Do you really need to take prenatal supplements?

You’re newly pregnant. Congratulations! Maybe you’re celebrating, doing a little dance, or maybe you’re still processing and letting the news really settle in. After a few important phone calls and conversations, the prenatal checklist of do’s and don’t’s starts to emerge. Less alcohol, more water. Less sugar, more vegetables. And of course, you start taking your prenatal supplements.

But here’s the question I get regularly…

“What if I’m already eating a really solid nutrient-dense diet? Shouldn’t I be able to just eat more and get everything I need from food? Do I really need to take a supplement on top of my diet?”

So yes, during pregnancy the need for protein, fat, carbohydrates and water increase, but the need for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals!) increases greatly as well.

While everyone’s dietary needs differ, the short answer is: yes, you should be taking a prenatal supplement even if you are eating the best diet for pregnancy. The truth is, it can be hard to get all the necessary nutrients every single day. Due to modern farming tactics, seasonal produce availability and soil mineral depletion, those foods may not actually contain all the nutrients you’ve been betting on. Digestive health, stress, and lifestyle also impact the body’s ability to absorb and efficiently use nutrients.

This is where the extra oomph provided by prenatal supplements can really help reach or maintain optimal nutrient levels for you and your growing baby!

The other thing to note is that, the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for pregnant women may not be entirely accurate. Due to the limitations on research in pregnant women, the RDA values for pregnancy are based off values for non-pregnant and non-lactating women with an increment added to account for pregnancy. (1)  This estimate of recommended allowances is particularly concerning because it does not factor in the changes in absorption or excretion women experience throughout pregnancy. (1) In some studies, researchers have found that RDA for certain nutrients may actually be up to 3x higher for pregnant women! (2) That is a lot of vitamin B12 a pregnant women may be missing out on. This may also be the case with other vitamins during pregnancy like vitamin B6 and vitamin D. (3)

So think of your supplement as just that: a supplement to your diet rather than a replacement of your diet. It’s an insurance policy. Taking a prenatal doesn’t negate the need for varied diet with lots of plants, animals fats, meat, fish and nuts/seeds. However, having a good quality prenatal supplement will help to improve outcomes for you and baby.

 

 

If you want to learn more about what supplements to include in your prenatal and postpartum regimen supplement check out our latest post on our Top 5 Prenatal Supplements!

 

Want more specialized support? Schedule a free 15 minute consult and we can discuss working together!

 

References:

 

  1. Ladipo OA. Nutrition in pregnancy: mineral and vitamin supplements. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72(1 Suppl):280S-290S.

  2. Bae S, et. al. Vitamin B-12 status differs among pregnant, lactating, and control women with equivalent nutrient intakes. The Journal of Nutrition. 2015;145(7):1507-1514.

  3. Nichols L. Real food for pregnancy: the science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. San Bernardino, CA; 2018.

Edited by: Liz Winters, NTP