Why Every Woman Should be Taking a Prenatal Vitamin

fullsizeoutput_2b4d.jpeg

Are you taking a prenatal vitamin?

I generally recommend every woman who’s old enough to have her menstrual cycle take a prenatal vitamin daily. I always live by a ‘food first’ philosophy but this is where supplements absolutely have their place especially if you’re not tracking your food regularly, notice any physical or mental lags or if you are considering starting a family.

Why?

Folate. Low or inadequate intakes of folate in pregnancy is associated with the development of multiple congenital abnormalities and clinical complications. 

  • Spina bifida - the spinal cord failing to close, leaving a gap where spinal fluid collects during pregnancy - can lead to  paralysis below the gap

  • Anencephaly - the absence of a brain or spinal cord

  • Encephalocele - a protrusion of the brain through the skull

While these complications are among the most common abnormalities that exist, they’re also the MOST PREVENTABLE. 

How?

Get enough folate in your diet through either whole food sources, supplements or fortified foods.

I recommend all women take a prenatal with folate or significantly dive in to their current dietary intakes of folate to ensure adequate consumption because neural tube defects develop just 21 - 27 days after conception. Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet. 

What does enough folate look like?

It’s recommended that women consume 600 mcg DFE* of folate per day and 400 mcg folic acid from fortified foods or supplements as well as 200 mcg DFE from fruits and vegetables (what’s the difference between folate and folic acid? Click here to read all about it)

*DFE stands for dietary folate equivalents. One DFE looks like one of the following …

  1. 1mcg food folate

  2. 0.6 mcg folic acid consumed in fortified foods or a supplement taken with food

  3. 0.5 mcg of folic acid taken as a supplement on an empty stomach

I know, that looks super complicated.

Basically it boils down to this:

  1. Take a folic acid supplement on an empty stomach. 

  2. Ensure you’re eating enough foods high in folate (legumes, eggs, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, citrus, asparagus) - there’s no upper limit here so eat up!

  3. Eat some food that’s been fortified with folate (cereals, breads, corn flour, brown rice, oatmeal are typically fortified with folic acid - check the labels!)

Personally, I prefer to start with a complete diet assessment to see how much folate you’re missing (if any). From there, we add on a folate supplement probably found within a prenatal vitamin. I prefer folate to folic acid because of the issues laid out in THIS POST. If you do end up going with a supplement, you’ll need to ensure that it’s of good quality and sourced correctly and that you’re not exceeding any upper limits and inadvertently signing yourself up for any vitamin or mineral toxicity.

If you’re curious as to how legit your supplement company is (they’re NOT federally regulated so it can be hard to know for sure what you’re getting), please reach out. I offer complimentary consultations and would be happy to talk you through your supplements and make sure you’re putting the best things in your body for you and your baby.

*PS I recommend Ritual to most of my clients. They’re vegan and don’t use folic acid and are very mindfully sourced (and taste yummy!) You can get $5 off your first order HERE.