Choos­ing a Pre­na­tal Vi­ta­min

Lau­ren Panoff MPH, RD shares her tips

Raise Vegan - - Contents - Lau­ren Panoff, MPH, RD is a plant- based life­style strate­gist for fam­i­lies and founder of Chronic Planet. www. chron­ic­planet. net @ chron­ic­planet

Pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins are some of the most com­monly used sup­ple­ments by ve­g­ans and non- ve­g­ans alike. Mul­ti­vi­ta­min stud­ies have shown over­all mixed re­sults as far as ef­fec­tive­ness and safety. How­ever, the gen­eral con­sen­sus is that preg­nant and breast­feed­ing women should con­sider tak­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate pre­na­tal to sup­port the ad­di­tional needs of baby and mother dur­ing this metabol­i­cally de­mand­ing time, es­pe­cially if there is any con­cern for di­etary in­ad­e­quacy. Many health­care pro­fes­sion­als rec­om­mend tak­ing a pre­na­tal prior to con­cep­tion, given that some im­por­tant devel­op­men­tal mile­stones oc­cur very early on, like the cre­ation of the neu­ral tube, which will later be­come the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

If you’re look­ing for a pre­na­tal vi­ta­min, chances are you’re over­whelmed with op­tions. Let’s take a look at some of the key con­sid­er­a­tions when choos­ing the best op­tion for your plant- pow­ered preg­nancy. 1. Make sure it con­tains es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents in ap­pro­pri­ate amounts. Most pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins will ad­e­quately cover the needs of your preg­nancy. The amounts can vary be­tween brands, but be­low are some im­por­tant mi­cronu­tri­ents to look for in pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins and typ­i­cal amounts in­cluded( 1,2):

Fo­late or folic acid ( 400- 800 mcg) Cal­cium ( 125 mg)

Iron ( 27 mg)

Vi­ta­min D ( 400- 600 IU)

Vi­ta­min B12 ( 6- 12 mcg)

Io­dine ( 150 mcg)

Zinc ( 15 mg)

Cop­per ( 2 mg)

Omega- 3 fatty acids are also im­por­tant for neu­ro­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and may not be in­cluded in every pre­na­tal ( if they are, they are com­monly fish- de­rived). Typ­i­cally, a daily sup­ple­ment of 200- 300 mg DHA is rec­om­mended for preg­nant women( 3). There are Omega- 3 spe­cific sup­ple­ments avail­able that are de­rived from al­gae in­stead of fish.

Very high doses of fat sol­u­ble vi­ta­mins ( like vi­ta­min A, com­monly seen as retinoids) should not be in­cluded in pre­na­tal sup­ple­ments( 4).

2. Un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween syn­thetic and nat­u­rally- de­rived nu­tri­ents

Most pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins con­tain syn­thetic nu­tri­ents, which are iso­lated nu­tri­ents made ar­ti­fi­cially, but a grow­ing num­ber of brands are cre­at­ing prod­ucts that use nat­u­rally- de­rived sources, which are dehydrated and ex­tracted from whole plant foods. One ex­am­ple is fo­late ( nat­u­ral) ver­sus folic acid ( syn­thetic). There is con­tro­versy over po­ten­tial safety con­cerns be­tween the two types as they may not be ab­sorbed in the same way( 5). Whole plant foods con­tain mul­ti­ple nu­tri­ents that work to­gether to en­hance ab­sorp­tion, but they may re­quire larger doses than their syn­thetic coun­ter­parts.

3. Do not rely on a pre­na­tal vi­ta­min to meet all of your nu­tri­tion re­quire­ments

Pre­na­tals will of­ten con­tain 100% of the daily value for var­i­ous mi­cronu­tri­ents, but this does not mean that they pro­vide ev­ery­thing you need. Sup­ple­ments should never be pre­sumed to be nu­tri­tional in­sur­ance. That be­ing said, to op­ti­mize ab­sorp­tion of sup­ple­men­tal nu­tri­ents, take pre­na­tals with a mid­day meal; or, you may con­sider choos­ing a pre­na­tal that breaks up its dosage through­out the day to prevent nu­tri­ent com­pe­ti­tion( 4). Re­gard­less, the ma­jor­ity of one’s nu­tri­tional needs dur­ing preg­nancy, as in all stages of life, should be ob­tained from a whole foods plant- based diet that is rich in va­ri­ety. This can ad­mit­tedly be dif­fi­cult for many women dur­ing the first trimester, but this is where your sup­port­ive part­ner, fam­ily and friends can be very help­ful in pre­par­ing nu­tri­tious meals for you.

4. Be aware of po­ten­tial side ef­fects

Some pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins can cause up­set stom­ach and con­sti­pa­tion, usu­ally due to the ex­tra iron that is needed to in­crease blood vol­ume dur­ing preg­nancy; iron also trans­ports oxy­gen through­out one’s body. To help com­bat con­sti­pa­tion, in­crease your fiber in­take, drink more wa­ter and en­gage in reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity as much as pos­si­ble. If this doesn’t seem to help, ask your health­care provider about slow re­lease sup­ple­ments. Pre­na­tals may also con­tribute to nau­sea, which can be min­i­mized by tak­ing them with food in the evening rather than on an empty stom­ach in the morn­ing.

5. Re­view the in­gre­di­ent list

Look for pre­na­tals that do not con­tain fillers, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, col­or­ings, dyes or herbs. Some pop­u­lar an­i­mal- de­rived in­gre­di­ents used in sup­ple­ments can in­clude mag­ne­sium stearate ( of­ten from pigs), ge­latin ( from hooves of pigs and cows), lano­lin ( from sheep’s wool), bee pollen, carmine ( from bee­tles and of­ten used in red dye # 40), and caprylic acid ( can be from an­i­mal milk)( 6). Look for added in­gre­di­ents that may be ben­e­fi­cial, too, like gin­ger to ease nau­sea or pro­bi­otics to aid in di­ges­tion.

6. Look for third party test­ing

Re­mem­ber that di­etary sup­ple­ments are not sub­ject to prior ap­proval by the FDA, nor do they go through clin­i­cal tri­als be­fore they are mar­keted to con­sumers. The best way to en­sure you are choos­ing a safer sup­ple­ment is to look for in­de­pen­dent test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion marks like those from USP, NSF In­ter­na­tional or Con­sumer Lab.

As with all med­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, be sure to speak with your health­care provider or regis­tered di­eti­tian for per­son­al­ized preg­nancy rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing which pre­na­tal vi­ta­min op­tions are best for you.


Pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins: Why they mat­ter, how to choose. Mayo Clinic. https:// www. may­oclinic. org/ healthy- life­style/ preg­nancy- week- by- week/ in- depth/ pre­na­tal- vi­ta­mins/ art- 20046945 Ac­cessed Aug 25, 2018.

Aron­son, D. Ad­vice for Ve­gan Moth­ers- to- Be — Nine Months of Proper Nu­tri­tion. To­day’s Di­eti­tian. http:// www. to­days­di­eti­tian. com/ newarchives/ td­dec2007pg38. shtml. Pub­lished Dec 2007. Ac­cessed Aug 24, 2018.

Co­letta, JM, Bell, SJ, and Ro­man, AS. Omega- 3 Fatty Acids and Preg­nancy. Rev Ob­stet Gynecol. 2010 Fall; 3( 4): 163– 171. https:// www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/ pmc/ ar­ti­cles/ PMC3046737/ Ac­cessed Aug 25, 2018. Schehr, J. Pre­na­tal Vi­ta­mins: Ben­e­fits, Side Ef­fects & How To Choose One For You. Mind­body­green. https:// www. mind­body­green. com/ ar­ti­cles/ pre­na­talvi­ta­mins- ben­e­fits- side- ef­fects- and- how- to- choose. Pub­lished March 8, 2018. Ac­cessed Aug 25, 2018. Brown, MJ. Syn­thetic vs Nat­u­ral Nu­tri­ents: Does It Mat­ter? Health­line. com. https:// www. health­line. com/ nu­tri­tion/ syn­thetic- vs- nat­u­ral- nu­tri­ents. Pub­lished Aug 17, 2016. Ac­cessed Aug 24, 2018.

McClees, H. 7 Sneaky An­i­mal In­gre­di­ents to Watch out for in Sup­ple­ments. One Green Plant. https:// www. one­green­planet. org/ nat­u­ral- health/ sneaky- an­i­mal- in­gre­di­ents- to- watch- out- for- in- sup­ple­ments Pub­lished Aug 21, 2014. Ac­cess Aug 24, 2018.

Photo: Natalia De­ri­abina

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