Healthy Pregnancy: Supplement Picks

by in Healthy Pregnancy, September 30, 2009

I’m not a big fan of supplements and try to get all my nutrients from healthy foods, but when you’re pregnant, your body needs an extra boost from a few key nutrients.

Nutrition Needs
Certain nutrients become more important when you’ve got a baby on board. A balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats is a must, but to make sure you’re covered with all the vital nutrients, your doc might recommend some supplements. The good news is that a few pills can give you what you need, and there are even some options if you’re not big on pill swallowing.

Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins help make it easy to get many of the extra nutrients you need in one pill. Even if you already take a multivitamin, swap it out for a specially formulated prenatal one. If you’re trying to get pregnant, be proactive and start taking it early. Taking them won’t hurt and some of the nutrients are good to have even before you find out that you’re pregnant. Also, try to set aside a specific time to take them — I take my daily dose before bedtime to avoid stomachaches.

Prenatals will give you a boost of folic acid, which helps to prevent a specific kind of spinal cord defect in growing babies, and other B-vitamins, which are good for energy production. These multivitamins are also formulated to contain the right doses of iron, minerals and other vitamins for moms-to-be. For example, you don’t want too much of a particular form of vitamin A (called retinol) because it can hurt the baby. Don’t rely on giving yourself individual doses or turn to your usual once-a-day multivitamin; a good prenatal will get the dose just right.

Trader Joe’s makes a good over-the-counter vitamin, and you can also get a prescription from your MD. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it — these vitamins are BIG. If you have trouble swallowing pills, there are some chewable brands on the market; ask your doc what they recommend.

Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fats from fish oils are good for your heart and for a growing baby. The form called DHA, which is also found in fatty fish like salmon, help your baby’s brain and neurological system develop (it’s good for mommy’s brain power, too).

Many fish oil supplements are a combo of a few kinds of omega-3 fats, so choose a supplement with the most DHA. Some prenatal vitamins come with a dose of DHA, or you can buy them separately. I like Nordic Naturals DHA formula, which has about 450 milligrams of DHA. They’re easy-to-swallow gel caps with no fishy aftertaste. For more protection against fish breath, always take fish oils on a full stomach. I just pop them before bed with my prenatal.

Calcium
Many women do not get enough calcium, and during pregnancy, your needs are even higher. Calcium helps to keep your bones strong and helps your baby’s bones grow (especially in the third trimester). Along with eating calcium-rich foods, supplements can help you reach the recommended amount of 1,300 milligrams per day. Calcium pills are also famously large; choose chewable ones like Viactiv or Adora. You can get some calcium while you fight off heartburn by taking TUMS — they’re also a calcium supplement.

Good to know: You can only absorb 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, so spread out your supplement and food intake. Take 500 milligrams in the morning and another dose at bedtime.

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