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Prenatal Vitamins: Everything You Need to Know


What They Are

Why to Take Them

Who Needs Them

How to Choose a Food Based One 




Dr. Gabrielle Francis




Prenatal Vitamins are a Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Formula that are specifically designed to support women while they are pregnant in order to ensure that the baby receives all of the nutrients that it needs for optimal health.   Prenatal Formulas are different than regular Multi-Vitamins for Women as they are higher in some nutrients, such as Folic Acid and Iron, and lower in nutrients such as Vitamin A.    There are so many options for Prenatal Vitamins on the market.  It can be overwhelming to decide and know which one is right for you.   Since Fertility, Pregnancy, and Post Natal care are such an important part of my practice, I would like to share some vital tips that can help you to determine the best prenatal for you.


Who Needs a Prenatal Vitamin?

If you are pregnant, you need a Prenatal Vitamin.   Women that are working on enhancing Fertility would benefit from a Prenatal.   If you are considering getting pregnant in the next year or even two, I would highly recommend that you get on a Prenatal as your Multivitamin.  I see the Prenatal Vitamin as adding organic fertilizer to the garden that little Junior is going to grow in.  You want to start prepping the soil in advance.   A Prenatal is also recommended as the Multivitamin of choice for new mothers and breast-feeding mothers.   I also recommend Prenatal Vitamins for any woman that is on the Birth Control Pill or other types of Hormonal Contraception and IUDs.   These forms of Birth Control deplete the body of B12, B6, Folic Acid and Magnesium.   All of these are usually higher in Prenatal Vitamins, so they are beneficial for women on Birth Control.


Reasons to take a Prenatal:

  1. Considering Pregnancy (start 1-2 years before Conception)
  2. Supporting Fertility Treatments or Enhancement
  3. If you are Pregnant
  4. Breastfeeding and Post Natal Recovery
  5. If you are taking hormonal Birth Control


What does a Prenatal Do exactly?


A Prenatal Vitamin helps to nourish your body with essential vitamins and minerals that improve your health and the health of your baby.    Let’s say that you are fertilizing the garden that little Junior is going to be growing in.   A Prenatal is going to be high in nutrients that can cause birth defects if they are missing.   For example, they are high in Folic Acid, which is necessary to prevent Neural Tube Defects such as Spina Bifida in the baby.   The Prenatal will be high in Iron, as the mother’s body uses more iron to make more blood while she is pregnant.  A prenatal will also be low in Vitamin A compared to a regular Multivitamin.   If Vitamin A is too high it could cause birth defects in the baby.   Therefore, the big takeaway is that the Prenatal is a customized Multivitamin that enhances the health of both the mother and the baby during pregnancy. 



What is a Food Based Prenatal?


Food Based Prenatal Vitamins are superior to synthetic Prenatal Vitamins.  All of the Prenatal Vitamins that are prescribed and fulfilled in pharmacies are synthetic.   These formulas usually have 6-10 of the most basic nutrients that are essential for a healthy pregnancy.   But they are not complete vitamin and mineral formulas.   They are difficult to digest, and, in my opinion, there are so many wonderful food-based products on the market that are superior.  


A food based Prenatal derives the nutrients from food.   Therefore, there is a complete complex of all the B-complex vitamins, all essential vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and more.    The vitamins and minerals derived from Food are much easier for the body to digest and absorb.  You can take lower doses and get more availability.   Food Based supplements almost always involve taking 3-6 pills per day.   Just the Calcium and minerals alone will take up the space of about 3 pills.    If you find a vitamin that is a ONE a DAY, it is not going to be food based.



What to look for when buying a Food Based Prenatal:


  1. A Brand that you trust and has good reviews.


  1. The recommended dose will be: 
  • 2-3 pills per day: Extra minerals are recommended at night.
  • Or 4-6 pills per day with no extra minerals recommended.


  1. I recommend buying a Prenatal that is in capsule form. They are easier to digest, and they can be opened up and put into juice if you are feeling nauseas and unable to swallow pills.


  1. Make sure your prenatal has a minimum of 600-800 mcg of Folic Acid in Methylated form.   The Methylated versions of the B-Vitamins are easier to digest and assimilate.


  1. The Prenatal should include all the Basic Vitamins such as:  B12, B6, Vit. A, Vit. C, Vit. E, Vit. D.


  1. The Prenatal should have the Micro and Macro Minerals such as: Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Choline.


  1. Chromium is an essential mineral that helps to support blood sugar balance, prevent gestational diabetes, and prevent excessive weight gain.


  1. Consider that there may be additional nutrients such as:


  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Herbs for Nausea: Ginger and Peppermint
  • Herbs for Blood Sugar: Blueberry
  • Herbs for Kidneys and Urinary Health: Cranberry
  • Herbs for Immune Health: Nettles and Echinacea



What other supplements to Pregnant Women Need?


The Prenatal Vitamin is the foundational support for Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding.   All pregnant women should also be supplementing with Omega 3 Fatty Acids to help the developing nervous system and immune system of the baby.   DHA/EPA are essential fatty acids for pregnancy.  You can take either Fish based omega 3’s from companies that are using mercury free methods.  Or you can take Flax oil for a vegetarian version.   You may also need extra Vitamin D, Calcium, and Minerals if the Prenatal doesn’t have the full amount you need.   These nutrients should be taken before bed.     Other nutrients can be considered based on the mother’s health and specific recommendations of her OB or Midwife.  





In Summary, The Prenatal Vitamin Formula is foundational nutritional support for Pregnant and Breast-Feeding Women.  They are designed to enhance the health of the mother and her baby.     Food Based Prenatal Vitamins are superior in quality, quantity of nutrients, digestion and absorption.    The Prenatal vitamin does not replace the need for a healthy and well-rounded diet while pregnant and breastfeeding.    Always consider that the health of your body during your conception and breastfeeding will be that starting point for the health of your child.    The healthier you are…the healthier that baby will be.  


You got this!


CHECK out the SELECTION of PRENATAL VITAMINS and SUPPLEMENTS at The Herban Alchemist Apothe-Carry!


Dr. Gabrielle Francis