When you’re pregnant, your body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to support a healthy baby. Of course, we recommend a balanced diet, but when pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and food cravings prevent you from making healthy food choices, a prenatal vitamin can help bridge the gap. Shape.com turned to Dr. Anate Brauer, SGF New York’s Director of IVF, who sees patients in the Manhattan office, to discuss the key ingredients to look for in a prenatal vitamin and why these nutrients are so important to maximizing the health of the pregnancy and the baby.
Q: What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?
Dr. Brauer: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends the following vitamins and minerals, which are standardly found in most prenatal vitamins: folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, iodine, and copper.
Q: What’s the recommended dosage and why are these vitamins and minerals so important?
Dr. Brauer: Depending on specific medical issues or factors pertaining to the pregnancy, some women may require more than the recommended dosing. For example, if a woman is vitamin D deficient, she will require higher doses of vitamin D. A history of neural tube defects in a prior pregnancy or taking specific medications may require higher doses of folic acid. Twin pregnancies require higher doses of calcium and often iron. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to have a key role in pregnancy, reducing rates of depression, preterm birth, and have a significant role in fetal neurodevelopment. Pregnant woman should consume 650mg of omega 3 fatty acids, 300mg of which should be in the form of DHA. Omega 3 fatty acids can be efficiently obtained from a diet rich in fish and other products, but can also be found in a prenatal vitamin.
Q: What’s your advice when choosing a prenatal vitamin?
Dr. Brauer: Vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it is very hard to recommend one specific brand. I usually tell my patients to get the local pharmacy brand and make sure it has proper amounts of folic acid and DHA. Other than branding, color, shape, and size, there is likely little difference between generic, over-the-counter and prescribed prenatal vitamins.
Q: Which prenatal vitamins do you recommend?
Dr. Brauer: While it’s difficult to compare brands, over-the-counter options such as Nature Made offer prenatal vitamins that contain all of the required vitamins+DHA and are well tolerated and easy to swallow. CitraNatal B-Calm is a good option for patients with nausea during pregnancy. It contains vitamin B6, which has been shown to help with nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Mail order brands such as Theralogix, which offers easy, affordable access and an excellent range of products both for pre and post conception is also a great option.
Are there any side effects to taking a prenatal vitamin?
It is not uncommon for people to have some trouble tolerating prenatal vitamins. Here are some tips for taking the vitamins to prevent any side effects.
- Nausea: Instead of taking the vitamin in the morning, try taking it after dinner closer to bedtime.
- Too big to swallow: Find a chewable prenatal vitamin over the counter or get a prescription from your doctor.
- Constipation: Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-filled vegetables and whole grains—this should help get things moving.
- Diarrhea: Some prenatal vitamins contain polyethylene glycol—a laxative ingredient to balance out constipation side effects. If you have a sensitive stomach, this may not be the right prenatal vitamin for you. Read the prenatal vitamin labels carefully.
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