Helpful or Harmful? How much do you know about your prenatal?
It’s hard to imagine in these modern times that any pregnant woman who had access to a prenatal vitamin wouldn't be taking one. It’s not new information that we need to increase our nutrient intake in order to grow a whole new human.
The real question here is are all prenatals created equal? What makes a prenatal vitamin “good” or not? How do I know if I’m getting enough of the right things?
We hope to help clear this up a bit as there is a lot out there to choose from and it can be hard to sift through the options.
First let’s talk quality. While some of us may go so far as to actually research the source company of our vitamins and where they came from (which is way having a great holistic doctor to hep with recommendations is so great) this can be a pretty daunting task. One thing you can do is to try an ensure that your prenatal is using the most bioavailable forms of each nutrient.
Bio-available means that it is the most readily usable form of the vitamin. Some vitamins may come a lot cheaper because the maker uses an very non-bioavailable form that is likely much easier to produce. We call vitamins like these “expensive urine”, because if your body can’t absorb the nutrient, it just gets excreted in your pee.
The best way to avoid hours of research on this is to be sure that your prenatal vitamin is a whole food vitamin. This way, you can ensure that your vitamins are being sourced from Whole Foods (as we were designed to ingest them) vs. a synthetic engineered version.
The second way we like to look at our prenatal vitamins is which nutrients they do, and don’t, contain. Most prenatals will have your usual suspects like B vitamins, D, C, E, A, K as well as minerals like zinc and selenium. What helps a good prenatal stand out is if it also contains nutrients such as choline.
Choline is a vital nutrient that many of us don’t get enough of as it is. It helps us with liver function, muscle development and most importantly DNA/nervous system development. This is super important if you are pregnant as you have an entire being growing inside you working to form a fully functional nervous system
Choline has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects along with folate. Neural tube defects include things such as spina bífida and anencephaly, conditions where the spinal cord or brain and their respective coverings do not fully form.
Speaking of folate. This is one other thing that we get really specific on with our prenatals. We want to be sure that our vitamins contain methyl-folate as opposed to folic acid. But wait, isn’t folic acid supposed to be super good for pregnancy?? Sort of. The addition of folic acid to prenatals was done specifically when researchers found it was directly related to the above mentioned neural tube defects. However as of late there has been new evidence showing that a portion of the population has an issue that keeps them from properly processing folic acid. These people need methylfolate in order to reap the benefits that folic acid touts.
Since not everyone is sure whether or not they can process folic acid, so far it would appear that it is safer just to be sure that your prenatal contains methylfolate instead of folic acid.
Before choosing a prenatal, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician regarding their recommendations. That being said, some doctors are less current on their research, so if their recommendations do not meet any of the above guidelines you may want to seek a second opinion on this matter before making a choice.
Dr. Katie O'Connor is the expert prenatal chiropractor at Life Naturally Chiropractic, an Orland Park, Illinois based chiropractic office specializing in the care of women before during and after pregnancy. Contact Dr. Katie O’Connor at Life Naturally Chiropractic for more information today.