Benefits of Taking Prenatal Vitamins – Myths or Must Haves?

Whether you have only just started talking about having children or you are already expecting, it is never too early or too late to start taking your prenatal vitamin. But with that in mind, there are some important factors to consider when deciding not only what prenatal is right for you, but also when to start your new regimen.

We have all heard that folic acid, iron and calcium are vital to a healthy pregnancy, but why? And with so many brands to choose from, it’s hard to know which prenatal packs the most bang for your buck. So let’s begin by breaking down the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins, and go from there!


Isn’t My Regular Vegan Multivitamin Enough? 

Outside of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I will admit that I am not someone who starts their morning with a cocktail of multivitamins. I personally prefer to get my vitamin and mineral intake from raw food. However, maintaining proper vitamin and mineral intake through diet alone requires a level of planning and commitment that doesn’t always fit into a hectic lifestyle. Whether you take an adult Multivitamin or not, making prenatal vitamins part of your daily routine is a must from preconception through breastfeeding. During pregnancy and breastfeeding you are providing all of the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that both you and baby need. Your regular multivitamin is not designed to provide the increased levels required to meet the needs of your pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins, along with proper diet and exercise are designed to help support mothers body in providing these essentials. In addition, prenatal vitamins also contain folic acid which plays a crucial role in the healthy development of the fetus, and aids in preventing nural tube defects. Prenatal vitamins also contain iron and calcium which are both essential to the healthy development of baby.


What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin and is found in leafy greens and vegetables like spinach, brussel sprouts, and citrus fruits to name a few. During pregnancy, a typical diet alone will not produce the quantity of folic acid needed for optimal health. Incorporating folic acid into your diet can significantly reduce the risk of the fetus developing neuro tube defects in early pregnancy. This is incredibly important as a neuro tube defect can lead to spina bifida.

Spina bifida is a nural tube birth defect where the spinal cord fails to develop properly leading to permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system. Spina bifida can range from mild known as Occulta or “hidden” to Myelomeningocele, the most sever form of spina bifida, in which the spinal cord and its protective covering protrude from the opening in the spine. In severe cases, spina bifida can lead to full or partial paralysis of the lower limbs, bladder and bowel dysfunction and mild to sever mental disabilities.

Spina bifida develops within the first four weeks of pregnancy, so it is incredibly important to begin taking a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid or a folic acid supplement as soon as you begin trying to conceive. Folic acid has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart defects developing in the fetus during pregnancy.


Other Nutrients to Concider

Folic acid, as we’ve learned is very important to a healthy pregnancy. However, it is certainly not the only nutrient to consider during pregnancy (and beyond). So with that in mind, Let’s take a look at our honorable mentions!

Calcium

Calcium plays a vital role in making sure we have strong bones and teeth, this is true for baby as well. Calcium during pregnancy is particularly important as you need to maintain sufficient levels to not only satisfy your own needs but that of baby as well.

A pregnant woman over 18 years of age should consume a minimum of 1,000 mg per day dependent on the individual needs of the pregnancy. Including breakfast cereals, dried fruit (apricots are one of my favorites) bread, nuts (almonds are a particularly good source), tofu and leafy greens like kale and watercress is an excellent way to work calcium into your diet.

Vitamin D

Next, let’s talk a little bit about vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which are needed to help maintain healthy bones and teeth. In children, vitamin D deficiency can cause the bones to soften and even lead to rickets (a disease that affects bone development in children).

Natural sunlight is the best source of vitamin D outside of a supplement as there aren’t many foods that contain this vitamin. The amount of sun exposure needed to produce enough vitamin D is different for everyone. Factors such as skin colour, the time of day and time of year. However, the amount of sun you need to produce enough vitamin D is less than the amount needed for tanning or burning. Someone with darker skin, or who keeps their skin covered up in the sun may be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.

For most women, soaking up some daily rays combined with a prenatal vitamin containing 400 iu vitamin D will be enough. If you are vitamin D deficient, your health care provider may discuss working additional Vitamin D into your daily routine.

Iron

Iron is another important nutrient both during and outside of pregnancy. Pregnancy can deplete your bodies iron reserves which is alarming because low iron levels, particularly in early pregnancy can lead to premature birth and/or low birth weight. The average woman requires 27mg of iron a day during her pregnancy. Dark leafy greens, iron enriched breakfast cereals and legumes are wonderful dietary sources of iron. Those dealing with an iron deficiency may also need to include an iron supplement, but this should only be done under a doctor’s supervision as excessive iron can be harmful.

Foods rich in vitamin C are also highly recommended as vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron more efficiently.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important during pregnancy not only to aid in the absorption of iron, but also in the formation of collagen which is vital for maintaining healthy blood vessels. Pregnant women need roughly 60mg vitamin C per day. Fruits (citrus in particular) and vegetables are both excellent sources of vitamin C.

Iodine

Iodine is an essential mineral that is essential to the production of thyroid hormone. This hormone plays an important role in reproduction, growth, nerve and muscle function, blood cell production, and is responsible for regulating body temperature and metabolic rate. Young children and babies developing in the womb are the most at risk for iodine deficiency, which can result in learning difficulties and affect development of motor skills and hearing.

Zinc

Zinc can be a bit tricky to find through diet alone, particularly during pregnancy, as the amount of zinc present in vegetables depends on the concentration of zinc in the soil and the amount found in nuts is minimal. When choosing a prenatal vitamin, make sure it contains zinc. Pregnant women 19 years of age and older should consume 11 mg of iron per day, and bump it up to 12 mg while nursing.

Fiber and Fluids
Some women constipation during their pregnancies, this can be very uncomfortable or even painful. This can be particularly problematic for women during the later stages of pregnancy, and Let’s face it, feeling like a beached whale is uncomfortable enough! High fiber foods such as legumes, nuts, vegetables, fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals along with plenty of fluids can do wonders to alleviate or even prevent this.


So, what’s out there?

Now that we have a better idea of what we’re looking for, let’s check out a couple of the top vegan brands on the market:

As the name suggests, MyKind Organics Prenatal Multi Gummies are a certified organic, whole food multivitamin, but it’s

really so much more than that. These delicious berry flavored gummies are made with pectin from non-GMO apples and organic orange peels. Finally, a gummy with no gelatin! Not only did they skip out on the animal products, they are also free of processed sugars and syrups, artificial colours and flavorings as well as GMOs. These gummies are Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free and Kosher.

This prenatal vitamin contains: 800 IU Vitamin D, 4.8 mcg Vitamin B12, 1.5 mg zinc and 90 mg vitamin C. They also contain a host of other vitamins and nutrients to aid in a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby. You can pick up a bottle of 120 gummies on eBay.com for CA $35.60 (Approximately US $26.84).

Another option to consider is DEVA’s Vegan Prenatal Multivitamin and Mineral. This one-a-day prenatal is water soluble

and is designed to be absorbed as easily as possible into the mother’s system so that both mom and baby get the nutrients they need with little to no waste. Among many others, this prenatal vitamin contains: 120 mg vitamin C, 400 IU Vitamin D2, 550 mcg Folic Acid, 100 mcg Vitamin B12, 15 mg zinc, 21 mg iron, 150 mcg iodine and 100 mg calcium.

DEVA Vegan Prenatal Multivitamins are 100% animal free, guaranteed for purity, freshness and labeled potency. Better yet, all of DEVA’s products are 100% vegan and are certified by the Vegan Society -the non-profit organization that actually invented the word “vegan”.


A parting thought

I sincerely hope this article gave you some insight into what to look for when deciding which prenatal vitamin is right for you. If you are still having difficulty choosing your prenatal, or if a vegan prenatal is outside of your budget, no name folic acid tablets can be purchased from most pharmacies and can be taken on their own to aid in the healthy development of your baby. 

I want to hear from you, too! What prenatals worked best for you? Do you have any questions or want to touch on a subject not covered here? Drop it in the comments section below, I can’t wait to hear from you!

Good luck and God bless, mama’s!

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