The prenatal vitamin: when you shouldn't just be buying what's on sale.
I talk with a lot of my moms-to-be about why they're taking a prenatal to begin with. Mostly, they heard it was a good idea and need the folic acid. There's a lot more to a prenatal than just folic acid and if you're trying to get pregnant, now's a good time to pick one up.
You can check out my head-to-head comparison of 7 different brands over in the downloads section, and see how yours compares. Want yours on the list? Just let me know!
Are you getting enough of what's needed depending on your baseline nutritional status, age, and general health status. A lot of prenatals are quite low doses with the exception of a bit more folic acid and iron. Maternal blood volume will nearly double by the end of the pregnancy, so definitely more iron will prevent anemia. Anemia will make you tired, and you're going to need all the energy you can get when that baby comes!
Folic acid helps prevent defects in the neural tube, spinal cord, and body structure. This helps prevent chromosome abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, congenital deformities such as cleft palates, and thus reduces risk of miscarriage. Risk of these problems increases with maternal age, so if any of you baby-mamas-to-be are over 30, you may need more than the standard 1 mg.
This refers to how well your body can absorb and assimilate the nutrients you're giving it. This matters most with the B-vitamins and minerals.
Back to that important folic acid! There's a fairly large subset of people who have a genetic problem with the activation of folic acid. This genetic defect shuts down methylenetetrahydrofolate-reductase, which is the enzyme that turns regular ol' folic acid into 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). Ladies, 5-MTHF is where the magic happens. This same enzyme activates vitamin B12 into methylcobalamin and low levels of both of these vitamins are linked to infertility. You need B2 and B6 in this big reaction so those Bs certainly are important! Definitely add an ND to your fertility team to see which forms and doses of these are right for you.
With minerals, I like to use magnesium as a good example. Magnesium hydroxide (aka milk of magnesia) is a laxative. It's designed not to absorb, but to stay in the bowels and cause you to poop. Magnesium bisglycinate, on the other hand, may cause a slightly looser stool in high doses, but often it doesn't affect the bowels too much even then. Why? Because it's absorbed and doesn't come out the other end in large amounts. The same is true for all minerals. They must be bound to something, and that something will determine its bioavailability.
Oxidative stress is a major cause of DNA mishaps. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 soak up all of these damaging free radicals. Research shows a shorter time to pregnancy, much better egg quality, and greater success with IVF treatments with antioxidant supplementation. Where can you find all these? In your awesome prenatal!
And a quick note for the fellas: research shows antioxidants preserve the DNA integrity in sperm and make it easier to fuse with the egg. And if that sperm isn't getting into that egg, you bet there isn't going to be a baby!
And the other stuff:
Ah, those 'non-medicinal ingredients'. They're non-medicinal, so they don't matter, right? WRONG!
I'm always a glass-half-full kinda gal, so I always say that those not-great prenatals really do have great binders! Your gut, however, needs to break all that apart and get those nutrients out in a quick manner so having a well-bound vitamin isn't the best thing. Many also have harmful chemicals such as BHT and sodium lauryl sulphate among their long list.
An honourable mention here goes to red dye... because a pink prenatal must make a... prettier... baby? I got nothing.