When I became pregnant with my daughter Annabell, I didn’t know which prenatal vitamin to choose.
So, I did what so many other pregnant women do, I went in for my initial doctor’s visit and asked my OBGYN to recommended one. Within seconds, they prescribed me an under the counter $60 bottle, and the next day, I began taking it.
However, a few weeks later I began to recognize a strange connection between my morning sickness and my prenatal vitamins. Every day, I would wake up feeling fine but than the moment I took my vitamin, I would feel nauseous. At first, I thought it was just a coincidence but after experimenting with not taking the vitamin one morning, I found that my nausea completely stopped.
After reaching out to my doctor about this, they switched me to an over the counter $10 bottle of gummy prenatal vitamins and to my surprise, my sickness never came back.
This experience made me wonder why my doctor didn’t inform me that some prenatals can make you sick and why he had originally prescribed an expensive prenatal vitamin, instead of the cheaper version. I often wondered if the difference in price reflected a difference in quality and if my gummy vitamins were as nutritious as the pills.
During pregnancy, I never did get the answers to these questions, but after giving birth to my daughter and beginning my work with Expectful, I found that these questions weren’t unique to me. Many women were confused about prenatal vitamins and what actually constitutes a “healthy one.”
Recognizing this, it became clear to me that with all the brands out on the market today, it was difficult to know who to turn to for accurate, unbiased information on prenatal vitamins. This is what led me to reach out to award-winning OBGYN and author of she-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health, Dr. Sherry Ross to find out everything you need to know when it comes to choosing the best prenatal vitamin for you.
I hope Dr. Sherry’s answers give you the clarity and confidence to pick the prenatal that will support you and your growing baby.
Why is it recommended that women take prenatal vitamins?
- Your calorie and nutrient requirements increase during pregnancy and the average diet can leave gaps in your pregnancy nutritional requirements. This means you are missing out on vital nutrients your body and growing baby need to function and develop properly. Taking a complete prenatal vitamin serves as a perfect insurance policy ensuring you are getting what is missing from your diet and satisfying the additional nutrient recommendations needed in pregnancy.
What should women look for when choosing a prenatal vitamin and why?
- A prenatal vitamin is designed to meet the demanding daily nutrient requirements for a woman during this hypermetabolic time. Women who are pregnant need additional folate, iron, calcium, Vitamin A, B-complex, C, D, zinc and omega-3-fish oil. These specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are needed to help support the growth and development a healthy baby. These key ingredients are needed specific for spine, bone, brain and red blood cell development.
Is there a difference in absorption when taking a pill vs. gummy form of prenatal vitamin? What about over the counter vs. prescription?
- Everyone wants to know if it’s better to take a softgel, liquid, tablet or chewable for the best absorption of the vitamin, minerals and antioxidants in a prenatal vitamin. You have to look at the ingredient list located on the prenatal vitamin to ensure you are getting exactly what is recommended. In a perfect world, you would take your prenatal vitamin in any format you prefer separately from calcium and iron. Both of these minerals should to be taken separately since they will affect the absorption of other nutrients. However, the form that your prenatal vitamin comes in has little effect on its absorption. In other words, liquid vitamins are not better absorbed than tablets. The absorption of your prenatal vitamin, regardless of its form, occurs in the stomach. It is important to find a prenatal vitamin that has the U.S. Pharmacopeia symbol on the label. The USP symbol verifies that the vitamin had been tested showing it has all the nutrients represented on the supplemental facts panel once it dissolves without containing high amounts of contaminants.
If a woman has a healthy diet, does she still need to take prenatal vitamins? If yes, why? If no, why?
- It’s been thought the best way to get all your necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants is through a well-balanced and colorful diet. Whether you are pregnant or not, a prenatal or multivitamin, fills in the nutritional gaps that is needed to make sure all your daily vitamin requirements are being met.
Are there side effects to taking a prenatal vitamin? If yes, what are they?
- Since prenatal vitamins have more iron and higher doses of other vitamins and minerals, gastrointestinal side effects are common. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation are common side effects of a prenatal vitamin.
When should a woman start taking a prenatal vitamin?
- It’s best for women to start taking folate three months before conception. Making sure that your prenatal or multivitamin contains at least includes 400mcg-1mg of folate is vital. Folate has been shown to reduce the incidence of spinal defects, aka neural tube defects. Another recent study showed women who took folate preconceptionally also had a reduced incidence of autism. Taking additional omega 3 fish oil helps the healthy development of the fetal brain and visual system. Additional vitamin D supplementation may also be needed if you are deficient.
How long after giving birth should a woman take a prenatal vitamin?
- Many women think once they had the baby, they don’t need to continue taking prenatal vitamins any more. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you are breastfeeding, your body requires more vitamins and mineral than during your pregnancy. Continuing to take your prenatal vitamins, extra vitamin D and omega 3 fish oil to help ensure your growing newborn gets those vital nutrients it needs.
About our Expert
Sheryl A. Ross, M.D., “Dr. Sherry,” is an award-winning OBGYN, entrepreneur, author and women’s health expert. She was named one of the best doctors by The Hollywood Reporter, Southern California Super Doctor, Castle Connolly Exceptional Women and Top Doctor in OBGYN and given the Patients Choice Award. She is the author of the book, she-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. which was named one the 6 Most Life Changing Wellness Books of 2017 by Prevention.com and Women’s Health Magazine.
Pregnancy can be a time of great excitement but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty, especially when it comes to things like picking the best prenatal vitamin. It’s my hope that providing education around prenatal vitamins during this interview with Dr. Sherry Ross helps you to feel empowered throughout your pregnancy journey and informs you of the choices you have when it comes to your and your baby’s health.