Choosing a Pregnancy Multivitamin: What to look for
Should you be taking a pregnancy multi vitamin while pregnant? Absolutely!
Growing a baby requires a lot of energy, vitamins and minerals. The baby grows so rapidly in the first 8 weeks of life that if it continued growing at that pace for 9 months bub would be the size of PLANET EARTH!! Wowwee imagine trying give birth to that.
It’s vitamins and minerals like folate, iodine and zinc that are crucial for the development and growth of your baby’s tiny little organs, brain and those cute fingers and toes. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘eating for two’. When pregnant you need the ‘nutrition for two’ not the calories for two. That much nutrition e.g. B vitamins, folate, iron you just cannot get the requirements to grow a healthy baby from food alone. A lot of our food these days are mass produced and lack a lot of the essentials vitamins and minerals we need. By taking a pregnancy multi vitamin not only are you ensuring you have all the nutrients to grow a healthy happy baby but also enough for yourself so you can have a happy healthy vibrant pregnancy.
When should you start taking a pregnancy multi?
It is never too early or too late to start!
Ideally you should start at least 3 months prior (the longer the better) to getting pregnant as that is when the egg that will become your baby starts to mature.
If you’re coming off the pill to have a baby you will need to start at least 6 months prior as the pill would have really depleted your nutrient stores.
Or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Can I just take folate?
No. Folate is very important (see below) but growing a baby requires way more than just folate! Just like making a cake requires more than just flour. Iodine is quickly becoming the new folate and with 50% of women deficient in iodine making sure you’re taking a supplement that contains iodine is super important. A good pregnancy multi should contain all the folate you need plus all the other essential nutrients for pregnancy.
With so many different pregnancy multivitamins on the market it can be difficult to choose. Follow the guide below and if it ticks the boxes than you are onto a good one…
What makes a good pregnancy multi?
Activated Folate (AKA folinic acid or L-5-MTHF) ≥ 400mcg
We all know folate is essential for pregnancy but the form of folate in your pregnancy multi is just as important. Folic acid, the most common form of folate, is a synthetic version that must be converted in the body to the active form. For many women they struggle to convert it to the active form and despite supplementation remain deficient. Supplementing with activated folate means the body can use it straight away and research shows that activated folate raises plasma folate more efficiently than standard folic acid. When choosing a pregnancy multi always ensure it contains the activated form/s of folate not just straight folic acid.
Why is it important? Healthy cell division, early growth and development of the foetus and the placenta. Reduces the risk of neutral tube defects, spina bifida, anencephaly, encephalocele, Downs syndrome and Turners syndrome. Women with a history of miscarriage or MTHFR polymorphism it is essential they take activated folate.
A whopping 50% of pregnant and breastfeeding women are deficient in iodine! The World Health Organisation cites iodine deficiency as the most preventable form of mental retardation in babies. Ensuring your pregnancy multi vitamin has iodine is super important.
Why is it important? For early brain and nervous system development in bub. Iodine status of children is directly related to their IQ. For healthy thyroid function for the mother as pregnancy increases the demand on the thyroid.
What’s my secret weapon to prevent stretch marks – zinc! But it is super important in fertility and early embryonic growth too. Some women may need more than 10mg of zinc and that is why I always test zinc levels pre and during the pregnancy and will give a separate zinc supplement if needed. But 10mg of zinc is a good general dose that you want in your pregnancy multi.
Why is it important? Is important for the production of fertile eggs and embryos and is required for fertilisation and preimplantation development of the embryo. Helps strengthen the immune system in both mum and bub and of course prevents stretch marks.
Vitamin D 1000IU
A women’s vitamin D requirement increases during pregnancy as the baby is entirely dependent on the mother’s supply. It is a very common deficiency in pregnant women and your vitamin D levels should be checked prior to (or at the latest start of pregnancy) to ensure they are adequate (80-100 nmol/L). Vitamin D in your pregnancy multi at a dose of 1000IU will keep you topped up perfectly.
Why is it important? It regulates over 200 genes and is involved in the development of the foetal brain and immune system. It is also important for foetal and skeletal growth and healthy teeth. A deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and schizophrenia in adult offspring.
Selenium is super important for fertility and in the first trimester. The problem is the majority of Australian women are deficient so we need some in our pregnancy multi to keep us topped up.
Why is it important? Fertility! Thyroid function and regulation of thyroid hormones. Selenium deficiency has been linked to neural tube defects, miscarriage and SIDS.
Vitamin B12 300-400mcg
Vitamin B12 and folate are best friends! They work together in creating a whole baby from just one tiny little embryo. It’s also super important for the replication of synthesis of DNA as well as red blood cell production, which increases by 20% in pregnancy.
Why is it important? Similar to folate vitamin B12 helps prevent neural tube defects and anaemia.
You know how important folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 are but you want a multivitamin with all the B vitamins 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Together they are essential for making energy and growing a baby requires loads of energy!
Isn’t a nutrient we talk about a lot but it’s found in eggs, liver and a variety of meats. Choline is super important for cognitive function in infants and deficiencies have been linked to poor memory function in infants and toddlers and prevention of neural tube defects. Making sure your pregnancy multivitamin contains choline is important especially if you don’t eat eggs.
Finally, you want to make sure there are other trace minerals in your multivitamin like calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, chromium and molybdenum. These are all essential nutrients women need before conception and during the pregnancy to keep you and bub healthy.
What you don’t want in your multi
Iron – Iron is super important in pregnancy, yes, but you don’t want it in your multivitamin. Why? because high levels of iron will stop you from absorbing all the other important minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium etc. So make sure you choose a multivitamin that has none or less than <8mg of iron in it. Then if you need iron take it as a separate supplement at least 4hours away from your pregnancy multivitamin.
Omega 3 fats – Omega 3 fats are so important during pregnancy for brain development of you growing bub. But a multivitamin will never be able to fit enough omega 3 fat in it as you require. So always take your omega 3 fats as a separate supplement in conjunction with your multivitamin.
Folic acid only – see above
Taking a good quality pregnancy multi vitamin is piece of mind, knowing you are providing you and your baby all the goodness you both need for a happy, healthy vibrant pregnancy. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant in the next year the time to start is now!