Best Prenatal Vitamins
December 26, 2013
Proper nutrition is vital, especially when you are eating for two.
As many know, pregnancy often affects the mother’s diet, whether it is through newfound cravings or a result of frequent sickness and appetite loss.
The best prenatal vitamins fill in any nutritional gaps and ensure the mother and baby receive important vitamins, minerals, and herbs to prevent health problems associated with nutrient deficiencies.
Prenatal vitamins offer nutritional benefit during all stages of pregnancy and even during nursing. Here is a quick look at some key ingredients to look for when picking the right prenatal vitamin supplement.
Prenatal vitamin supplements are often chock-full of various vitamins to support proper growth of the baby and offer a health boost to fend off sicknesses and other health complications.
Folic Acid, also known as vitamin B9, is one of the best prenatal vitamins around. Advantages of healthy folic acid supplementation include healthy cell production and prevention of serious birth defects of the baby’s spine and/or brain.
Other prenatal benefits of folic acid are lowered risks of preterm birth and minimized risk of congenital heart defects.
Also, folic acid may serve as an adjuvant treatment to depression, as low folate status is associated with depression.
Vitamin D, along with its well-known benefit of treating osteoporosis, is said to be important for the proper growth and development of the baby’s bones, which makes it one of the best prenatal vitamins. During the third trimester, the baby’s bones are undergoing rapid growth and strengthening.
Also, growing research reveals vitamin D may play a role in preventing several different cancers, including breast cancer.
Vitamin E influences proper fetal growth.
In one study, maternal plasma concentration tocopherol concentrations were measured in the beginning and at week 28. Results reveal a connection between plasma alpha-tocopherol concentrations and increased fetal growth.
Additional vitamin E benefits include coronary heart disease prevention/delay and protection from free radical damage.
Minerals provide additional health benefits for the mother and the baby.
Calcium is a mineral by health professionals as being important for bone growth and strengthening. Like vitamin D, calcium is considered important “especially during the third trimester.”
Calcium’s bone benefits are not limited to prenatal growth, however. Calcium also treats osteoporosis and bone loss.
Along with its prenatal benefits, calcium may provide additional advantages post-pregnancy. Poor calcium nutrition appears to influence PMS symptoms like mood swings, bloating, and pain.
Iron is an essential mineral for both mother and baby because it improves blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
Health professionals indicate iron levels during pregnancy are extremely important: “Iron requirements of pregnant women are approximately double that of non-pregnant women because of increased blood volume during pregnancy, increased needs of the fetus, and blood losses that occur during delivery.”
Zinc positively affects fetal bone growth.
To study zinc’s prenatal benefits, researchers conducted a randomized, double-masked trial on 242 pregnant Peruvian women in an impoverished town in Lima, Peru. Researchers indicate women were randomly assigned to receive supplements containing iron and folic acid, some of which also included zinc.
After measurements were taken and analyzed, researchers determined femur diaphysis length “was greater in fetuses whose mothers received zinc supplements…”
Also, zinc benefits the immune system. Lower zinc levels may lead to higher risks of pneumonia and infection.
Herbs and Extracts
Herbs in prenatal supplements often provide additional comfort and aid to the mother to make negative effects of pregnancy less burdensome.
Ginger Root is often used to treat dizziness and stomach problems. In regard to pregnancy, ginger root is known to combat morning sickness. Morning sickness may begin during the first month of pregnancy and continue for 3-4 months.
Cranberry is an essential herb because of its urinary benefits. Many women experience urinary tract infections (UTI) during pregnancy. Luckily, cranberry is clinically proven to prevent urinary tract infections. In addition, research shows cranberry supplementation may prevent repeated UTI’s.
Cranberry is also a rich source of antioxidants, and antioxidants are considered “powerhouses” because of their various health benefits.
Blueberry offers urinary support by preventing bacteria from remaining in the walls of the bladder. In addition, blueberry is known for its rich antioxidant content and vitamin C content.
A study shows antioxidant supplementation during pregnancy “may decrease the risks for wheezing illnesses in early childhood.”
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-  Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pregnancy week by week.” Mayo Clinic.
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-  “Vitamin E.” Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health.
-  “Calcium.” WebMD.
-  “Pregnancy and Prenatal Vitamins.” WebMD.
-  “Iron.” Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health.
-  Mario Merialdi, et al. “Randomized controlled trial of prenatal zinc supplementation and fetal bone growth.” Am J Clin Nutr May 2004 Vol. 79 no. 5 826-830.
-  “Zinc.” Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health.
-  “Ginger.” WebMD.
-  “Cranberry.” WebMD.
-  “Blueberry.” WebMD.
-  Litonjua AA, et al. “Maternal antioxidant intake in pregnancy and wheezing illnesses in children at 2 y of age.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):903-11.