Nutritional supplementation is an important part of every expectant mother's prenatal care, but pregnant women need different dosages of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are different stages of pregnancy. Here are some of the most important minerals and vitamins and when women need them most:
- Vitamin B6 is a natural remedy for morning sickness, the pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting that some expectant mothers suffer 24 hours a day. Since the frequency of morning sickness declines as the unborn child develops, some formulas such as Promise Natal and the CitraNatal family of products are formulated to deliver more B6 during the first trimester and less B6 afterward.
- Iron is a problem in early pregnancy because iron supplements can cause nausea. However, supplementing with becomes more and more important as pregnancy progresses, because blood volume increases and more iron is needed to make red blood cells. No pregnant woman should ever take an alcohol-based iron supplement such as Geritol, and as little as 20 milligrams per day is enough for both mother and child.
- Folic acid is critical for the earliest development of the embryo, during the few days before the mother has noticed a missed period. Any woman who may become pregnant needs to get about 1,000 mg of folic acid per day.
- Retinyl palmitate, an especially potent form of vitamin A, can cause birth defects if taken in megadoses (over 300,000 IU per day). To be absolutely sure of avoiding harm to the baby, it's best to limit this form of vitamin A to 5,000 IU per day.
Women who want to be sure they get enough A, however, only need to take beta-carotene (up to 25,000 IU) a day, or eat carrots. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, but only as much as it needs.The greater a woman's fat mass, the more beta-carotene is stored in fat, unavailable to the rest of the body.
- Two forms of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol, are known to be associated with normal birth weights. It does not take a high dose of vitamin E to take care of both mother and child, but 100 IU of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols is enough. Don't take just the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E.
- Breast milk is almost the perfect food for the baby. It is often deficient in vitamin D. Taking up to 1,000 IU a day is a good idea throughout pregnancy, but it's very important in the last trimester of pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
The omega-3 essential fatty acid that is the most important for brain health is DHA. Babies who are exposed to more DHA while still in the womb walk earlier, talk earlier, and have larger vocabularies and greater hand-eye coordination at age 7. Organic prenatal vitamins with DHA are an important investment in your child's healthy development.
The best source of DHA for women during pregnancy is microalgae. Because of the very high levels of estrogen in a pregnant woman's bloodstream, vegetarian DHA is better absorbed, and the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, found in flaxseed oil, is more completely used by a woman's body.
Some prescription prenatal vitamins with DHA, however, such as Duet DHA, contain the "wrong" source of DHA, fish oil, and charge a hefty price as well.
In the US, for a prescription prenatal vitamin with the "right" form of DHA, ask for CitraNatal 90 DHA. In Canada and in the EU, ask for Prenate DHA, which is covered by most national health insurance plans and which has the added value of being easy to use; just one capsule a day includes all the nutrients an expecting mother and her baby need. For proven results for baby's health, always choose prenatal vitamins with vegetarian DHA.