The Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins – Nutrition and Immunity
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Do you wonder what are the benefits of prenatal vitamins? Why do you need them anyway? Which ones to take if you do?
A healthy diet can cover most of the essential daily 30 for most adults. However, in states of growth and development, pregnancy and aging, you require a slightly different combination and dosage of critical vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy.
During pregnancy, your body naturally (and incredibly) shunts nutrients to the fetus, which means that unless you get more nutrients in somehow, it can leave very little or none for yourself.
Why? Because you’re growing the perfect little parasite in there.
The benefits of prenatal vitamins
Amidst the still looming threat of the COVID19 pandemic, a strong immune system for our kids is more important than ever. Priming their bodies with healthy foods and appropriate vitamin intake should be top of mind as we phase into our new normal. From a supplement standpoint, a strong foundational approach will not only support normal growth and development, but also provide the nutrients, both vitamins and minerals, to prime the immune system for success.
Folate helps prevent neural tube defects
All of the daily 30 are important during pregnancy, but folate- a B vitamin- is a big one. Your baby needs it at the very start of your pregnancy. We are talking the first day, because that’s when you begin to lay the groundwork for healthy neural structures that prevent brain and spinal abnormalities. Since you usually don’t know you’re pregnant right away, it’s best to start taking prenatals at least 3 months prior to getting pregnant.
Many physicians recommend that all women of childbearing age take them, but if pregnancy is even a remote possibly, reaping the benefits of prenatal vitamins as early as possible is best. Let me just spell this out perfectly clear so there is no confusion. If you are sexually active, then pregnancy is a possibility and you need more folate.
But, not all folate is made equal. You can get folate through food. Leafy greens, brussel sprouts and broccoli all contain folate. But folate from food sources isn’t actually as readily absorbed compared to folate in supplements due to the fiber matrix and the way your body absorbs nutrients. In pregnancy, physicians don’t leave folate to chance (or diet balance). The best option for adequate folate intake is through a prenatal.
Folate in supplements are typically present in one of two forms- folic acid or methyl-folate. Your body can only use folate in methyl form. Typically, you can convert folate to the right form. However, there are some individuals who have a genetic mutation (MTHFR) that inhibits their ability to convert it correctly. Even if you don’t have that specific genetic makeup, you may not be able to convert it at the most optimal rate. For many, it’s better to take folate in the methyl form at the start to prevent these issues.
FYI – you need folate daily for other metabolic needs even when you are not pregnant. You just don’t need quite as much.
Iron helps support placental development and fetal oxygenation
One of the benefits of prenatal vitamins is iron. Iron is another vital mineral for your baby’s growth. So important, in fact, that the RDA nearly doubles for pregnancy. That’s why taking a prenatal- versus just a multivitamin- is important.
Even though those sweet little lungs don’t start flexing until after birth, your baby needs oxygen to breathe. They get oxygen through your blood during pregnancy. Iron helps that process run efficiently. It also helps mitigate anemia, a condition many women struggle with during pregnancy. Iron increases the number of healthy blood cells available to you and your baby during pregnancy. More healthy blood cells bring more oxygen to your growing baby, which is pretty important.
Food sources of iron include lean red meat, poultry, fish and some fortified foods, with animal products offering the most readily absorbed type of food-based iron. Supplementation is a great option for pregnancy, especially because food sources, depending on dietary intake, offer so little absorption.
Let’s face it. For the necessary amount of iron in pregnancy, it would take a WHOLE lot of the same kinds of food and may end up leaving you deficient in other nutrients. If you do have anemia or are concerned about getting enough, vitamin C can help punch up the gut absorption of iron. You can pair citrus or strawberries with iron supplements or food sources to get an additional boost of iron uptake. Just keep in mind that too much iron can cause constipation, so chat with your healthcare team about the right approach for you.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy neural and brain development
The benefits of prenatal vitamins extend to macronutrients as well. Omega-3 is a type of fat found in fish that is essential. This type of fat helps to promote healthy brain development for your baby. Your body does not produce it on its own, so you have to get it from another source. The most important type of omega-3 in pregnancy is DHA, which is the specific form that supports brain health for your baby.
When it comes to prenatals and vitamin intake during pregnancy, more is NOT always better. Stick to the RDA and your advice from your physician for dosage.
The benefits of prenatal vitamins and pregnancy immunity
The vast majority of pregnant women experience a healthy pregnancy. Our bodies are incredible, especially in pregnancy. We adapt within nearly every process of human function. Nutrient absorption shifts to feed and nourish our baby first. Blood vessel patterns change to ensure our bodies are prepared to begin breastfeeding after delivery. Almost every mother cherishes those moments when she feels her baby kicking in a newly defined stomach. Those changes are well known and documented thanks to technology and Instagram.
It may not be quite as well known, however, that immune response also changes during pregnancy. These changes occur in a well-orchestrated and predictable manner, suggesting that women may have something of a ‘pregnancy immune clock’ that changes precisely as needed like the hours of the day. It is well established that a mother’s body changes in this pattern to help prevent her body from rejecting the fetus. Immune cells also gear up for enhanced action during pregnancy, with each phase bringing a different set of responses. It is also well established that pregnant women are more susceptible to certain infections. Pregnant mothers need additional immune specific vitamins to support that enhanced action and reduce the likelihood of experiencing severe symptoms during infection.
Typically, good handwashing and healthy practices keep pregnancy infections at bay. But on average, even non-pregnant healthy women get sick 3-5 times per year. Priming the body with appropriate vitamins helps your body respond when you are exposed to a pathogen and is especially important during pregnancy because your immune system has naturally ‘slowed down’ to adapt to you growing a baby.
We are quite vocal about our foundational belief that vitamins will not prevent you from getting sick. Vitamins help you respond to a bacteria or virus quickly to reduce the symptoms that result from the infection and can decrease the duration of the sickness. This is a good thing for you. The benefits of prenatal vitamins help you remain strong or feel better faster and reduces the bacterial or viral load your growing baby is exposed to while pregnant.
Covid19 opens up a whole other can of worms and makes it more important than ever to make sure you take them every day. Even though our immune process changes during pregnancy, the good news is the types of vitamins for immune health during pregnancy remain the same. The major difference is when and how much you need to support optimal immune health.
Prenatal immunity vitamins
There are a variety of nutrients necessary during pregnancy that also serve to support immune function. Here are 10 nutrients critical for immune function during pregnancy. To maximize the benefits of prenatal vitamins, check your prenatal to make sure they include the nutrients below.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Keep in mind that super high doses of vitamins are not necessarily better or healthier for your pregnancy. Vitamin A, for example, can be harmful to your child in high doses but you do need some during pregnancy. In general, to optimize the benefits of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and avoid any harmful side effects, stick to the pregnancy RDA for dosage and speak with your physician regularly.
Prenatal Vitamins and Vitamin & Me
Protecting your baby begins from the date of conception and never stops. The benefits of prenatal vitamins play an essential role in supporting the healthy growth and development of your baby during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing but it can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to choosing the right prenatal vitamins. That’s where Vitamin and Me can help.
Knowing firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the world of prenatal vitamins, we created an assessment to match you with the highest quality prenatal vitamins, including recommended dosages, tailored specifically to your specific needs. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, find your prenatal match with our custom vitamin quiz and start protecting your baby’s health today!
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