Caroline holding a bowl of natural prenatal vitamins.

the Natural Prenatal Vitamins Guide

posted:

5/16/2022

Caroline holding a bowl of natural prenatal vitamins.

Growing a baby is a beautiful miracle but it is also HARD work and very stressful on mama (even good stress is still stress)!

If your diet isn’t ideal due to pregnancy nausea, know that baby takes what baby needs! This is good for your growing baby but can lead to nutrient deficiencies during even a healthy pregnancy, but more often postpartum and even years later. It’s SO important to replenish your nutrient stores with nutrient-dense food and natural prenatal vitamins!

The reality is that we just can’t get enough nutrients through diet alone during pregnancy and postpartum—natural prenatal vitamins are essential.

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!

< Get your Postpartum Replenishment Guide >

A bowl of natural prenatal vitamins

When to Take a Prenatal Supplement?

With most of my clients, I recommend a prenatal for all women in childbearing years, even if they aren’t looking to get pregnant—we lose many key nutrients through our monthly cycle so it’s important to replenish! With soil depletion, processed food, and stress-causing nutrient depletion, holistic prenatal vitamins are a powerhouse of targeted important 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.

What about postpartum?

The postpartum season actually requires more nutrients than during pregnancy, but sadly it isn’t talked about much. Postpartum replenishment of essential nutrients is key to long-term female health.

It is best to continue taking your holistic prenatal vitamins postpartum for at least a year or as long as you are breastfeeding—breastfeeding actually requires more nutrients than pregnancy so the need for good nutrition from a healthy diet becomes even more important.

< Get your Postpartum Replenishment Guide >

Caroline Potter standing with her hand on her pregnant belly

Choosing the Best Natural Prenatal Vitamins

This is not medical advice. Please always check with your health care provider 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 natural prenatal vitamins or ‘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 like spina bifida) and supports

^ 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.

the placenta. Folate deficiency can be linked to miscarriage and birth defects. 

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, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate.

Choline

Choline is not one that is talked about often but it has just about as an important role as folate in pregnancy—wow! Choline needs to be just about double during pregnancy and supports fetal development by helping with 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. 

If you are consistently eating 2 eggs daily both prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy, you most likely do not need to supplement choline.

But what about Iron?

Iron is very important during pregnancy for the production of red blood cells and carrying oxygen through your blood to baby! Low iron, anemia, is very common in pregnancy due to baby’s growing needs and especially if you have food aversions to animal protein (again super common)! Your iron stores really depend on a balanced diet prior to conception, even months and years prior, as well as your hormone cycle or previous history of anemia.

Iron requires many cofactors to be properly used by the body—choosing natural prenatal vitamins with these cofactors (including Vitamin C and proper digestion/stomach acid) is an important aspect rather than just the amount of iron.

Too little iron can present one set of problems but too much iron can have side effects in the form of 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!

A bowl of natural prenatal vitamins on a counter top

My Favorite Natural 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. The best prenatal vitamins for me are Seeking Health as I love the wide range of bio-available nutrients they contain—especially as a mama who navigates two autoimmune diseases: Type 1 Diabetes and Hashimoto’s. These are SO easy to digest and I deal with horrible morning sickness for most of my pregnancy—these prenatals have never added to the nausea.

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)!

A bowl filled with a variety of different natural prenatal vitamins

Natural Prenatal Vitamins: The Short List

While there are so many helpful vitamins + minerals, it’s best not to overwhelm your mental or physical capacity, especially while pregnant. Quality is key for pregnant women and often less is more!

Here’s the pregnancy short list:

A list of prenatal supplements

Other Helpful Vitamins + Minerals 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 formation of baby’s bones. 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!

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.

*Use code FLOURISH15 for 15% off your first order.

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 // Your digestive system is 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. While the conventional approach is to lower stomach acid, this does more harm than good. Maintaining proper stomach acid is key to navigating indigestion. Personally I’ve supplemented with HCL during all 3 pregnancies and it’s been a lifesaver, especially in the first and third trimesters!

DHA // Omega-3 DHA is an essential fatty acid specifically for brain development and helps transmit messages between nerves. DHA is found most prominently in food sources like pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed meat, butter or dairy products 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.

Evening Primrose Oil // This softens the cervical lining and prepares the body for birth. It should not be taken until the last weeks of pregnancy and with professional direction. There are a few other homeopathics I love that support preparing the body for birth—please reach out to me for a nutritional consultation to create a third trimester plan for you + baby!

There are SO many things to think about when you are pregnant so I hope this serves as helpful resource in your holistic journey. Most importantly do the best you can given your circumstances!!

You’ve got this mama!

FAQs

Q: Is it okay to take prenatal vitamins if not pregnant?

A: YES. I address this in more detail at the beginning of the article. Nutrients during child bearing years are essential, even if pregnancy is not in your future.

Q: When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

A: Baby’s nutrient needs, especially folate, start at conception—once you realize you are pregnant, many weeks have already passed! If you have the opportunity, start taking a prenatal 6 months – 1 year prior to conception.

Q: Do prenatal vitamins make you gain weight?

A: No. In fact a holistic based prenatal vitamin contains nutrients like selenium, chromium and zinc that are key to maintaining thyroid and blood sugar balance which are the building blocks for a healthy metabolism.

Q: How long should you take prenatal vitamins?

A: Nutrient needs actually increase postpartum, especially if you are breastfeeding. I recommend taking the full prenatal dose for a minimum of 1 year postpartum or as long as you are breastfeeding. Decreasing to a smaller amount after that could be a good option. Our Postpartum Replenishment Guide gives you a detailed plan to restore nutrients and energy postpartum.

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