Growing a baby is a beautiful miracle but it is also HARD work and very stressful on mama (even good stress is still stress)!
Even if your diet isn’t ideal, especially at the beginning of pregnancy…know that baby takes what baby needs! This is good for your growing baby but can lead to nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy, but more often postpartum even years later. It’s SO important to replenish your nutrient stores! Reality is that we just can’t get enough nutrients through diet alone during pregnancy and postpartum.
You are CREATING a human, from your own body. Isn’t that a beautiful miracle?!
Best advice—don’t be overwhelmed or stressed. Pregnancy is hard enough as it is…do the best you can give your unique circumstances!
When to take a prenatal?
With many of my clients, I often recommend a prenatal (in a smaller dosage) for women in child bearing years, even if they aren’t looking to get pregnant! With soil depletion, processed food and stress causing nutrient depletion, prenatal vitamins are such a powerhouse of nutrients!
If you are actively looking to get pregnant, starting with a prenatal 6 months-1 year prior to conception is generally a good idea. It is best to continue taking a prenatal postpartum or as long as you are breastfeeding—breastfeeding actually requires more nutrients than pregnancy.
Choosing a prenatal
As always this is not medical advice. Please always check with your medical care professional first.
Food based prenatal
Generally speaking, always look for a real food based prenatal!
Sadly synthetic or “prescription” prenatal vitamins can be VERY hard to digest—causing heartburn, cramps, nausea and constipation—but also are highly processed and don’t contain the natural cofactors needed for proper absorption and effectiveness. Often ‘food based’ prenatals have ‘lower levels’ of vitamins but they are more effective due to absorption.
Folate vs Folic Acid
Folate is the active form and folic acid is the synthetic form that needs to be converted internally—women with the MTHFR mutation can’t convert folic acid into folate which can create issues for both mama and baby. Folate is SO important during pregnancy as it supports development, may prevent neural tube defects (defects in brain, spine or spinal cord) and supports the placenta. Folate deficiency can be linked to miscarriage and birth defects.
^ This is one reason why I recommend taking a prenatal before conception occurs because most often you are a few weeks into pregnancy before you know it. Folate is so important early on in pregnancy!
Look for folate labeled L-methyltetrahydrofolate, L-methylfolate or L-5-MTHF.
Lily Nichols has a great article on folate vs folic acid!
B Complex Vitamins
These are SO important in pregnancy for development, blood formation and can really help combat nausea. Synthetic B vitamins can actually make the nausea worse so keep that in mind! Look for riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12 and folate.
Choline is not one that is talked about often but it is just about as important as folate in pregnancy—wow! Choline needs just about double during pregnancy and help transport nutrients to the placenta, brain development, tissue growth and gene expression and can decrease the risk of preeclampsia. Choline also helps baby’s brain develop and can affect neurological development in childhood too! Whole eggs (eat the yolks!) are the best dietary form of choline.
But what about Iron?
Iron is very important during pregnancy for red blood cell production and carrying oxygen through your blood to baby! Low iron, anemia, is very common in pregnancy especially if you have food aversions to animal protein (again super common)! Your iron stores really depend on your diet prior to conception, even months and years prior, as well as your hormone cycle or previous history of anemia.
Too little iron can present a problem but too much iron can create digestive issues—constipation, nausea— and even increase the risk for gestational diabetes.
Taking calcium (another mineral super important for pregnancy and in most prenatal vitamins) at the same time as iron can block absorption, so it might actually be best to choose a prenatal without iron and supplement as needed. Most often your iron levels will be tested during second or third trimester and if you are having any symptoms like exhaustion, dizziness or or shortness of breath, talk with your doctor immediately. You don’t want to mess with anemia!
For iron, I really recommend getting tested and consulting with your doctor before supplementing!
My favorite prenatal vitamins
I’ve tried multiple prenatals over the years and ultimately much is going to come down to what works for you and your unique needs. My favorite by far is Seeking Health as I love the specific nutrients it has especially for me dealing with both Type 1 Diabetes and Hashimotos. It is also SO easy to digest and I deal with horrible nausea most of my pregnancy.
Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal contain great amounts of the B complex vitamins which is important for proper development but can also really help with nausea (I found this very true in my second pregnancy which I switched). I love that they also have iodine, zinc, selenium, choline and chromium all super important vitamins in dealing with any autoimmune disease in particular anything thyroid or blood sugar related. The ginger extract also really helps with digestion and nausea.
Seeking Health also has chewable prenatals and prenatal protein powder (I love the chocolate flavor)!
<< Use the code FLOURISHJANUARY for 10% off your first Seeking Health order! (expires Jan 31st) >>
Other vitamins + minerals that are helpful during pregnancy
All of my tried and true supplement recommendations can be purchased via Wellevate, Seeking Health or Seed. Please be wary of purchasing supplements on Amazon as they can be expired, tampered or fake.
Magnesium // Magnesium is an ‘anti-stress nutrient’ and one *MOST* females (pregnant or not) are deficient in. Magnesium is one of the top minerals I suggest for anything hormone related and works hand in hand with calcium…hello bone formation. Your needs increase during pregnancy and blood sugar issues (common in pregnancy as well as me having Type 1 diabetes) deplete your magnesium stores even more. Magnesium can help with digestion and constipation, anxiety, as well as muscle cramping and a sore back…all super common in pregnancy.
Magnesium is best absorbed topically but I personally load up on both topical and internal solutions during pregnancy!
- Natural Calm (best for getting things moving digestive wise)
- Klaire Magnesium Glycinate (a calming form of magnesium that also helps with anxiety)
- Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion (on my arms every night)
- Seeking Health Chewable Magnesium (so easy to take)
- Ancient Minerals Magnesium Bath Flakes
Probiotics // Let’s just say digestion can get super wonky during pregnancy due to hormones and potentially a change in diet due to food aversions. But equally important, you as the mama greatly contribute to your sweet little one’s microbiome as it develops before birth and continues to develop the first year. Some studies also show that probiotic supplementation can reduce risk of infection or preterm delivery.
My top probiotics for pregnancy:
- Seed // This blend contains BOTH probiotics and prebiotics which is key in actually helping your digestive system. Seed is hands down the BEST probiotic I have ever used as it truly works! I switched to it half way through my first trimester this pregnancy and noticed a huge difference. Use code ‘FLOURISH15’ for 15% off your first order!
- FemDophilus // The blend contains probiotics lactobacillus rhamnosus and reuteri which can reduce risk of Group B Streptococcus in the third trimester. Personally I add in these probiotics daily starting third trimester. Garlic can also help prevent group B.
- Probiotic + prebiotic rich foods // Yogurt, cultured sour cream, kefir, sauerkraut, fermented pickles, apples, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas
HCL with Pepsin // You automatically make HCL in your stomach—your digestive system is actually a highly acidic environment and needs to be for proper digestion. Indigestion happens most often due to low stomach acid. Stress and pregnancy hormones can deplete stomach acid. Personally I’ve supplemented with HCL during both pregnancies and it’s been a lifesaver!
DHA // DHA is an omega 3 essential fatty acid specifically for brain development and helps transmit messages between nerves. DHA is found most prominently in pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed meat, butter or dairy and cold water fish like salmon, mackerel and cod liver oil. I love Nordic Natural’s Prenatal DHA because it also contains Vitamin D3 which helps strengthen the immune system, is essential for thyroid health and works to strengthen mother and baby’s bones.
There are SO many things to think about when you are pregnant so I hope this serves as helpful resource. Most importantly do the best you can given your circumstances!!
You’ve got this mama!