The Great Prenatal Vitamin Debate
First, let me start you off with some 3rd grade science on what vitamins are and why we need them.
Vitamins are micronutrients that the body must have for a variety of functions. The body does not produce vitamins, so they must be obtained through the foods we eat.
I spent the first 18 weeks (lucky me!) of my pregnancy with constant nausea and vomiting every day. Keeping my prenatal vitamin down became a game of when will I throw up today? I finally gave up and stopped taking them all together because I wasn’t keeping them down 90% of the time and those little buggers are expensive!
This caused me a little distress. It’s pounded into every preconception-pregant woman’s head how VITAL these vitamins are to our baby’s health and development. Naturally, I was upset about not taking mine. After all, I started taking it a year before even getting pregnant after months of research on which one I felt was best for my body.
When I meekly admitted this to a trusted OB client of mine, she laughed and told me to stop worrying. She didn’t take a prenatal through either of her pregnancies and told me there’s nothing to worry about unless I’m living on a diet of fast and overly processed food. Which I’m not. Have you SEEN the meals on my instagram feed? I take great care to maximize nutrition density at every meal. Even if I wasn’t keeping all my meals down, I was still filling my body with as many whole foods whenever possible.
I realized the stress I was giving myself over not taking the vitamin was actually more harmful to the baby than chowing down on the occasional slice of my favorite street pizza…until the baby decided we were going to throw up every time I ate that as well. #thiscantbemykid
Moral of the story: cut yourself some slack!
I’ve since gone back to a more consistent routine of prenatal vitamin consumption but there are still days when nausea creeps in and I don’t even try. And I’m ok with that.
I realize that much of the population isn’t obsessing over every nutrient going into their mouths and lives on a few more convenient foods than I’m personally comfortable with but my OB friends says this is ok too…unless you are picking up a meal from the fast food drive through every day. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to take one. I should also mention that she does recommend that pregnant women take a specific look at what natural food sources are providing folic acid and iron and possibly taking a supplement for those if you feel you are lacking.
Tips on choosing a quality prenatal vitamin
- Not all vitamins are created equal. Like most things, you get what you pay for. One large difference in some supplements is the fact that the pricey ones are derived from whole food sources, while cheaper pills can be from lab created chemicals.
- Stay away from chemical-based ingredients. They are more difficult to absorb and create more work by the body to synthesize.
- It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. You don’t want to take a nutritional supplement that has many times what your body actually needs. Too much of a vitamin or antioxidant can actually do more harm than good.
- The FDA does not test vitamins before they are put on the shelves. The responsibility on the manufacturer to ensure that its products are safe before they are marketed. All of which means that no matter what the price, quality is not assured.
- Research shows 30 percent of multivitamins have a quality problem: the pills might have more or less of a stated ingredient, or they might not dissolve properly.
- Don’t be cheap. Purchase your vitamins from well-known retailers that do a brisk business and restock frequently. Vitamins lose their potency over time and must be stored at, or below, room temperature. Products sold by vitamin companies do tend to be more reliable than drugstore brands.
Red Flags to look for in cheaper vitamins
- Oxide. The oxide form of any nutritional supplement is the cheapest source of that mineral, usually as magnesium, zinc and/or copper. Most inexpensive supplements will include oxides to save on expense. Oxides are poorly absorbed in our bodies
- Cyanocobalamin (B12). When cyanocobalamin is used for vitamin B12. It is synthetically produced and the body still sees it as a threat and takes measures to eliminate it. (Methylcobalamin form of B12 is better absorbed. Look for this instead.)
- Vitamin E ingredient of dl-alpha tocopherol. If it lists the “d” form of the chemical structure, this is found naturally in foods and is what the body knows how to absorb. The “dl” indicates it is synthetically manufactured, a petroleum by-product not easily utilized by our bodies.
- B Vitamins, Less than 10 mg. The B Complex vitamins are an important part of the synergy of the multi-vitamin. A supplement that contains less than 10 mg. each of the B vitamins is insufficient. If the B vitamin levels are too low, they are insignificant and unhelpful to the human system in creating a strong basis for protection. All of the B Complex vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, folic acid, and cobalamins (B12).
A note on certifications
One quality check you can make, although it is not a perfect, is to see whether a product is certified by one of several nonprofit organizations that check supplements for purity and quality.
The two most commonly used groups are the United States Pharmacopeia (www.usp.org) and NSF International (www.nsf.org). Manufacturers voluntarily submit a product for review and, if it passes, the product can bear an approval seal, such as USP or NSF. Because the process is voluntary, the absence of the seal does not necessarily mean the product is of poor quality.
But at least the seal should mean you know what you’re getting. And with vitamins, anything beyond that simple assurance may not be worth paying for.
Brands I’ve personally researched and like
Both derived from whole food sources and checked for all the red flags.
New Chapter http://www.newchapter.com/vitamins
Love and leafy greens,
Do you take a prenatal or multivitamin? If so, what are some of your favorite brands? Bring your comments over to instagram!