From the moment two lines or a plus sign appear on a pregnancy test stick, and even preconception, women of childbearing age should be taking a balanced prenatal vitamin to supplement a healthy diet. While many nutrition experts would argue that a well-balanced diet should supply all of the essential vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy, today’s fast-paced world can make this a challenge. Add in the morning (and all day) sickness that is common for many pregnant women and an optimal diet can become even harder to achieve 100% of the time.
“I like to tell my patients to think of prenatal vitamins as extra insurance,” says Dr. Richard Chudacoff, a nationally recognized, board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist, adding that “certain vitamins and nutrients are more important yet hard to find in adequate amounts in foods or they are not stored in the body which is the gap filled by a supplement.” When faced with pregnant patients who struggle to take a prenatal vitamin pill, Dr. Chudacoff recommends alternatives like a powdered prenatal to ensure that mothers and their babies are getting essential vitamins and nutrients. Look for these essential vitamins and minerals in any prenatal, and as always, check with your health care provider:
- Water-soluble vitamins such as Folate, C and the Bs are not stored in the body making their daily intake amount higher than other vitamins. Folate, naturally found is certain foods (and folic acid, its synthetic form) has grabbed much of the attention as a critical nutrient that can prevent certain neural tube defects. Pregnant women should take the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of at least 600 mcg of folate, 85 mg of Vitamin C, 1.4 mg of Vitamins B1 and B2, 18 mg of B3 and 1.9 mg of B6. To counteract fatigue that is common in pregnancy, look for a supplement with 2.6 – 2.8 mcg of B12 on the label.
- Minerals like calcium, iron and zinc are vital as well. Most prenatal vitamin supplements will not have enough of the RDA of calcium, which means paying special attention to include calcium-rich foods.
- Iron is an important nutrient for all humans, but its benefits are especially important for pregnant women. During pregnancy, there is an increase in the body’s blood volume, calling for a greater amount of iron. It is suggested that a woman who is pregnant take 27-30 mg of iron each day to support fetal growth and development. While too much iron can lead to constipation, a lack of iron has the potential to do just as much damage and is much more common. At a suggested 11mg per day, zinc requirements can be met through food intake and is usually found in supplements.
- Other nutrients like DHA are included in supplements and are essential for pregnant and nursing women. Adding DHA omega-3 to your diet helps boost baby’s brain and visual development. Babies accumulate DHA in the brain and eyes during the last trimester as well as during postpartum.
“Overall, prenatal vitamins are not meant to give pregnant women an excuse to eat poorly. A balanced prenatal vitamin should be thought of as a supplement to healthy menu choices,” Dr. Chudacoff says. It is proven that prenatals work better when combined with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins.
Women should ask their doctor or health care provider for information and recommendations suited to individual prenatal needs.
Richard Chudacoff, MD, FACOG, is a nationally recognized, board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist. Dr. Chudacoff is one of the county’s most experienced minimally invasive gynecologic surgeons. Recently he settled in Dumas, TX to develop an OBGYN practice that will insure the community has obstetric and gynecologic services deep in to the 21st century. Dr. Chudacoff serves as an advisor to Luna Pharmaceuticals and helped the company formulate the prenatal vitamin drink mix called Premama, with the goal of promoting good prenatal nutrition.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post was written by a paid sponsor for the Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) Campaign 2014 – Premama, and edited by Team PAM. The opinions expressed by Premama and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of PAM or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Premama. Always consult with your medical provider regarding any personal health questions or decisions (including nutrition, diet, and exercise).