How To Shop For Prenatal Vitamins: A Nutritionist’s Cheat-Sheet
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Let’s face it: shopping for a prenatal vitamin can be overwhelming. There are a ton of different brands on the market, each one claiming to have a superior formula than the last. So how do you know if you’re making the right choice to support a healthy environment for conception and pregnancy? The truth is, most people don’t. That’s why I’m here to tell you exactly which ingredients to look for--and which ones to skip--when shopping for a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive or pregnant.
While many physicians will advise their patients to go with the most affordable option when it comes to taking prenatal vitamins, the truth is, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. The ingredients in your prenatal vitamin are actually incredibly important and can influence everything from your egg quality and hormone levels while trying to conceive to your baby’s development during pregnancy. So what are some of the key vitamins and minerals women should be looking for in a prenatal vitamin during preconception or pregnancy?
Iron OR Calcium
Calcium and iron compete for absorption, so if they are both in your prenatal you aren’t actually getting the amount indicated. Many women need to supplement iron during pregnancy, as iron requirements increase. Work with your healthcare provider to see if you need an additional iron supplement and/or calcium.
Research shows that women should be consuming 425 mg of choline per day during preconception and 450 mg/day during pregnancy. Choline is essential for egg quality during the preconception period, prevents neural tube defects during the early weeks of pregnancy, and supports babies’ brain development throughout the first year of life.
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Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the northern countries, with over 3 million people diagnosed each year. The evidence shows that 4,000 IU’s (100 mcg) of vitamin D is the minimum recommended amount to support fertility and pregnancy. Additional supplementation should be based on individual vitamin D levels, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider when it comes to your unique needs.
Folate NOT Folic Acid
Folate is more bioavailable (easier to absorb) than folic acid, specifically the methylated form. Supplement companies often use these names interchangeably, so you have to look for the type of nutrient on the label. Folate works with nutrients like B6, B12 and choline to support egg quality preconception and the development of the baby's brain and spine during pregnancy. Research shows that women benefit from at least 800 mcg of folate.
Another important thing to note is that a prenatal vitamin can have all of the necessary vitamins and minerals listed above, but there are still some red flags that you should look out for when label-reading. For example, you should always look for a prenatal supplement that is third-party tested for contamination of heavy metals and chemicals. If that is not the case, then run (don’t walk) in the opposite direction and find another brand that is.
The bottom line is that the ingredients in our prenatal vitamins should be evidence-based and fill in common nutrient gaps in our diet. In my professional opinion, Beli’s prenatal vitamin for women checks all of these boxes and more. Beli’s women’s prenatal multivitamin includes evidence-based doses of all of the nutrients needed to support a woman’s needs during preconception and pregnancy, including optimal levels of methyl folate for healthy fetal development, B vitamins to support energy, as well as the recommended levels of choline to aid in healthy neural tube development--things that are often overlooked in other prenatal vitamins. You can rest assured that Beli provides complete nutrition from conception to pregnancy and beyond.
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I know you’re thinking, ‘It takes two to make a baby; what about men? Shouldn’t men’s health be an equal part of the prenatal conversation?’ Actually, yes. Men make new sperm continually, and it takes roughly three months for sperm to fully mature, which makes the preconception period a really important time for future fathers to pay attention to their health. Zinc & Vitamin E are little superhero nutrients when it comes to sperm health. Research shows that the antioxidant properties of these nutrients support sperm count, motility, and morphology. Bioavailable B vitamins like folate, B12, and B6 also support sperm-quality.
The vitality blend in Beli’s prenatal for men sets it apart from other male prenatals on the market. The combination of Coq10, NAC, and Shilajit not only makes this supplement superior in supporting male fertility, but it also helps cut back on the number of supplements necessary and makes it more realistic for our guys to take consistently.
Despite how many different brands there are on the market, it can be challenging to find a prenatal vitamin--for women and men--that follows the evidence for both the amounts and types of nutrients that will best support mom, dad, and baby. Many prenatals leave out nutrients like Choline and skimp on nutrients like Vitamin D and Iodine, despite research showing how important they are for a healthy baby and how challenging it is to get enough from food alone. Beli formulated prenatal vitamins that fill in these gaps, making it easy for me to recommend them to couples no matter where they are on their fertility journey.
Click here to shop Beli’s prenatal vitamins!
Brooke Boskovich is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, a functional & integrative practitioner, the founder of The Fertility Dietitian, and the creator of the Master Your Fertility & Foundations for Optimizing Your Fertility Programs. Brooke is passionate about women’s health & fertility and has helped dozens of women with irregular cycles, PCOS, unexplained infertility, endometriosis & other fertility struggles regulate their cycles and take home healthy babies.