By Dr. Sam Bowen, ND
A good-quality prenatal supplement is essential to every person’s fertility journey. A prenatal supplement is specifically formulated to provide key nutrients that not only support the healthy development of a baby, but also the overall health of the individual who is carrying the baby to term.
Why use a prenatal supplement?
Although it is encouraged to get a wide variety of nutrients from our diet, a prenatal supplement can help to ensure that any gaps from the diet are being filled during the preconception, pregnancy, and post-partum phases.
During the preconception period, a prenatal supplement can help correct any nutritional deficiencies that may impact an individual’s overall fertility. Your health before pregnancy is extremely important and influences your ability conceive and carry a healthy baby to term.
Throughout pregnancy, the required daily intake of nutrients increases and it can be difficult to obtain that increased need through diet alone.
During the postpartum period, a prenatal supplement can also be used to optimize the health of the individual after birth and during breast-feeding.
How to assess the quality of prenatal supplement
With so many prenatal supplements on the market, it can be hard to determine which high-quality product to use. Here are few tips to help you make an informed decision.
Does the product contain the key nutrients required for a healthy pregnancy?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the following key nutrients for pregnancy be obtained from both diet and prenatal supplementation.
- Folate/Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6
- Vitamin A/beta carotene
- Vitamin C
- Omega 3 (DHA)
Additional nutrients such as selenium, zinc, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, and boron are also important to include.
When reviewing the labels of prenatal supplements, try to pick one that has most, if not all, of these nutrients to ensure that you are getting well-rounded product.
Keep in mind that Omega 3 with DHA is not usually included in a prenatal supplement and would need to be purchased as an additional product.
A special note on nutrient doses: Each person’s nutritional needs are different based on diet, digestive function, and health status and may require more of certain nutrients found in a prenatal supplement. For example, if an individual has iron deficiency anemia, a higher dose of iron may be warranted. It’s important to work with a licensed health care professional who can help determine your specific nutritional needs and what nutrients doses are appropriate for you.
Does the product contain unnecessary additives?
Many prenatal supplements on the market contain unnecessary additives. When choosing a good-quality prenatal, it is important to read the medicinal and non-medicinal ingredient lists. Here are few things to look out for and avoid on the non-medicinal ingredient list:
- Artificial colour (example: FD&C Blue No.1 and D&C Green No.6)
- Artificial flavours
- Corn starch
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Preservatives (BHT, BHA)
We want the non-medicinal ingredient list to contain as minimal ingredients and additives as possible.
Does the company use additional quality assurance measures?
Unfortunately, there are limitations with how supplements are regulated. This raises concerns about the overall quality, effectiveness, and safety of these products. Fortunately, there are many companies that implement quality assurance measures that go beyond basic requirements. These companies will often state these additional measures on their website. Here are examples of additional measures that companies should be implementing to ensure product quality:
- Raw material testing: Ensures that all initial materials are verified and free from contaminants
- Production testing: Ensures that the correct nutrient forms and doses are still present during manufacturing. Also assesses for any defective products.
- End-product testing: Assesses the final product to confirm nutrient identity, potency, and purity and whether a product will be shelf-stable until expiry date. Also rules out if any additional contamination occurred during the manufacturing process
- Third party testing: Provides unbiased evaluation of a product through testing by a company that has no affiliation with the production or sales of a product
If you are unsure which quality assurance measures are being used for your prenatal supplement, you can always contact the company directly for more information. Your health care provider can also make recommendations for products that have had their quality assessed and verified.
A high-quality prenatal supplement can provide important nutritional support during the preconception, pregnancy, and post-partum phases. With endless prenatal supplements available to purchase, it can be confusing to pick the right product for you. The above recommendations can help you make an informed decision about whether your prenatal is a safe and effective choice. Speaking with your licensed health care provider can also provide more information about which prenatal supplement and doses are most appropriate for your specific health needs throughout your fertility journey.
Dr. Samantha Bowen, ND
Dr. Bowen is a licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in the Vancouver area. From a young age, she aspired to work in the field of health and medicine. Growing up on Salt Spring Island, BC, Dr. Bowen developed a strong curiosity to better understand the various factors that influence our health. She truly believes that the path to optimal health is more complex than just treating presenting symptoms.
She completed a B.Sc. Honours in Health Promotion at Dalhousie University, holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition from Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC, and from there, chose to enrol at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in order to become a naturopathic doctor.
Dr. Bowen’s approach to medicine is simple - you are unique and you deserve a personalized treatment plan that will work to optimize your health. Her holistic treatment plans are evidence-informed and will be tailored to support your current health needs as well as your long-term goals. Most importantly, Dr. Bowen hopes to create a safe space where patients feel supported and empowered throughout their health journey.
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