The Best Pregnancy & Prenatal Vitamins
By Carla Oates
When you’re a pregnant person—or hoping to be—there are a thousand and one things to think about. You obviously want to do the best for your health and that of your unborn baby—but beyond ditching soft cheeses and cured meats, adding a prenatal supplement or pregnancy vitamin to your daily regime is one way to ensure you’re getting everything you need from a nutritional standpoint.
You can certainly support your health by noshing on a well-balanced, wholefoods-based diet—but let’s be honest, often during early pregnancy the last thing you want to look at is a piece of spinach (let alone eat it!), when salty crackers and dry toast is about all you can stomach between bouts of morning sickness—especially during your first trimester. For this reason, a prenatal dietary supplement is a simple way to ensure you’re ‘plugging any gaps’ in your diet—and ensure you’re supporting foetal development as well as your own health and wellbeing.
But how do you go about choosing the best prenatal vitamin for you? While there are countless brands to consider, there are a few things to think about when purchasing pregnancy and prenatal vitamins. Read on to discover our top tips on what to look for…
For most mums-to-be, they’re looking for a prenatal multivitamin that’s going to provide all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals required to bolster their own health, and ensure their baby is cared for, too. During pregnancy (as well as postpartum), our nutritional needs also change and while that means we need to increase our intake of macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats to help fuel us and keep our energy levels stable—we also need to increase our intake of a few key prenatal nutrients and micronutrients to help protect against birth defects. Namely: folate and iron. The main one you’ve likely heard of is folate or folic acid (when included in supplements)—which is proven to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 400 mcg (micrograms) of folate each day which is why it’s such a key ingredient in prenatal vitamins. Also known as vitamin B9, folate can be obtained from food sources such as liver, nuts, leafy green vegetables and legumes.
During pregnancy, you also require twice as much iron as normal—as your body needs the extra boost to make enough blood to supply oxygen to you and your baby. Around 27 mg (milligrams) a day is recommended which is why iron is included in prenatal formulas as it’s difficult to get this much iron each day from our diet alone. Without it, you can become at risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia which can not only affect you—making you feel weak, fatigued and headachey—but it can also affect baby's development and contribute to premature birth or a low birth weight.
In saying that, maintaining a healthy diet and eating iron-rich foods both before, during and after your pregnancy is still important. Heme iron—which predominantly comes from animal sources such as beef, turkey and pork—is more easily absorbed by the body. However non-heme iron which is found in tofu, spinach and beans is also helpful to consume when possible.
Other key nutrients to look for include calcium and vitamin D—for bone strength and teeth development—vitamin C, vitamin E, complex B vitamins, choline, magnesium, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids like DHA or EPA as well as iodine—for brain development. Just be mindful of vitamin A during pregnancy as too much can produce negative side effects.
As with any supplement you purchase, it’s important to remember that they are not all created equal and you should be mindful of how and where ingredients are sourced—as well as what fillers or preservatives have been added to the formula. If sustainability or Australian-derived ingredients are important to you, for example, opting for a high-quality wholefood-based supplement rather than an over-the-counter capsule you can find in your local pharmacy may be something to explore. It’s also super important to speak with your trusted healthcare practitioner or doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
The great news is, however, there are so many wholefood, natural and organic supplements available these days—and your naturopath, dietitian, Chinese medicine practitioner or integrative GP can help recommend the one that’s right for you.
Another thing to consider is the form—whether pill, capsule, prenatal gummy or powder. For many women, during pregnancy, it’s difficult to tolerate a giant vitamin pill—what between the morning sickness and fluctuating appetite (not to mention the extra gas!), chugging down a vitamin first thing in the morning can be the last thing you feel like doing.
That’s why wholefood-based powders and elixirs can be such a wonderful option. Whether you choose to simply stir them through water or add them to your smoothie, they’re a simple and often more digestible way to ensure you’re hitting all your nutritional needs.
And finally, it’s always important to remember that expensive doesn’t always equal better! While you can get a prescription from your doctor or integrative healthcare practitioner for a particular brand or variety of supplement—if cost is a factor for you, have a chat with your local pharmacist who will be able to explain the difference between the over-the-counter varieties on offer. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you are consistent with your vitamin intake and that it ticks all the boxes from a nutritional perspective for a healthy pregnancy.
Please note that while The Beauty Chef bio-fermented inner beauty products are completely organic and natural, as no studies on pregnant women have been done to confirm their safety during pregnancy or breastfeeding, we are unable to recommend them at this time. Please speak with your individual healthcare provider or ob-gyn before adding our products to your daily routine