What to Look For in a Prenatal

It’s been a long week at work and you’re feeling extra stressed…the first thought on your mind probably Having proper nutrition and getting all the correct nutrients are essential during pregnancy. This is because you’re not only fueling yourself, but you’re fueling the growing infant. Without adequate consumption of specific micronutrients, the child may not develop correctly.  Due to the difficulty of pregnancy, consumption of these vitamins and minerals may be hard through food alone. A prenatal vitamin is a great option for those who may have gaps in their diet, or do not believe they are consuming enough healthful food. But what specifically should we be looking for in a prenatal vitamin? We will discuss important vitamins and minerals that you should be consuming, and why they are important. 

Essential Nutrients

There are, of course, an abundance of nutrients that are essential during pregnancy. We will be covering the basics and those that we feel are most important. Consumption of folate/folic acid is essential both before and during pregnancy. This B Vitamin prevents neural tube defects of the growing infant. Taking a prenatal vitamin at least a month before becoming pregnant can ensure that you are providing enough folate to the child during the early growth stage. Iron is also very important for both infant and maternal health. Without it, there will be reduced oxygen flow to essential organs and the baby (source). We also suggest finding a prenatal vitamin with iodine, as it promotes healthy brain growth and development. Lastly, calcium and vitamin D can be supplemented to promote strong bone development of the newborn.

Some nutrients, however, are more difficult to find in a prenatal, but are just as important as the others. The first is choline, which is essential for healthy brain growth of the infant, as well as prevention of common birth defects. Food sources would include animal products (meat, poultry, fish, and eggs). The recommended amount for a pregnant woman is 450 mg/day (source). Consumption of DHA/EPA is also necessary for a healthy pregnancy. These are most notably found in seafood products. For women who are not consuming fish products during pregnancy, you may be able to find a prenatal with DHA/EPA supplementation. If not, we suggest taking a fish oil pill, as these nutrients help to prevent preterm birth and having a low birth weight child (source).

NutrientRecommended Intake (per day)
Folate / Folic Acid400 mcg
Iron30 mg
Iodine150 mcg
Calcium1,000 mg
Vitamin D4,000 IU
Choline450 mg
DHA / EPA200 mg

Including supplementation both before conception and during pregnancy can make a world of difference in the health of both you and your infant. When choosing a prenatal, choose one with choline, folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and EPA/DHA. If the prenatal that you chooses doesn’t have one of these, you may need an additional supplement. Be sure to consult with your doctor as well.

If you want to learn about what prenatals our team recommends, schedule a kick off call with Alli here.

This article was written by Emma Bulan, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.

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