Is A Prenatal Really Worth It And Is It Enough?!
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Balanced Friends Favorite Supplements for Pregnancy
Before I dive into prenatal vitamins and such, I want to share a tiny bit more about me in hopes it sheds some light on my view of vitamins and supplements. When I found out I was pregnant it hit me like a ton of bricks that I've done years of research on natural fertility and how to get pregnant but oops I totally spaced learning about what to do once I actually got pregnant! So me being me, the one that reads health books for fun, hit the books hard almost immediately after getting that positive pregnancy test. My husband not missing a chance to tease me for juggling up to 4 books at a time considering he is a read an entire book cover to cover before moving onto the next kinda fella. But I knew I had to make a lot of decisions early on in my pregnancy due to the COVID pandemic. I had zero interest in stepping into a hospital anytime soon for it could be lurking with the scary virus! I knew I would be on my own during this first trimester and that was fine by me. I was excited to let nature run its course and trust my Mama intuition! Aside from the scary COVID, when it comes to making decision about my health, I never hand over my power to the white coat nor give them my full trust. Not because I don't respect doctors and such. It's simply because I have my own education that has empowered me to take charge of my health in a way that feels good to me! So naturally my pregnancy will be no different. In fact if you were to ask my Dad he would tell you that I've marched to the beat of my own drum my entire life. I've never been one to follow directions or do anything the "normal" way or the way "I'm supposed to". Luckily my husband knows this about me and chose to marry me anyway. What a lucky lady I am!
OK lets dive in! I want to take a moment to remind you that supplements and vitamins are highly individualized. There is no one size fits all approach to health, pregnancy, or fertility despite what western medicine may lead you to believe. I will only highlight a few of my must have pregnancy supplements. I do take other supplements that I needed based off labs that I requested my Midwife to run during my first visit (more on this soon as I share my first prenatal visit story with you). It's extremely important to me that I was supplementing properly because wow babies suck a TON of nutrients from us!! I wanted to make sure I wasn't over or under supplementing. I wanted to be sure I was taking care of baby but not depleting my own body of nutrients so that I still have what I need to thrive during this pregnancy.
So onto the question we get a lot at Balanced Friends from our private wellness clients. Are prenatal vitamins really necessary and do I need anything extra? Yes! They are absolutely necessary. I chose to start taking a prenatal for almost a year before trying to get pregnant. Due to soil depletion (meaning our soil is less nutritious now than ever before due to strong fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. that come along with factory farming). Less nutritious soil means less nutritious food. Even organic food has been shown to have less nutrients than previous years. So we must supplement even if we are eating all our fruits, veggies, and high quality protein. I take a prenatal that requires a twice a day dose vs just once a day. I like getting the nutrients into my system in the morning and at lunch to increase chances of absorption. The prenatal I take also uses the most absorbable and natural form of vitamins vs cheap prenatal that may use synthetic forms of the vitamins your body can't actually use. Companies will use cheaper synthetic forms of vitamins in order to save money or gain a bigger profit. It's ALWAYS about the money. Our advice at Balanced Friends is splurge on better quality supplements for your own safety!!
The prenatal I take uses the natural food form of folate. This is worth chatting about because folate can still be absorbed if you have the MTHFR gene mutation. A mutation that doesn't allow the body to properly use the cheaper more synthetic form of this vitamin known as folic acid. I personally have not been tested for this gene mutation but it's surprisingly common! In fact my other half at Balanced Friends (Alyssa) has this gene mutation. I personally feel like it should be a requirement to screen for this mutation as a routine fertility or prenatal visit but unfortunately it is not. It's extremely important because folate helps prevent birth defects in our babies like spina bifida and neural tube defects. So since I personally have not been tested for this gene mutation, I choose to take the more natural form of the vitamin just in case!!
Is a prenatal vitamin really enough?! No. Many doctors may lead you to believe that all you need to do is take your prenatal vitamin and you are good to go. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Most all Americans are deficient in vitamin D among other nutrients (trust us we see it on our clients labs all the time!) and that's because vitamin D comes from the sun! I don't know many people who have the time to get a full body tan everyday. Do you? Exactly why many of us are deficient. Even our clients that live in sunny states don't always get enough vitamin D. It's also important to note that checking vitamin D levels is not part of routine pregnancy checkups. I find this shocking considering it's been linked to miscarriages. As I move through pregnancy I will request my vitamin D levels be checked at each trimester so that I can adjust my supplement dose as needed. Vitamin D is important for many reasons but one worth mentioning is it helps our body absorb calcium to make strong bones. Hello other Mamas like me who are busy building babies teeth and bones from scratch!!!
The next supplement I can't live without is my Omega 3 supplement. It helps with inflammation, heart health, brain health, and is a natural blood thinner. Again we are building a little human brain from scratch while also supporting our own brain health. Also increased blood flow to uterus is a great thing during fertility and pregnancy. The Omega I use has been third party tested for safety which is so important to me because cheaper low quality supplement brands may be selling fish oil that is oxidized (aka rotted/spoiled). Note to self, if you crack open your fish oil capsule and it smells bad then it probably is bad. Trust your nose! A rotted fish oil would actually cause inflammation vs help it. And during pregnancy (and life in general) lower inflammation is always better! The Omega I use has a combo of DHA and EPA. These both play a role in baby's brain and eye health. And you guessed it, most Americans are low in Omega 3's and are too high in Omega 6's which is poor for our health and contributes to inflammation among other health issues. Wonder if you are getting enough Omega 3's? You can contact us for a lab test or you can assume you are low if you eat a lot of processed foods and do not eat fish such as wild caught salmon, anchovies, or sardines up to 4 times a week.
Next on my list is probiotics. Gut health is vital to overall wellness and the health of your child. Gut health is a lengthy topic and one for another blog post. So for now take my word for it, a healthy gut equals healthier Mama which equals healthier baby! Aside from gut health, the probiotic that we recommend during pregnancy has specific strains of bacteria to help prevent against GBS during pregnancy. If a Mama gets a positive GBS test result during pregnancy the recommended treatment is IV antibiotics during labor which is harmful for both Mom and Baby's gut health and can interfere with Baby's ability to latch after birth. That being said, taking a good quality probiotic with the right strains was top priority to me.
Now don't go taking any old probiotic supplement. If you follow our Instagram page you may already know that not all supplements are created equal. There are no regulations on supplements here in the USA. This means companies can make claims that they work wonders without actually proving it. Supplement companies can give you a lower dose than what is actually says on the bottle. This means you won't possibly get the results the marketing promised you. Low quality supplements also can be contaminated with heavy metals and mold which are extremely harmful to both Mama and baby. They also can contain gluten, dairy, nuts, and other common allergens. Point being you must choose a supplement brand that is trusted, third party tested, and free from common allergens. Please visit the links at the end of this blog post for the brand we personally use and recommend to our private wellness clients. Your health and safety is our top priority!! And we want the benefits of taking the supplements ourselves and we want our clients to get the best results possible. So we have no interest in using or recommending anything but the best!
Now time for an absolute FAVORITE supplement of mine. Magnesium! A friendly reminder that there are many forms of magnesium that all do different things for the body. You can find the one I use by clicking on the link. To put it simply, magnesium is pure GOLD!! It literally does it all! It is required for many systems in the body I can't possibly cover them all in this blog post. But during pregnancy it's a real game changer for anxiety, restless legs, muscle twitching, high blood pressure prevention (preeclampsia prevention), and helps regulate blood sugar (gestational diabetes prevention). I am obsessed with magnesium and most Americans don't get enough of it. There are many reasons why most of us are depleted in magnesium but stress is mainly to blame. Magnesium is one of the first nutrients sucked out of the body during stress. So you might be thinking I don't feel stressed so I'm all good. Well I hate to be the one to rain on your parade. Unfortunately stress comes in so many versions. Some common forms of stress include emotional stress, work, environmental, toxin build up in the body as well as exposure, gut imbalance, and even good stress from workouts. Ok maybe you should supplement with magnesium after all! Now please notice I have not included any dosage recommendations in this blog post and that's strictly for your safety! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. You must work with a practitioner like us to help you find the right dosages for you and boy will the demands change with pregnancy! But when it comes to magnesium, basically the only downside of taking too much will be loose stool. Which if you're a pregnant lady with hemorrhoids this isn't always a bad thing. Magnesium Citrate in particular is used as a natural laxative which I hear really comes in handy after birth.
Ok this next supplement is individualized to me and may be something you also choose to add in if you work with us and get your mineral levels checked. I added zinc into my prenatal favorites because my Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis lab showed high copper to zinc ratios. This is a major NO NO! If you have more copper floating around your body and not enough zinc there are links to birth defects and possibly higher risks for baby to develop Autism. This is a risk I didn't want to take! If you read my Natural Fertility Journey blog post, you know that I had this information about my health prior to becoming pregnant so I was able to supplement accordingly but it's totally fine to take the same lab test during pregnancy to make sure your mineral ratios are up to par! So not only do I currently take zinc to keep my copper levels in check but I also choose to take it during COVID to keep my immune system boosted. It also helps support the cells and DNA of my growing baby.
**The day Alyssa helped me cut my hair for the HTMA lab test that showed high copper to zinc ratios for me. A lab we recommend to all our private wellness clients going through their fertility journey and to screen for toxic metals. It's easy to take in the comfort of your own home. No office visits required!!
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
I also take buffered ascorbic acid which is the most absorbable form of vitamin C. This is also mostly due to COVID and the fact that I suffer through allergy season if I don't have it. Ascorbic Acid is important for immune health, wound healing, and is an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage. However just like all supplements you don't want to go overboard with this one or it could be harmful so be sure to work with a practitioner for optimal safety.
Fermented Cod Liver Oil
I also take fermented cod liver oil. Note that you will not see a link for this one since Alyssa got it for me at a local Amish farm. She really is my other half!! Fermented Cod Liver Oil is an excellent food source of vitamin A. I only added this because my Midwife checked my vitamin A levels as I requested and my levels are low. Too much vitamin A and too little vitamin A contributes to brain defects, eye defects, and immune deficiencies for baby. Do not supplement unless you know your levels. More importantly never supplement with a synthetic form of vitamin A for research says its toxic to the fetus! This is exactly why you have to be careful what you read on the web (and I hate saying that because our whole Balanced Friends business relies on sharing information on the web). But if you google vitamin A during pregnancy you will be overwhelmed with articles encouraging you to avoid it. However, the difference between a food source of vitamin A and a synthetic form is often overlooked. Those of you on your fertility journey should highly consider this supplement for it's really been shown to boost fertility naturally.
Ok take a deep breath because you made it to the end of this lengthy list! Some may look at this supplement list and feel overwhelmed but the truth is growing a human while also keeping your nutrient stores in check requires A LOT. No one said it was going to be cheap or easy building a life! I want to point out that I may take more supplements compared to the other pregnant women you know but there is a reason for it. I requested that my Midwife check my vitamin levels. This is not part of a routine prenatal or even fertility visit. Which is such a shame and disservice to our prenatal health and the health of our precious growing babies. We owe it to our future children to give them the healthiest start possible. After all they are the generation that will be here long after we are gone! Health starts well before the sperm meets the egg and is especially important as our baby grows and forms within us. It's important to note that I eat a healthy diet and still have vitamin deficiencies. Partly because baby gets what it needs and leaving me depleted if I don't properly supplement. Most Americans have a poor diet that is lacking nutrients so supplementation is very important for them. I also don't take any pharmaceutical drugs which all pharmaceutical drugs have been known to cause nutrient deficiencies. Again making supplementation very important along with lab testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Also for all my breastfeeding Mamas out there, supplementation is huge for you because you are literally growing a human with nutritious boobie milk!! You can bet that's nutritionally demanding.
The intent of this blog post is not to overwhelm you. It's to empower you to be your own health advocate or to seek help by someone like us who can support and guide you along your pregnancy journey. I don't know about you but there was no mention of food, supplements, or lifestyle changes discussed with me at my prenatal visit. If you remember just one thing from this blog post, I hope it's to move on from any provider that tells you a prenatal is all you need. Of course they would say that if they aren't required or told (by you) to test for a full vitamin panel or mineral levels. Knowledge is power and now you have the power to demand your vitamin needs are being met!! You go girl!!! As always thanks for tuning in. We are always here rooting for you!
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