Even if a woman isn’t accustomed to taking vitamins regularly, most usually begin supplementing with something when they find out they’re pregnant. It's also important for pregnant women and new mothers to focus on nutrient dense foods, but there are times when this can feel challenging. Such as during early pregnancy when nausea and food aversions are common, or early postpartum when the new demands of motherhood may cause a woman to turn to poorer quality convenience foods.
As a Prenatal Nutritionist and promoter of real food, I always suggest aiming to meet nutrient needs through whole foods first. If you don't eat a well balanced diet, simply taking isolated, synthetic nutrients won't have the same beneficial effects. The nutrients found in whole foods work synergistically and contain many necessary cofactors and enzymes required by the body to be properly activated and absorbed.
taking quality vitamins: natural nutrients vs synthetic
Most nutritional supplements on the market are man made in a laboratory, and our bodies can’t assimilate them well. Many contain poor quality fillers and some even include artificial coloring. Just as I would encourage you to avoid processed foods, I also encourage you to avoid processed, synthetic supplements.
While supplementation is never a replacement for a nutrient dense food, there are times when supplementing is highly recommended, including pregnancy and the postpartum period. Especially if you follow a strictly plant-based diet, have chronic stress, or if you were on hormonal birth control before becoming pregnant.
“Gardeners know that you must nourish the soil if you want healthy plants. You must water the plants adequately, especially when seeds are germinating and sprouting, and they should be planted in a nutrient-rich soil. Why should nutrition matter less in the creation of young humans than it does in young plants? I’m sure that it doesn't.” Ina May Gaskin
What I Recommend
I always recommend looking for supplements that are made from 100% whole food sources. Quality makes a difference as the body utilizes the nutrients required in pregnancy and postpartum much more efficiently from natural sources. Even some companies that claim that their products are made with whole food sources, they are actually quite processed still. It can get tricky as a consumer because you have to look beyond the marketing and research to find companies you can trust.
For instance the folate found in food, B9, helps protect your baby from the risk of neural tube defects and it crosses the placenta more readily than the folic acid in most supplements. Vitamin C is important during all stages of pregnancy as it supports your immune system, which is often taxed in pregnancy. Look for companies that use natural sources such as alma berry, acerola cherry or camu camu, over the commonly used synthetic ascorbic acid. Dietary iron is crucial during pregnancy as blood volume increases up to 40% -50%. Iron is used to transport oxygen to all parts of your body and to your baby, but most iron supplements aren’t recommended during pregnancy because they can cause gastrointestinal complications. The poor quality calcium commonly found in most prenatal supplements can actually contribute to placenta calcification, when not properly balanced with vitamin D3 & K2. So I recommend looking for whole, natural sources of calcium from plants and herbs.
organic & made With 100% Whole Foods
The best quality supplements that I recommend to my clients are from Pranin Organic. They’ve just launched a new product, Mom’s PureFood A to Z. It’s an organic whole-foods multivitamin powder made from 24 different vegetables, leafy greens, fruit and herbs. It provides 25 essential nutrients and is formulated specifically to support a woman’s nutritional needs during pregnancy and replenish her stores after having a baby. It’s very potent with one serving providing 145% of your daily value of natural folate. There are no unnecessary fillers and it’s in a powdered form, which makes it even more absorbable. It also comes in a dark glass jar to preserve freshness and prevent leaching from plastic.
Right now, at 5 months postpartum, I’m particularly grateful for the horsetail they add in. High estrogen levels during pregnancy prevent hair from falling out at its normal rate, but the postpartum drop in estrogen causes the extra hair to fall out. Horsetail is rich in the mineral silica, which encourages regrowth. It also contains moringa, which supports a healthy breast milk supply.
Pranin’s product PureFood Iron is a whole-food organic powder made with curry leaves, moringa leaves, and amla berries. It also contains both iron and vitamin C to increase absorption. It’s safe for pregnancy and does not cause digestive upset or constipation.
(Pranin has generously offered 20% off for all of my readers with the discount code OHBABY. Orders of $75+ from Canada & the USA will receive free shipping as well!)
Further supplementation is best advised on an individual basis as everyone's needs are unique, but a whole foods multivitamin powder from organic vegetables, fruits, leaves and herbs is a wise choice for the vast majority of pregnant women and new mothers.