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When you are ready to start your family, there’s ånothing more exciting and special than discovering you are pregnant. However, it can also be overwhelming, as bringing new life into the world forces a woman to think critically about her diet, lifestyle, activities, and health.
As holistic nutritionist Ruby Lathon, Ph.D. explains, pregnancy is magical—but it’s also one of the most taxing things a woman’s body goes through for an extended period. In fact, she says studies have indicated that the amount of energy required for pregnancy is like that of extreme endurance athletes—like ultra-marathoners or competitors in the Tour de France.
“Thus, the nutrient requirements during pregnancy are monumentally important and necessary to ensure the health of the developing baby and mom-to-be during this 9-month marathon,” she explains.
With your body going through so much, we had to ask Lathon—what types of supplements would be good to take during pregnancy? Here are the ones she recommends, and for even more healthy tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
1. Find a whole food multivitamin.
Before you ever try to conceive, your OBGYN may recommend you start taking a prenatal vitamin. It doesn’t hurt to get extra vitamins before getting pregnant, but it becomes absolutely important once you see that positive result window.
As Lathon explains, a prenatal multivitamin provides many essential nutrients needed during pregnancy to ensure healthy development. Just make sure it’s a whole food vitamin, also known as a food-based multi-vitamin because they are made from food and are free of synthetic fillers.
“This results in a higher quality vitamin that is much easier to absorb and has greater bioavailability, meaning the body is better able to break down and utilize the vital nutrients,” she says.
2. Talk to your doctor about what to avoid.
When you start trying to get pregnant, check with your doctor or midwife to see if you need to change the dosage of any supplements you are currently taking, recommends Dr. Ashley Wade-Vuturo, an OBGYN at Mercy Medical Center. For example, if you take a vitamin D supplement, Dr. Wade-Vuturo says doctors will often recommend a lower daily dose of vitamin D during pregnancy.
If you’re someone who already takes vitamins regularly, make sure you consult with your physician about what you need to cut out once you’re expecting.
“Vitamin A is an important supplement to avoid because it can lead to developmental problems in babies,” says Dr. Wade-Vuturo. “Face creams containing vitamin A derivatives such as retinol should not be used in pregnancy either.”
3. Avoid gummy prenatals.
Sorry to break it to you, but unless you have a strong aversion to taking pills, you might want to avoid prenatal vitamins in gummy form, according to Serena Poon, a certified nutritionist and chef.
“Gummy vitamins are difficult to manufacture consistently and often do not contain the number of vitamins stated on the package,” she says.
In fact, a well-cited test from Consumer Lab found that gummy supplements, and specifically multivitamins, did not contain the number of vitamins listed.
“They also note that it is common for vitamins to degrade in gummies over time,” she says. “Because getting proper nutrition during pregnancy is so important for the healthy development of your baby, I would recommend sticking to pill supplements from trusted brands if possible.”
4. Make sure you have folate.
According to Lathon, folate, which is a B vitamin, is another highly essential supplement required during pregnancy to prevent birth abnormalities.
However, most, if not all, prenatal vitamins include folate or folic acid. (Pst: Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate.) Just double-check the list of ingredients in your preferred prenatal and talk with your doctor about how many mg you should be getting, which is usually around 400 to 500 milligrams in your capsule.
5. Look for omega-3 fatty acids.
Another important pregnancy supplement is omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA. As Lathon explains, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are essential for the baby’s proper brain and eye development. If you can find it, Lathon says an algae-based DHA supplement is highly recommended.
“Algae-based DHA/EPA is deemed to be the optimal form of DHA/EPA because it is derived directly from the actual source, algae, rather than from fish that consumed algae or from fish that consumed fish that ate algae. Let’s go straight to the source,” she says. “Algae or plant-based DHA also provides a safe alternative to consuming fish, which must be limited due to mercury and the man-made chemicals, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) found in most seafood.”
6. Pay attention to how you feel.
When you’re pregnant, you may experience nausea, particularly in the first trimester. This can make swallowing a supplement an uphill battle. However, since they are essential throughout your pregnancy, it’s vital to find one that you can stomach.
“If a certain brand of prenatal vitamins causes you to feel sick, you might want to try another brand,” Poon says. “Some brands contain ingredients to help ease nausea, though it is important to check with your doctor to make sure these ingredients can work for you. Every woman and pregnancy is different; you’ll want to find a supplement that supports you and your baby.”
And as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy to ensure you are taking care of your body in the proper ways.