We all know that a prenatal vitamin a day keeps the baby doctor away. But not every new mom knows that taking a prenatal vitamin should start long before baby is conceived and continue long after she celebrates her first birthday.
"Taking a prenatal vitamin ensures that women who are planning pregnancy, are pregnant, or breastfeeding receive at least the recommended amount of vitamins often lacking in food and/or their diets so that they optimize their chances for a healthy pregnancy and, in the case of lactation, replenish needed vitamin stores for themselves and their babies," explains Rebecca Chilvers, a board-certified physician in both obstetrics and gynecology with Fertility Specialists of Texas in Dallas.
Knowing how much your nutrient needs will shift in each stage of pregnancy, Rainbow Light recently launched a new multivitamin line that provides specific nourishment for the first 1000 days. This time period, which stretches from conception to age two, is most critical for brain, body, metabolism, and immune system development.
The smart series of vitamins boasts all the recommended nutrients mom and baby needs according to the American Pregnancy Association, but with extras like ginger extract to help with nausea during Trimester 1, magnesium to ease constipation in Trimester 2, and a special form of calcium to aid digestion in Trimester 3.
While Rainbow Light's new customized line is the first of it's kind, customizing your prenatal vitamin routine has become a huge trend. Prenatal vitamins now come in all kinds of different forms: tablets, capsules, gummies, chewables—even powder and liquid options.
We broke down the new ways mom's are taking their prenatal vitamins so you can find the right one for you and baby.
There are drinkable versions of the prenatal "horse pill," like Premama, which disolve in a glass of water (think Emergen-C) and are aimed at women with delicate gag reflexes or morning nausea. The drawback? The vitamins are all there, but it takes an extra couple of minutes to prep and drink the beverage, versus the quick popping of a pill. Plus it's not quite as tasty as necking a vitamin with, say, your morning latte.
Vegetarian or vegan preggos might be particularly interested in a powdered breakfast shake mix containing prenatal vitamins, since it will usually come supplemented with extra protein. These mixes come in kosher and gluten-free options too. Just read the labels closely before you buy: Some are not FDA-approved.
These soft vitamins are simple to eat and generally have an appealing fruit flavor. Women who need to take their vitamins quickly, or on-the-go, can easily pack these in a purse or consume them in the morning when they take other medications or supplements. However, many gummies don't contain calcium or iron, according to Chilvers. She says gummies are fine for women in their first trimester who are battling constipation and nausea, but by the second trimester they need to supplement the gummy with a source of calcium and iron.
Similar to the gummy vitamins, chocolates are easy to eat and have a pleasing flavor. Double check which nutrients they contain and ask your physician if they're appropriate for your stage of pregnancy. Bellybarmakes chocolate ball snacks fortified with calcium, iron and folic acid and a separate chocolate treat featuring DHA—so you can enjoy chocolate during all stages of pregnancy.
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Snacking on a granola-type bar saves time and helps curb evening snack cravings. But before putting the box in your shopping cart read the nutrition label. These are often calorie-heavy and filled with sugar and preservatives. Look for sugar-free, organic options that can work as a meal replacement or as a heavy snack following a light dinner.
If you prefer to stick to the all-encompassing prenatal pills but still don't like swallowing them, Chilvers recommends looking for a dual-pill pack containing the traditional hard pill in a slightly smaller size that contains calcium and a DHA soft gel caplet that's easier to swallow and generally well-tolerated—like Be Well Rounded by Healthy Mama. For women who were taking multiple pills or sources of nutrients, this two-pill option is easier and faster to take on a daily basis.
It's best to get your obstetrician's approval before picking an over- the-counter prenatal vitamin. "Pills containing certain herbs could be a concern, and those containing too much of a certain nutrient, such as vitamin A, can adversely affect a fetus's development," says Ashlesha Dayal, M.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.
Some safe choices: