Basics of Prenatal and Postnatal Vitamin Supplementation

Shannon M. Clark, MD
November 10, 2021
Basics of Prenatal and Postnatal Vitamin Supplementation

How to choose a prenatal vitamin

It shouldn’t be difficult, confusing, or tiring to care for your health when you are pregnant or postpartum. However, with the ever increasing amount of products on the shelves, it is getting to be exactly that--difficult and confusing. For example, I’ve been sharing the misleading information given by designer supplements offering prenatal vitamins that don’t have folic acid in them.

Taking folic acid in pregnancy has been proven to decrease neural tube defects in babies. Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not FDA regulated which gives supplement companies lots of room to play with ingredients. Thus, we have seen many designer prenatal vitamins hitting the market with methylfolate or other forms of folate that they use instead of folic acid.

This is a huge problem because the effectiveness of these supplements in preventing neural tube defects has not been studied. Nor should supplements containing forms of folate other than folic acid (such as 5-MTHF) should not be confused with the natural food folate found in fruits and vegetables. Methylfolate has not been shown to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in babies.

There are lots of supplements with different ingredients, and something as simple as taking a prenatal vitamin has become seemingly quite complicated. That’s why in this discussion with Dr. Jenny Han PharmD, BCACP, we breakdown what you need to know about folic acid, supplements, and other nutrients and vitamins needed for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum phase.

Prenatal Vitamins

Vitamins and minerals are important for pregnant person and developing baby

Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all of your body functions. Eating healthy foods and taking a prenatal vitamin every day should supply all the vitamins and minerals you need during pregnancy. A healthy balanced diet is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need in pregnancy. However, a prenatal vitamin (PNV) supplements with the key vitamins and minerals in the event that you don’t get what you need daily in your diet alone. The purpose of a PNV is NOT to cover ALL the extra vitamin and mineral needs. That is why any one prenatal vitamin will have a portion of any specific vitamin and mineral that is needed.

How many PNV do you need a day?

Take only one serving of your prenatal supplement each day. Read the bottle to see how many pills make up one daily serving. If your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other obstetric care provider thinks you need an extra amount of a vitamin or mineral, they may recommend it as a separate supplement.

Which PNV should you take?

Here are three of our favorites:

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One A Day Women's Prenatal Multivitamin

(Supplement for Before, During, and Post Pregnancy, Including Vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, and Omega-3 DHA, 90 Count)

Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin with 200 mg DHA

(Multivitamin to Support Baby Development and Mom, 110 Softgels, 110 Day Supply)

Rainbow Light Prenatal One Daily Multivitamin

150 tablets, Clinically proven absorption of vitamin D, B2, B5, folate, calcium, zinc- 5 Month Supply)

Remember, supplements are meant to fill the gaps in your nutrition.

Eating a well-balanced diet rich with whole food rich in vitamins in minerals is important to your health and pregnancy as well!

To learn more from Dr. Han, connect with her on Instagram @thepostpartumpharmacist.

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD

Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Follow Shannon on TikTok @tiktokbabydoc, Facebook @babiesafter35, and Instagram @babiesafter35.

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