Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin

If you are pregnant now or trying to get pregnant, you need to consider the extra nutritional requirements--even if you think you have a healthy diet now. Many obstetricians and health professionals prescribe prenatal vitamins for their patients even before they conceive. There are many different formulas for prenatal vitamins, both prescribed and over-the-counter types.

If you decide to select your own prenatal vitamins formula there are certain standards which you should look for in the product you purchase.

VITAMIN A- The beta-carotene form is the safest version of this supplement. This is a vitamin where more is NOT better. Do not take more than 4-5,000 IU of Vitamin A daily. Amounts of 10,000 or more have been shown to have toxicity.

VITAMIN D - Vitamin D is another supplement where too much is toxic. Keep your daily intake at 400 IU or less.

FOLIC ACID - The B vitamin may be one of the more important supplements for fetal development. Any formula should contain 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid.

CALCIUM - A supplement that contains 2-300 mg calcium is just a start toward reaching the recommended 1200 mg daily. However, anything beyond 250 mg of calcium (or 25 mg of magnesium) should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron. A two hour gap in time between taking the iron supplement and the calcium/magnesium supplement will allow for maximum assimilation. This also goes for iron-rich and calcium-rich foods--that is, don't eat your daily dairy with your iron supplement, or liver with your calcium supplement!

VITAMIN C - Most formulas contain at least 70 mg of this essential vitamin. There are no known side effects from taking a higher dose, though megadoses have been shown to dry up cervical fluid; that means if you're not pregnant already, you might want to avoid huge doses of C to increase your chances of conceiving.

THIAMINE, RIBOFLAVIN, PYRIDOXINE, NIACINAMIDE, AND VITAMIN B-12 - Most formulas contain two to three times the recommended daily allowance of these prenatal vitamins and there are no known toxicity levels.

VITAMIN E - 10 mg of Vitamin is the minimum amount which should appear in the supplement formula. Most formulas contain at least two to three times the RDA. Vitamin E has no known toxicity level.

ZINC and IRON - You should be getting at least 15 mg of zinc and 30 mg elemental iron. In addition, a supplement that contains zinc needs additional copper. Both copper and zinc are needed to assist in the assimilation of iron. Zinc is also required when the calcium supplement reaches 1200 mg or more.

Although trace minerals are important in nutritional health, few if any prenatal vitamins formulas contain any of the trace minerals. Making sure that prenatal supplement formulas are balanced to each other and contain all the essential nutrients for mother and infant health is a difficult task. You have a wide variety of healthy food choices, though. Use the vitamin and mineral supplements as extra nutritional coverage rather than your sole source of serious nutrition.

These prenatal vitamins are sometimes available in liquid form for those who have difficulty swallowing a capsule, but you should be aware that much of the vitamins taken in liquid form will be lost in the digestive process. One other point to remember is to be sure to take the supplements with food or drink. Some of the vitamins taken on an empty stomach can cause unpleasant aftertaste and the assimilation rate is much higher when it is taken with food or drink.

TNH's own favorite prenatal vitamin is Rainbow Light's Complete Prenatal. I only took a half-dose--3 pills--and instead of taking them all at once I took one at each meal. They are large pills, but I found taking them three times a day rather than all at once made it easy.


jennye's picture

I HATE swallowing pills! I can barely do it when I'm not pregnant, but when I am, it gags me. My last two pregnancies my doctor prescribed me CHEWABLE prenatals. I was saved! LOL! They tasted pretty good, too.

jamie's picture

What was the name of the chewable tablets he gave you? I can't swallow pills really either I have to chop my prenatal vitamin up soooo small, help me!

jennye's picture

It's been nearly 4 years, so I have no idea the name of what I used. It was perscription only though. Just ask your OB/GYN if he/she has any recommendations.


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