Everything You Need to Know About Prenatal
What is Prenatal?
uring pregnancy, a woman's nutritional needs change dramatically to support her growing baby. However, nutrition often takes a backseat when you're juggling morning sickness, weird cravings, and ongoing preparations for the impending arrival.
Luckily, prenatal vitamins can help!
Prenatal vitamins are a collection of nutrients designed for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. While not a replacement for a whole food diet, they help to fill nutritional gaps and encourage a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby. Some of the key nutrients to look for when choosing a prenatal formula include:
-Omega-3 fatty acids
How does it work?
Prenatal supplements are designed to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women. These supplements contain ideal levels and ratios of certain key nutrients like zinc, iron, iodine, folic acid, calcium, and vitamin D3. This is essential for fetal cell growth and development, nervous system development, and the formation of a strong skeletal system.
Prenatal vitamins help to create an optimal environment to support a healthy pregnancy, reducing the risk of complications after birth. A study on women who took a vitamin and mineral formula from the first trimester found they were four times less likely to have a preterm birth than women who didn't take anything. In the same study, the risk of premature birth was reduced twofold in women who supplemented with prenatal nutrients from the second trimester (1).
When to Take a Prenatal Formula?
Prenatal supplements are ideal for women during three phases of life: preconception, pregnancy, and lactation.
While not all women plan their pregnancy, if you are trying to conceive it's best to optimize your nutrient intake at least 1 month (ideally 3-6 months) in advance. An interesting 2012 study found that a higher intake of essential omega-3 fatty acids – found in many prenatal vitamins – improved egg quality, particularly for women of advanced maternal age (2).
Prenatal supplements are also hugely advantageous during breastfeeding. An optimal vitamin and mineral intake ensures you're making enough nutrient-dense breast milk to provide a growing baby with everything they need.
Additionally, women with digestive conditions, vegans, and vegetarians could benefit from a prenatal supplement as they are at higher risk of nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy and lactation.
Health Benefits of Prenatal
Let's explore the benefits of taking a prenatal supplement.
May Reduce Pregnancy Complications
Taking a comprehensive prenatal supplement may help to reduce the risk of preeclampsia. This dangerous form of high blood pressure occurs in about 2–8% of pregnancies. Unfortunately, it can be fatal for mom and baby. Research suggests multivitamin supplements containing folic acid, vitamin D3, and antioxidants like vitamin C and E are useful for reducing the risk of preeclampsia (3).
May Lower the Risk of Birth Defects
A prenatal supplement provides key nutrients like folic acid (vitamin B9), vital within the first trimester of pregnancy when cellular growth and development is occurring rapidly.
Extensive research has found that supplementing with at least 400 mcg of folic acid before conception (or as early as possible in pregnancy) may help to prevent spina bifida, a birth defect that results in incomplete spinal cord development (4).
Helps to Increase Iron Levels and Blood Volume
A mother's blood volume doubles during pregnancy, increasing the body's need for iron to make more blood cells. Unfortunately, iron deficiency is common in pregnancy and has been linked to premature labor and low infant birth weight (5). Plus, it makes you feel even more tired!
Consuming optimal levels of folic acid, iron, and B12 may boost maternal blood volume by promoting healthy red blood cell formation. This is necessary for proper blood oxygenation and optimal energy production.
Promotes Healthy Fetal Nervous System Development
The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the phospholipid choline are vital during pregnancy. These structural fats are essential for the healthy development of the baby's brain, nervous system, and eyes (6).
Research has found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation helps to improve mental development and intelligence in childhood (7).
Make Prenatal Part of Your Daily Diet
Okay you knew it was coming... time for a shameless plug. Do you think the benefits of adding prenatal to your daily diet could help? Create a personalized daily vitamin pack that includes prenatal and any other vitamins, minerals or supplements you think could help. Start by adding prenatal to your Kit here!