When it comes to preconception care, getting pregnant naturally, and having a healthy pregnancy, taking the best prenatal vitamins is a must. In general, it is recommended that women begin taking prenatal treatment well before trying to conceive.
They are also often taken by women who are not planning to get pregnant because they can help create beautiful, shiny hair and glowing skin.
But did you know that the type of prenatal vitamin you choose, and when you start taking it, plays an important role in your pregnancy? It is recommended that women begin prenatal vitamin treatment at least six months prior to conception and continue it while breastfeeding.
The best prenatal vitamins include
Folate is necessary to protect the baby's rapidly dividing cells. Deficiency = damage to your reproductive cells. You want folate, not folic acid. Folic acid can be problematic for women with methylation problems. It is also not the highest quality version of this vitamin. Folate is well recognized for its role in preventing neural tube defects. While most multivitamins include 400 micrograms, many experts recommend 800 micrograms during pregnancy.
Low levels of B12 have been associated with miscarriage and infertility.
B6 is necessary to support your luteal phase, which is when your body prepares for implantation.
Vitamin C helps your body make progesterone, which is necessary to maintain a pregnancy (and protect you against PMS).
Vitamin E protects your eggs from free radical attacks that would damage them.
Zinc needed to make superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that keeps your eggs healthy. Avoid premature babies.
Copper is also important to support antioxidant production and must be in balance with zinc.
Magnesium is necessary for fertility, but also for the health of the baby. Also, it can help prevent calf cramps in pregnancy. If you've had them, then you know what I'm talking about.
Biotin is a crucial nutrient in pregnancy. In fact, biotin deficiency has been shown to be teratogenic (cause birth defects) in many species.
For the regulation of blood sugar.
Selenium is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. This may be related to thyroid function.
Iodine is necessary to make thyroid hormone.
Iron is necessary for your baby's development and its ability to build healthy blood cells, which deliver oxygen to you and your baby.
Calcium for healthy bones.
Choline is important for the formation of the spinal cord.
Vitamin A as beta carotene for the function of the immune system. Retinyl Palmitate is considered a teratogen and should not be taken during pregnancy.
Multiple capsules to take in divided doses. There is a limit to how much you can absorb at one time. For example, the body cannot absorb more than 600 mg of calcium at a time. And even absorbing so much is a stretch. Avoid one-day vitamins for this reason.
What is the meaning of prenatal and postnatal?
Prenatal vitamins get their name because they are intended to be used before and during pregnancy. Prenatal refers to the time before and during pregnancy, but before birth. Postnatal (or postpartum) is the time after your baby is born.
Your nutrient needs are higher during pregnancy, but did you know they are even higher during breastfeeding? Not to mention that you are recovering your body after delivery. That is why it is recommended that women continue their prenatal care while breastfeeding.
And the demands of postpartum are also the reason you need to build your nutrient stores before pregnancy. You see, if you go into pregnancy with depleted nutrients, then you will have a hard time building sufficient nutrient stores. You will be at a disadvantage.
The importance of taking care of your prenatal health and participating in preconception care must be emphasized. Preparing the "baby's body" as we call it in my clinic is incredibly important for your health and that of your future baby.
Growing a human is important, and it requires nutrients, energy, balanced hormones, and a healthy gut.
6 months is really the minimum amount of time you should invest in preconception care. One or two years is even better.
Sometimes women are surprised to hear this or are impatient and want a baby now. I get it. And, at the same time, it is important to recognize that you are having a baby in as little as a year, recovering after delivery (it is a year-long process) and breastfeeding for 6 months to possibly 3 years or more.
In that context, spending 6-12 months in a potentially 2-5 year endeavor isn't too much of a stretch.
If you are taking nutrient-depleting medications like the hormonal birth control pill, you should rebuild your nutrient stores before trying to conceive.
Statins, which are known to deplete CoQ10, and metformin to deplete vitamin B12 are other examples of medications that require you to replenish lost nutrients to prevent deficiency.
Increasing nutrient stores, balancing hormones, optimizing bowel function, and improving thyroid health are important steps before you get pregnant to help you have a happy and healthy pregnancy.
What are prenatal vitamins?
While prenatal vitamins have ingredients very similar to women's multivitamins, there are some key differences. For example, iron and folate are in higher amounts in prenatal vitamins, because these are two key nutrients in the development of the fetus and the health of the mother.
It is well known that higher amounts of these nutrients are needed during pregnancy.
A prenatal vitamin taken before pregnancy helps build nutrient stores to facilitate a healthy pregnancy and the creation of a healthy baby.
It is a supplement to a healthy whole food diet. Even if we eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients, deficiencies are still very common (especially if we are taking drugs that deplete nutrients).
That said, eating a nutrient-dense diet is extremely important as a foundation because it provides more than just nutrients, such as fiber, phytochemicals, and communicates to your body that the environment is abundant and safe.
A prenatal vitamin is definitely not a replacement for eating high-quality food. It is a compliment to your diet.
Do I really need prenatal vitamins?
Good prenatal treatment can help you build your nutrient stores before the baby. Yes, we want to load the good stuff before we get pregnant. In fact, we must do this at least 3 months before the baby (it is the time it takes for the egg to mature, but 6 to 24 months is more ideal).
What are the best prenatal vitamins for me?
Finding the best prenatal program can be confusing. There are so many on the market that they are unregulated, not quality, and do not offer the best nutrition.
Sometimes I also see well-meaning people telling women to take vitamins that contain harmful nutrients and herbs as if pregnancy is not a consideration in supplement selection.
A developing baby is susceptible to many things in their environment, so it is recommended that they be careful when selecting supplements.
Talking to a qualified doctor who is trained in nutrition and supplement use can help you make this difficult decision. Keep in mind that if you meet with a doctor who rejects supplements or says they are all the same, you should ask yourself how much training they have received on the subject.
Your doctor may be very smart with what he knows and may be commenting incorrectly on a subject that he is not educated on. They are not a bad person for this, but at the same time, they are not qualified either.
Avoid prenatal vitamins with:
· Food coloring or food coloring
· Hydrogenated fats
· Folic acid (choose folate instead)
· Retinyl Palmitate (choose beta-carotene instead)
· Iodine without selenium
· Polyethylene glycol
Your prenatal should also have GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) on the label, ensuring the highest quality manufacturing to create a consistent, quality vitamin.
If you're even thinking about having a baby in the next few years, do your body and your baby a favor and start a quality prenatal now.
The best foods during pregnancy
Eat lots of vegetables daily. They contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all so important to pregnancy. Aim for six to nine servings of vegetables a day. Sounds impossible? Start small. Add a serving of vegetables to your diet daily for a week. Next week, add an extra serving, up to six to nine daily servings of vegetables.
Fruits (like berries) are vitamin powerhouses with the added benefit of containing antioxidants, which reduce inflammation in the body.
Protein is very important during pregnancy, and meat, poultry, and beans are excellent sources. They also contain B vitamins and iron, both of which are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Eat green leafy vegetables, high-quality protein, shellfish, seaweed, organ meat, and other nutrient-dense foods to help maintain your overall health.
These foods contain nutrients that are also found in prenatal vitamins.
· Avocados provide you with vitamin A, B6, and magnesium.
· Eggs are rich in choline, vitamin A, biotin and are a complete protein.
· Wild caught salmon can provide you with a healthy dose of selenium and iodine.
· Cabbage is a source of B6, vitamin C, and copper.
· Spinach contains folate, calcium, magnesium, and an antioxidant called alpha lipoic acid.
· Grass-fed organic red meat is a broad source of bioavailable iron. That means you can absorb it much more easily, especially compared to plant-based iron.
· Lentils contain folate, selenium, magnesium, iron (not highly bioavailable), B1, B2, copper, and zinc.
· Tomatoes contain antioxidants, folate, and vitamin C.
· Swiss chard is a great source of folate.
· The red pepper is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and B6.
Rethink the pill
You should never feel embarrassed about taking the pill, but you should have all the information so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your health.
That being said, if you are taking the pill and thinking of getting pregnant soon, it is recommended that you abandon it. The pill depletes nutrients (many of which are so important to fertility), causes inflammation, and can send the thyroid into a dive, none of which are optimal conditions for a healthy pregnancy.
Complete thyroid panel
If your thyroid is suffering in any way before you get pregnant, then chances are it will only get worse. Pregnancy is a stress test for your thyroid and if your thyroid was already suffering, well, it is not going to get better in pregnancy.
In fact, a new onset of hypothyroidism is common in pregnancy.
What is hypothyroidism? It is a state in which not enough thyroid hormone is produced.
Every cell in your body has a receptor for thyroid hormone. This means that every cell needs it to function.
For the mother, that free T3 dip specifically causes fatigue, pronounced weight gain, depression, anxiety, dry skin, constipation, and more.
But for the baby, the problem is the lack of free T4. This is what crosses the placenta and fuels the baby's development in the first trimester.
How do you know if you are at risk? Get a complete thyroid panel.
If you have a TSH of 2.5, repeat the tests and discussion about a thyroid medication if you have to actively try to conceive.
If you have hypothyroidism, you must monitor yourself throughout your pregnancy. Yes, hypothyroidism can hit that fast.
A complete prenatal thyroid panel includes:
· T4 total
· T3 total
· Free T4
· Free T3
· Reverse T3
A low level of progesterone can make it difficult to get pregnant and stay pregnant and can increase the risk of miscarriage. If you have trouble with PMS symptoms (such as mood swings, anxiety, and sleep disorders), I recommend that you test your progesterone levels, because those symptoms could indicate low progesterone levels.
Work with a licensed medical provider to understand if progesterone therapy is right for you.
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