Trying to get pregnant for the first time is a beautiful thing. It’s also a disorienting, emotional, and downright confusing process. You’re embracing learning-as-you-go, gleaning information from wherever you can, and generally hoping you’re doing the “right thing” – because, trust me, you’ll be bombarded with a lot of conflicting information. (Lift your legs up in the air after sex? Give up chocolate? Recite fertilization-affirming mantras post-coitus? Yep, I’ve heard it all…)
So what’s the one universal, agreed-upon baby makin’ recommendation? Take a quality pre-natal supplement. It’s such a commonplace – and level-headed – piece of advice that I thought it was worthy of further discussion. Ahead, we tackle the basics of prenatals, using Amanda Carney – head health coach at Dr. Frank Lipman’s practice – as a resource. Read on!
Why take a prenatal?
Let’s cut to the chase here. While prenatals are loaded with healthy vitamins necessary to support a growing baby, they’re really all about one critical nutrient: folate.
Amanda notes, “There are certain nutrients that are incredibly important when trying to get pregnant. We recommend choosing a prenatal with folate or methylated folate.” So, what’s the big deal about folate? Well, it’s a B vitamin that can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (bifida or anencephaly) and other problems, such as chin cleft and cleft palate. These problems can often occur before you even find out you’re pregnant – aka in the very early stages – which is why it’s important that you consume folate while baby-makin’. Furthermore, folate is critical for processes like DNA replication, amino acid replication, and vitamin metabolism – all happening when you’ve got a little tadpole growing inside of you. The Center of Disease Control recommends mamas-to-be take 400mg of folate daily, so let that be your benchmark.
How do I shop for a “good” prenatal?
For one, a good prenatal should pack at least 100% of your recommended daily value from a variety of critical vitamins and minerals. (Think: Vitamins A, C, E, D, and K, an array of B vitamins, folate, and iron.) But don’t stop there. Amanda also recommends seeking out the most “absorbable” types of these nutrients – a tip that’s actually super-duper important. Here’s why.
For example, vitamin B12 comes in two forms – cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of vitamin B12, making it cheaper to produce but harder for the body to absorb. Most naturopathic, organic, and whole food vitamins will contain methylcobalamin, while many mainstream pharmacy brands contain cyanocobalamin. Additionally, when eyeing the folate content of your prenatal, always prioritize “folate” over “folic acid,” as the latter is actually synthetic. (Who knew?!)
Lastly, many pharmacy brand prenatals are stuffed with useless fillers and additives – from artificial coloring to cornstarch to soybean oil. Look for brands that contain “certified organic food blend” in their capsules. I personally love Garden of Life’s MyKind Organics Prenatal and highly recommend shopping for your prenatal at your local natural grocer.
How do I take a prenatal?
Once daily – boom.
Amanda also comments, “Taking with food is probably best; this allows the fat-soluble vitamins to be absorbed.” As for time of day, whatever works best for you, but she does recommend consulting with your doctor if you have more specific questions.
Anything else I should be eating and/or taking, supplement-wise?
Above all else, use common sense as your guide. Amanda notes, “A diet that supports pregnancy is also one that supports anyone –which is a diet filled with real, nutrient dense foods, including an abundance of vegetables, healthy fats and good quality proteins.” She notes that extra doses of healthy omega-3 are helpful for pregnant mommas, a piece of advice supplemented by research like this. Just ensure you’re not deriving your omega-3s from high mercury-containing varietals of seafood like swordfish. (Confused? Use this chart as your guide or consult your doctor.)