How to choose a prenatal vitamin

how to choose a prenatal vitaminAre you pregnant or have a friend or family member who is? Yes? Well chances are the topic of prenatal vitamins has come up.

We all know the importance of getting a good nutritional intake prior to getting pregnant (and during pregnancy of course). In many instances, women take prenatal vitamins and minerals to maximise their intake. There is one problem though:

There are lot of supplements on the market now. How do you know which one to choose?

How to choose a prenatal vitamin?

The Background Info – what nutrients do we need in a pregnancy supplement?

We don’t just need vitamins in pregnancy. We also need minerals too. A good range is important for pregnancy and I am not going to go through all of them. However there are 3 nutrients that are of particular importance and they are:

  1. Folate - it’s one of the B vitamins and helps to avoid neural tube defects like Spina Bifida. We need 600 micrograms/day during Pregnancy
  2. Iron - it’s essential for the production of red blood cells and oxygen transport in our bodies. A growing bub draws iron from our stores during pregnancy. Therefore we need more during pregnancy (27 mg/day)
  3. Iodine  - it’s required for the production of thyroid hormones (which aid growth & development of babies). We need 220 micrograms/day during pregnancy.

Some prenatal supplement comparisons….

Brand Iron*(milligrams) Folate (micrograms) Iodine (micrograms)
Elevit (with iodine). One/day 60 800 250
BioCeuticals InNatal (with iron). Two/day 15 500 270
Blackmores Pregnancy & Breastfeeding Gold. Two/Day 10 500 150
Cenovis – Multi + (pregnancy & breastfeeding). Two/day 10 450 150
Swisse Pregnancy + Ultivite 5 500 250

*A note on iron – take a look at the kind of iron your pregnancy supplement contains. There are many different forms and all have pros and cons. E.g. Elevit and Cenovis contain Ferrous Fumarate which has been associated with good absorption. Conversely, BioCeuticalsBlackmores  and Swisse use an amino acid chelate which can be better tolerated by the gastrointestinal system with less constipation.

Tips – how to choose a prenatal supplement

As you can see from the table above, Elevit is the only prenatal supplement that meets all the recommended daily requirements for iron, iodine and folate. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice for everyone. Here are some tips to get you thinking:

  • Think about your whole diet and health. If you have a good diet, you may not necessarily need the high doses that are in products such as Elevit. However if you have had a history of nutritional deficiencies and a poor diet, then a product like that might be better for you.
  • Check how many tablets/capsules you need in the day. Some companies have misleading claims on the front. E.g. “once daily”. However once daily can mean “2 tablets, once in the day”.
  • Check the source of the vitamin and mineral - particularly iron. If you have had issues with tolerating supplements or previous deficiencies you may need to swap brands. Ask your medical practitioner or Accredited Practising Dietitian if you need more help on this.
  • Remember supplements aren’t everything. Supplements are designed to “supplement” NOT replace your diet. You don’t have to meet the recommended daily intake for vitamins and minerals from your supplement. (the key is the combination of your diet + the supplement).

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