Let's face it: pregnancy is really hard on your body.
When you're pregnant (and afterward, breastfeeding) your baby is going to take priority in absorbing the nutrients you consume. That means if you're not consuming enough for both of you, having a baby is going to take a lot out of you...literally!
Prenatal supplementation is a good idea but prenatal vitamins are not all created equal. For example, a lot of them contain folic acid instead of folate - we'll get into why that matters.
And a lot of them contain filler. You know how we feel about fillers (if you don't, read here).
There are also some vitamins like vitamin A that you don't want to get too high of a dose of in pregnancy, so tread with caution when it comes to all-in-one, one-size-fits-all type of prenatal supplements.
Whether you decide to supplement the most important vitamins for pregnancy or just focus on a nutrient-rich diet for you and baby, we're rounding up 5 of the best prenatal vitamins you'll want to make sure you're getting when you're pregnant.
You need iodine for brain and nervous system development in the first trimester when baby's thyroid gland is developing.
You only need about 50% more than normal so don't take too much. Seaweed is a great source. (1)
When we talk about folic acid, we specifically mean naturally-sourced folate and not synthetic folic acid. Any process that requires rapid growth, from growth of a fetus to immune function is affected by folate.
You want to make sure you focus on folate the first trimester to avoid neural tube defects like spina bifida, but it continues to be an important nutrient all through childhood. It's critical for development of the brain and nervous system (it's important for these things for adults, too!).
A very important note: your body only converts synthetic folic acid to folate to a limited degree. The rest circulates in your blood, which can disrupt normal folate metabolism and even promote cancer growth. (2,3)
B12 and folate go hand in hand. Make sure you're also getting enough B12 to support the baby's nervous system development. (4)
Iron (and possibly vitamin C)
Iron helps prevent anemia. You make so much extra blood during pregnancy and it's really common to develop anemia.
If you're vegetarian or want to consume extra iron from plants (or a plant-based iron supplement) you'll want to take enough vitamin C to help you absorb that non-heme (aka plant-based) iron.
Iron isn't just important for mom. It also helps prevent your baby from having a low birth weight. (5)
Vitamin D is so important for everyone, including babies! Your baby needs it for proper skeleton development.
Even if you're not yet pregnant, if you're thinking about getting pregnant in the future it's never a bad idea to start thinking about getting the best prenatal vitamins in your system not only for your future baby but for yourself as well!
Good health isn't just important for the baby- you and your health are so important, too.
(1) Maternal Iodine Status is Associated with Offspring Language Skills in Infancy and Toddlerhood
(2) Unmetabolized folic acid in plasma is associated with reduced natural killer cell cytotoxicity among postmenopausal women
(3) Folate and neural tube defects: The role of supplements and food fortification
(4) Maternal Vitamin B12 Status and Risk of Neural Tube Defects in a Population With High Neural Tube Defect Prevalence and No Folic Acid Fortification