Diana Kelly Levey

How to Choose the Right Prenatal Vitamin for You and Your Baby

A woman holding a stack of vitamins

December 3, 2019 | Categories:

If you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, one of the first things you’ll probably do—after jumping up and down in excitement at a big, fat positive test—is start taking a prenatal vitamin. Most pregnant women know they should be taking one (doctor’s orders, right?), but you might not know much more beyond that. Before you just grab any old brand off the shelf, it’s important to understand which ingredients will meet your unique needs. Here, we explain the do’s and don’ts when it comes to prenatal vitamins as well as what to look for on the label. (Experiencing heartburn during pregnancy? Here’s what to do.)

Science-Backed Tips for Choosing and Taking a Prenatal Vitamin Supplement

Do: Take one while trying to conceive.

Doctors recommend taking a prenatal supplement even before you’re pregnant to get the best defense possible against birth defects. That’s because neural-tube defects (incomplete developments of the brain and spine) can happen in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy—a time when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. Folate is an important B vitamin that can help protect baby’s brain and spine health, which is why the CDC recommends all women of reproductive age get at least 400 micrograms daily. The easiest way to ensure this dosage is to start taking a prenatal vitamin before trying to conceive. That being said, it’s not too late to start taking a vitamin as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. (Eat these foods while you’re trying to conceive, too.)

Don’t: Forget to read the label.

Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Just like with food, ingredients do matter. Depending on the nutrient, different forms can be absorbed by the body in different ways. It helps to look for ingredients in forms that are the easiest for your body to use. For example, the naturally occurring L-methylfolate (aka 5-MTHF) form of folate has been shown to aid in absorption, and the D3 form of Vitamin D is the type your body naturally makes from the sun. Also look for a supplement that contains choline, which is important for baby’s brain and spinal cord development; the AMA recommends adequate levels of choline during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

Don’t: Take it at different times every day.

It can be challenging to remember to take a vitamin daily, especially if you aren’t used to taking a supplement or pill. But with so many changes going on in your body and life in the coming weeks (hello, pregnancy brain!), you’re more likely to forget to take your prenatal vitamin if you don’t follow a consistent schedule. Take it during a time that you address another habit—like before brushing your teeth in the morning—or set a reminder on your phone. If you need some extra incentive, a gummy vitamin, can actually make you look forward to this daily must-do. (Their fruit flavors pack the nutrients you need, without artificial sweeteners or colors.) But if you do forget to take your prenatal vitamin, don’t double up; take it the next day at your regular time.

Do: Find a prenatal vitamin that works for your dietary preferences.

Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or consume only organic ingredients, that doesn’t mean you have to compromise with your prenatal vitamin. Look for a prenatal brand that’s labeled vegan, or a certified organic and vegetarian supplement. Your vegan prenatal vitamin should have omega-3s from a plant source instead of fish and be gelatin-free. If you’re seeking vegetarian supplements or one made from organic ingredients, look for certifications on the label, like American Vegetarian Association (AVA) or Certified Organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI).

Don’t: Skip your vitamin due to morning sickness.

You should avoid taking your vitamin at a time when, well, it might not stay down. To avoid nausea, it’s also a good idea to take it with food. Additionally, iron can cause nausea and/or constipation in some people, so it might take some getting used to if you’re taking a supplement with this ingredient. Some pregnant women struggling with nausea find gummy vitamins much easier to stomach. Just be aware that many gummies don’t have iron and calcium, so you’ll need to ensure you get those nutrients from other sources.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Read the full article on The Bump.

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