woman holding prenatal vitamin in her hand are they necessary?

Are Prenatal Vitamins Necessary?

It’s happened. You took a pregnancy test and it came back positive. All of a sudden, you have so many questions and so many things to do. One of the top things on your list is picking a prenatal vitamin. But there are so many options. Plus, there are some that cost only a few dollars and others that run hundreds of dollars a month. 

You can’t help but wonder, are prenatal vitamins necessary? Do you even really need them? What would happen if you didn’t take them? Can you have a healthy baby without them? 

Well, today I am diving into this question and helping you understand if prenatal vitamins are necessary for you or not. But first, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite companies, This Is Needed.  If I were pregnant today, I would be on their prenatal vitamin in a heartbeat. You’ll learn why later.

But for now I just want you to know their name and then you can decide for yourself what is best for you!  

Enjoy this interview on choosing a prenatal vitamin with Ryan Woodburry of This Is Needed.

Use Code BRAVELY for 20% off a one time purchase orders or the first three months of a one month subscribe and save subscription option.

Are Prenatal Vitamins Necessary? 

Pregnancy is one of the most unique times of a woman’s life. In a perfect world, a woman would get all the nutrients she needs from food. Your pregnancy diet is incredibly important. 

During pregnancy, your body is going through an extraordinary amount of change. In fact, your body is making 6 million cells a second. No wonder you might feel tired! 

In addition to building not only a baby, who has organs, a complex brain and all their body parts including their hands, fingers and toes, you create a new organ, the placenta, and have many physiological changes of your own. 

In fact, did you know your heart actually grows in size during pregnancy? This is just one of the many incredible changes that happens during pregnancy. And all these changes require vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats to take place properly.


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What Happens When A Woman Doesn’t Have Proper Nutrition In Pregnancy? 

Many pregnancy complications are directly related to the absence of the right foods. It’s true, high blood pressure in pregnancy known as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth all have studies linking them to nutritional deficiencies. 

And it’s not a mom’s fault. It is harder than ever to get all the nutrients you need because food today has less nutritional value than the same food several decades ago.

This is why many moms, even moms who are eating healthily, are lacking essential nutrients that they might need to support their baby’s development or their own health throughout pregnancy. 

Some moms may be able to get everything they need through food. But, very few of us have enough healthy habits and access to nutritionally dense food to meet all of our needs. 

For example, 94% of moms are not meeting their needs for choline. Choline is important for a developing baby because it helps build their brain, prevent neural tube defects and can impact their memory and brain function into adulthood. 

Moms need choline because it supports healthy blood pressure, metabolism and mood. 

This is just one example of a critical nutrient most moms don’t get. 

When Are Prenatal Vitamins Important?

If you have decided that prenatal vitamins are necessary for you, you may be wondering when to begin taking them. And the answer may surprise you! 

Here’s a hit: it’s probably earlier than you think. 

If possible, you should begin taking a prenatal vitamin 3 to 6 months before you begin trying to conceive. Why? 

Because before your egg even meets a sperm, it is hard at work maturing. Eggs take about 90 days to grow and mature before you ovulate with that egg!! Fascinating right? 

When you begin prenatal vitamins before conception you know that your baby is getting support right from the beginning. 

Which is great, because some birth defects, such as spina bifida are formed early on in pregnancy. Spina bifida is when a baby’s spine doesn’t form correctly. Babies that have this birth defect have it by four weeks after conception. This is so early on some moms don’t even know they are pregnant by then! 

But What If You Didn’t Start Taking A Prenatal Vitamin Early On? 

I remember when I was pregnant, reading something like this would have (and did!) cause me quite a bit of worry. And my intent is not to send you into a tailspin of thinking everything is going to go wrong. 

Spina Bifida is quite rare – it only occurs in one out of every 2,758 births. Most likely, your baby will be fine if you don’t take a prenatal vitamin from the beginning.

Your  body has stores of nutrients to draw on, and for the most part, your body will naturally prioritize your babies health over your own. 

But, one thing you may want to know – if you’re coming off of birth control, you may be deficient in vitamins such as  folate, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E, magnesium, selenium and zinc. So, if you can plan ahead, it’s worth it! 

Can You Have A Healthy Baby Without Prenatal Vitamins As A First Time Mom Or Mom Of Multiples?

Most moms have heard the term postpartum depression – but have you heard the term postpartum depletion? 

Maternal depletion affects more than half of moms! This is when a mom is so nutritionally depleted after pregnancy that she hasn’t been able to recover nutritionally, hormonally and emotionally after birth. 

And those things are very much connected. 

As a mother, you pass folate, zinc, B vitamins, iron iodine, selenium to your baby. Your body’s stores are used throughout pregnancy and often you are left with much less than you need after giving birth.

In fact, when a mom is experiencing maternal depletion, caused by a lack of nutritional stores, she is likely to feel exhaustion, not feeling rested after sleeping, brain fog and other symptoms.

Mothers recover more quickly from maternal depletion when they are able to eat enough whole foods and restore the nutrients they have lost. On average it takes a mom 18 months to recover from giving birth. But, it can happen quicker or take much longer depending on the nourishment a mom receives after giving birth.

So, are prenatal vitamins necessary for a healthy postpartum? Well, it certainly seems like they would help you recover quicker. 

It’s also good to know, that if nothing changes with your nutrition, your body will likely have more nutritional stores to draw on in the first pregnancy than the second and each one after that.

Meaning, with each pregnancy, prenatal vitamins grow more and more necessary.

But Do Prenatal Vitamins Always Work? 

One frustrating thing during pregnancy is that not every question has a clear answer. We are each unique and our nutritional needs vary. Sometimes prenatal vitamins can leave you feeling nauseous or constipated. So you may need to try a few brands to find the best one for you. 

Luckly, I created a guide for you about the most common reasons a prenatal vitamin could make you sick and how to troubleshoot that problem. Hopefully, you won’t need it. But if you do, the resource is available to you at any time. 

Want to know another shocking fact? 

When  Stanford MBAs Julie Sawaya and Ryan Woodbury looked into prenatal health – they found that even though 95% of women take a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy, 97% of moms are still nutritionally depleted throughout pregnancy. 

Does that make you angry like it does me? 

That’s why they founded a new prenatal company called This Is Needed. Because women deserve something better! 

How To Tell If Your Prenatal Vitamin Is Working For You?

One of the best ways to tell if your prenatal vitamin is working for you or if your diet is working for you is to becoming observant and curious about your own body. Use a journal to note how you feel, any pregnancy symptoms or health problems and mood swings. If you’re having struggles with any of these you can speak with a dietician. 

A dietician can request a few blood tests to get very clear on what you as an individual need during pregnancy. Then, based on what they find out, they can help you with your diet and supplements so you get the prenatal vitamins that are necessary for YOU. 

What Prenatal Vitamin Do You Recommend? 

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The most important thing about a prenatal vitamin is paying attention to what feels best in your body. Developing your intuition and ability to observe yourself is critical to feeling the best throughout pregnancy. 

But where is the best place to start? 

If I were picking a prenatal today, I would absolutely be starting with the Complete Plan from this is Needed. 

Why you ask? 

Because many prenatal vitamins are formed to give you nutrients only to help prevent the worst birth defects. Needed went further and set the goal to help you get enough nutrients to actually be healthy. 

The complete Plan covers four areas that are critical to health in pregnancy: 

  1. A Prenatal Multivitamin: the multivitamin has 24 essential vitamins and minerals that pregnant mamas need to stay healthy throughout pregnancy. 
  2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: These help support your baby’s developing brain among many other things. They are so important during pregnancy! 
  3. A Pre/Probiotic: This helps your baby start off with a strong immune system! 
  4. Collagen Protein: Protein is in every cell of your baby’s body! And supports mamas blood sugar management and helps reduce morning sickness. I would definitely want protein in my pregnancy routine. 

Are Prenatal Vitamins Necessary Conclusion 

So what do you think? Have you decided if prenatal vitamins are necessary for you? 

Though I am sure many moms could make it through pregnancy relying on a carefully planned diet, and their own nutritional stores, especially in a first pregnancy, I would absolutely find a prenatal vitamin necessary for me – at least as an insurance policy. 

Sources:

@NatGeoUK. “Fruits and Vegetables Are Less Nutritious than They Used to Be.” National Geographic, 1 May 2022, http://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2022/05/fruits-and-vegetables-are-less-nutritious-than-they-used-to-be. Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.

“90 Days Cycle for a Healthy Egg.” Hegde Fertility, 23 Aug. 2019, hegdefertility.com/90-days-cycle-for-a-healthy-egg/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.

CDC. “Data and Statistics on Spina Bifida.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Sept. 2019, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/spinabifida/data.html.

Haas, Amy V. “Midwifery Today Prematurity Is Preventable! The Heart and Science of Birth.” Midwifery Today, 1 Dec. 2004, http://www.midwiferytoday.com/mt-articles/prematurity-is-preventable-a-haas/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.

King, Janet C. “The Risk of Maternal Nutritional Depletion and Poor Outcomes Increases in Early or Closely Spaced Pregnancies.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 133, no. 5, 1 May 2003, pp. 1732S1736S, academic.oup.com/jn/article/133/5/1732S/4558575, 10.1093/jn/133.5.1732s.

NHS Choices. “Spina Bifida.” NHS, 2019, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/spina-bifida/.

Nichols, Lily. Real Food for Pregnancy : The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition. United States?, Lily Nichols, 2018.

Palmery, M., et al. “Oral Contraceptives and Changes in Nutritional Requirements.” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 17, no. 13, 1 July 2013, pp. 1804–1813, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23852908/.

Serrallach, Oscar. POSTNATAL DEPLETION CURE : A Complete Guide to Rebuilding Your Health and Reclaiming Your … Energy for Mothers of Newborns, Toddlers, and Youn. 2019.

Vehrs, Suzzie. “Pregnancy Diet 101: How to Eat Your Way through a Healthy Pregnancy.” She Births Bravely, 7 July 2022, shebirthsbravely.com/pregnancy-diet/. Accessed 9 Oct. 2022.

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