Did you know it’s a good idea to start prenatal vitamins at least 3 months prior to getting pregnant? This is because it’s important to build up your stores of folate, vitamin D, and iron before you are pregnant.
Prenatal Vitamins Explained
Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN
Did you know it’s a good idea to start prenatal vitamins at least 3 months prior to getting pregnant? This is because it’s important to build up your stores of folate, vitamin D, and iron before you conceive. Research shows that certain nutrient deficiencies early in pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage later on. With this in mind, we recommend that you start taking a prenatal as soon as you plan to get pregnant.
There are so many prenatal vitamins on the market that it’s difficult to know which one to use. If you are making the effort to take them (and having to choke them down – first-trimester mamas know what we are talking about!), then you want to make sure you’re getting everything you need for you and your growing baby. Below, we break down the most essential prenatal nutrients and list our favorite prenatal supplements on the market.
Make sure your prenatal vitamin has:
Folate: In your prenatal, folate should be in the form of 5-methylfolate. This form of folate is universally absorbable, and you don’t want to risk not absorbing folate since it can prevent birth defects that affect your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Take 600 mg/day.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is critical for bone development and immunity. Take 600 IU or 15 mcg per day.
Iron: Look for prenatals that contain iron in a form that is gentle on your stomach. Otherwise, iron can be constipating. Take at least 27 mg/day. Many prenatals have less than 27 mg of iron in them because it’s assumed that you will get iron from your food. So make sure you work iron-rich foods into your diet to make up the difference. Legumes, meat, poultry, fish, and green leafy vegetables (with lemon to maximize iron absorption) are all excellent sources of iron.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12, which is typically found in animal proteins, is especially important for plant-based moms. Take 25 mcg/day.
DHA/EPA: Depending on the prenatal you choose, you may also have to supplement with DHA/EPA at about 200-600mg/day, with some studies showing benefit up to 1000mg/day. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to play an important role in your baby’s brain and eye development during pregnancy. Some studies suggest it may also decrease the risk of preterm birth and perinatal depression at the higher dose range.
Iodine, Selenium, and Choline. These three nutrients are often overlooked, but they are so important for pregnancy. Look at your prenatal to see if they are included, and focus on good food sources for each of these nutrients:
Iodine: iodized salt, seaweed, yogurt, and milk
Selenium: seafood, brazil nuts, lentils, and chickpeas
This vitamin is designed to be taken in addition to a well-balanced diet, so it has less iron and other nutrients because it assumes you are getting them from food sources. We love where they source their ingredients from and how they make a vitamin for each step of motherhood. Their conception support has COQ10 already added which we love.
This vitamin is designed to be taken in addition to a well-balanced diet, so it has less iron and other nutrients because it assumes you are getting them from food sources. It’s so easy on the stomach and don’t have an after taste. (use code: LIVING for 10% off your first 3 months at ritual.com/LIVING)
Studies have shown that COQ10 can help improve egg quality. Take 200-600mg/day. COQ10 is included in Perelel’s conception vitamin.
We also absolutely love @seedlyfe fertility powder for increasing fertility and improving egg quality. It has COQ10, antioxidants, vitex, and a whole bunch of other goodies that have been shown to improve fertility. Hayley took this throughout her pregnancy by adding a scoop to her morning smoothie.
As always, make sure to talk to your own doctor and dietitian about your prenatal vitamin needs.