin D deficient to varying degrees unless we take a supplement and vitamin D plays a role in myriad bodily functions, including immune health, bone development, mood, muscle strength and more. There is some suggestion that women with normal vitamin D levels may have lower rates of preterm labor and infections after delivery. This makes sense given the role of vitamin D in muscle function and immunity. Our experience is that most women benefit from varied amounts of vitamin D supplementation both before, during and after pregnancy depending on a variety of factors (take our vitamin quiz to find out what you need). Vitamin D is also key for fertility and in the postnatal period especially because of its role in energy, mood and more.
Lastly, but certainly not least Omega3s are a very important part of any prenatal and postnatal vitamin regimen. These essential fatty acids play a key role in preventing preterm labor as well a baby’s cognitive and visual development. They are also important for the postpartum mother because of their potential role as anti-inflammatories, in blood clot reduction and mood elevation. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women take supplemental Omega3s due to concerns about excessive seafood consumption during pregnancy and potential mercury contamination. A non fish source of Omega3s is a great way to avoid the potential for mercury contamination. (Find out about our vegan Omega3s derived from algae here).
It turns out that a choice of pre- and post- natal vitamin regimens is an important decision. While there are fundamental nutrients that all pregnant women and new mothers should take (amounts may vary depending on other factors) there are also other vitamins for which need and dosage may be different from woman to woman. For this reason we strongly advocate a personalized approach to prenatal vitamins. Find out what prenatal vitamins you should take by taking our vitamin quiz. As physicians we kept up with all of the latest recommendations and culled the data to create the best combination of vitamins for you and your baby.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teenagers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.