Prenatal Multivitamins: All the Same?
In this article, I want to talk to women who wish to become pregnant and those already expecting their baby. When a woman decides that she wants a baby in her life, health professionals will tell her to take multivitamins with added folic acid. They want to ensure that the woman will have the necessary dosages to prevent anomalies or malformations in her future baby.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) and the Canadian Nutrition Society (April 2018) have precise positions, suggesting vitamins that are adapted to each woman based on her age, medical history, etc. There is no single formula for all pregnant women. But that said, how do you make the right choice? Great question!
For many years now, science agrees that it is good practice to recommend multivitamins for women in their childbearing years, even before becoming pregnant. The SOGC suggests starting 3 months before conception, taking a multivitamin with 0.4mg of folic acid. A woman considered at moderate or high risk of having a baby with a spinal malformation (spina-bifida) should take a bit more. However, there are so many choices now! How can you choose? Are some better than others? Which multivitamin would be best for me? Do all companies make them the same way with the same ingredients? I understand why you are a bit muddled by all these products.
After doing research about the recipes different companies use, NO, multivitamins, whether taken before or during pregnancy, are not equal in what they provide to women.
How are do prenatal multivitamins differ?
They can differ in several ways:
- Ingredients and quantities
- Combination and separation of ingredients
- Tolerance of the product for women suffering from pregnancy nausea and vomiting
- Reactions caused by food intolerance
- Compliance with diets based on culture or religion
- Ingredients and Quantities
Looking closer, you will note that the quantity and dosage of ingredients found in prenatal multivitamins can differ considerably. Many women have deficiencies due to medical conditions, dietary issues, or due to their food choices. So it is essential to discuss your choice with a qualified health professional, as recommended by the SOGC so you can get a multivitamin that meets your specific needs.
- Combination and Separation of Ingredients
the combination of ingredients in prenatal multivitamins can have a severe impact on their effectiveness or side effects. For example, calcium can inhibit iron absorption, while vitamin C facilitates it. For this reason, some manufacturers separate or combine ingredients based on desired interactions.
- Product Tolerance for Women Suffering from Pregnancy Nausea and VomitingWomen suffering from pregnancy nausea or vomiting may have difficulty taking prenatal multivitamins. Swallowing or smelling the pill may increase the problem. These women should talk to their health professional, who may recommend pills adapted to their situation. Usually, pills sold in packs smell less and are better for odour-sensitive pregnant women.
- Reactions Caused by Food IntolerancesWomen suffering from food intolerances, such as lactose or gluten, should choose a prenatal multivitamin that doesn’t contain this ingredient.
- Compliance with Diets Based on Culture and Religion
Some cultural or religious beliefs come with dietary restrictions. So some Muslim women following a halal diet, or Jewish women following a kosher diet, may have fewer choices. Their health professional can recommend prenatal multivitamins that are certified by relevant authorities.
How can you make sure you choose the right one?
Taking prenatal multivitamins is not essential if the woman has a very balanced diet, takes folic acid and vitamin D daily, has no iron deficiency (anemia) in her blood and consumes at least 1000 mg of calcium per day. However, multivitamin supplementation is part of good prenatal care if the woman needs it. To ensure you make the right choice for you and your baby, talk to your health professional (doctor, nurse, pharmacist or dietician). They will help you find the best one for your personal situation.
As you can see, choosing a multivitamin is not as simple as it sounds. Be alert when selecting one.
Of course, your health professional is your best source of information when determining what you need. The right choice will maximise the benefits you get for both you and your baby.
The Baby Expert