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Monthly Archives: July 2014

My thoughts on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting and life.

how to choose prenatal vitamins

By Suzanne Brown on July 24, 2014 in health, nutrition tags: , , ,

When I was in college, I took Environmental Science. We took a field trip to a wastewater treatment plant and yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. Basically how the wastewater treatment works is that the water comes in and starts going through a series of filters. The first one is for really big items, mostly things thrown into drainage ditches or stuff that isn’t supposed to be flushed. The filters gradually get smaller, taking out all of the solid items and eventually removing dirt, microorganisms, heavy metals, etc. The part of the trip that horrified me the most was not the thought that some people work with huge volumes of poop all day, every day; rather, it was a particular filter.

A vitamin filter.

The plant employee showed us a filter with a pile of pills at the end. “You can still read the brand name on some of these,” he told us. These things were going into people’s bodies, being “digested” and eliminated still intact. I was horrified. Actually, I stopped taking supplements for a few years.

However, not all supplements are pointless – there are some things you can look for to make sure your supplements are high-quality and supporting your health, rather than basically being a pebble in your digestive tract. Many care providers recommend prenatal vitamins to ensure moms are getting enough of key nutrients, and many moms are reassured by taking a supplement. Some types of prenatal vitamins that are more likely to be used by your body are:

1. Whole food supplements
These are supplements made from concentrated whole foods, rather than pressed synthetic nutrients. Your body is able to use more of a food-based supplement. Some examples would be SuperMom vitamins, Rainbow Light prenatals, New Chapter Perfect Prenatals, and Garden of Life Raw Prenatals. (Bonus tip from the wastewater treatment plant: take tablet-type supplements with an acidic juice to help your body break them down.)

2. Gelcaps
These supplements are powder contained in an easy-to-digest gelatin capsule. Your body dissolves the gelatin quickly, and then the good stuff inside is absorbed. Promise Prenatal is one, and SuperMom has a capsule version as well.

3. Liquid
Liquids are easier to absorb than a tablet, because your body doesn’t have to break down the stuff that holds a tablet together (called, appropriately, “binders”). Some brands that offer liquid prenatals are Liquid Health, Nature’s Plus, and Buried Treasure.

A word about DHA: It is recommended that pregnant women get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, as these are important components of brain and eye development for babies. (Omega-3s also help moms produce prostaglandins.) Read more about omega-3s in pregnancy here. However, the best sources of omega-3s are cold water fish…and commercially available fish can have high levels of mercury and other toxins (and thus, pregnant women are advised to restrict their fish intake to twice per week). Many women will want to take a supplement to close this gap. Some popular brands are Nordic Naturals and Happy Healthy Smart. Many brands only have 200mg of DHA in them, but the recommended (minimum) amount is 300mg so make sure you select one with at least that amount.

Unfortunately, it requires a little bit of extra work to locate a quality supplement – they generally aren’t on the shelves at regular big box or grocery stores. You will probably have to make a trek to a health food store or order online. Talk with your care provider about which form of supplements will best suit your needs…and you won’t be flushing your prenatal vitamins down the toilet.

NOTE: I am not a care provider of any type. I just went on a field trip to a wastewater treatment plant that instigated some research into supplements. Check with your care provider before adding any dietary supplements to your life.