Choosing a prenatal vitamin can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many options available these days.
When making your decision be sure to keep the following factors in mind, as not all pre-natals are created equal!
At first glance it may seem like you are getting the best bang for your buck based on the long list of items that appear on the nutrition label. It is important, however, to pay attention to the types of nutrients that are within the bottle, as many over the counter brands contain inactive forms of vitamins, meaning that the body must convert them into their active form in order to be utilized. The biggest example of this is the use of folic acid – a synthetic (aka made in a lab) version of folate. It is estimated that up to 60% of the population has a genetic mutation that prevents them from properly converting folic acid into its active form, which means that the dose you think you are getting is potentially doing nothing at all because it is not being absorbed. When it comes to fertility, obtaining enough folate is crucial, most notably within the first trimester when the risk for miscarriage and acquiring birth defects is high. It is common for several other B vitamins to be included in this way, such as vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
If you’ve ever been in a health food store you have probably noticed that the shelves often contain more than 1 variation of a single nutrient. “Magnesium citrate”…“Magnesium oxide”…“Magnesium bisglycinate” … confusing, right?! The reason for this is because vitamins and minerals exist in many different forms, some of which are more absorbable or bioavailable than others. When choosing a prenatal it is best to choose ones that do not contain the oxide forms of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper. In this case, the citrate forms are ideal because they are better absorbed and cause fewer side effects. When looking for iron, opt for one that uses iron glycinate instead of iron fumarate or iron gluconate, as it is a superior form and is less likely to cause the dreaded constipation and stomach upset that typically comes with over the counter iron supplements. For similar reasons, look for calcium in the citrate form instead of in the carbonate form.
Several of the over the counter prenatal brands look quite visually appealing – I mean, who wouldn’t want a gummy?! But don’t let this fool you, as these are often loaded with artificial dyes, sugars, and fillers that provide zero nutrition for baby and might actually case more harm than good. As a general rule of thumb, if the ingredients lists a name that you cannot pronounce, chances are that there is no need for it to be there. Avoid brands that contain ingredients such as FD&C ___ No.__ (dyes!), sodium lauryl sulfate, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, talc, PEG 3350, and shellac glaze in particular.
Ensuring that you are obtaining the right dosage of nutrients is highly important but unfortunately often overlooked. Research from the Nurse’s Health Study shows that women taking prenatal brands with a recommended dose of more than one capsule per day are more likely to conceive than those who take a one a day “all-in-one” brand. Pay particular attention to the dosages of the B vitamins (most notably folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) as well as vitamin D3 on the bottle, as these can vary widely between products. If you aren’t sure, ask your naturopathic doctor if the dosage is appropriate for you.
If you have questions or would like some additional support with your prenatal care, book an appointment with Dr. Geil by clicking HERE.
Dr. Jessica Geil, ND
Health Over All