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The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins

It is important for most women of childbearing age to take a daily prenatal supplement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all women between 15 and 45 years of age should consume folic acid daily.1 This is because half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned and because folic acid can help prevent spina bifida and anencephaly, two common and serious neural tube defects (NTDs).1 

These NTDs can occur as early as 3-4 weeks after conception, before most women know they are pregnant. “The CDC estimates that most of these birth defects could be prevented if this recommendation were followed before and during early pregnancy.”1  

The Difference Between Prescription and OTC Prenatals

If you have received a prescription, your doctor has recommended a prenatal vitamin that may contain a higher dosage of nutrients. Prescription prenatal vitamins are often covered by insurance.

The following describes key benefits associated with prescription prenatal vitamins.

  • Cost: Prescription prenatal vitamins are often covered by insurance and may cost less than the full retail price of an OTC (in some cases, a $25 or less co-pay is available).
  • Folic acid: Prescription prenatal vitamins may contain 1000 mcg or more of folic acid, higher than or similar to OTC prenatal vitamins that typically include 400 to 800 mcg. vitaPearl™ and vitaTrue™ prescription prenatal vitamins contain 1.4 mg of folic acid as FOLMAX™, an immediate and modified release folic acid.
  • Iron: Iron is essential in providing oxygen to your growing fetus.2 The recommended dietary allowance for pregnant women is 27 mg.3 vitaPearl and vitaTrue contain 30 mg of a unique, chelated iron formulated to enhance absorption and be gentle on your digestive system.4
  • DHA: DHA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) that serves as a primary building block for the healthy development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and nervous system.5-6 vitaPearl features 200 mg of highly-purified, marine-based DHA per serving. vitaTrue provides 300 mg of plant-based DHA derived from algal oil per serving.
  • Iodine: Iodine supports healthy fetal brain development.7 150 mcg of iodine daily is recommended for pregnant and lactating women.vitaPearl and vitaTrue provide 150 mcg of iodine per serving.

The Importance of Prenatals After Pregnancy

Post-pregnancy, your prenatal vitamins provide an important source of nutrition for you and your baby during breastfeeding.

For baby: While you are breastfeeding, prenatal vitamins continue to provide key nutrients that support your baby’s healthy development, including folic acid, calcium, and iron.9 The DHA found in breast milk also supports healthy infant brain, eye, and nervous system development.5-6

For you: B vitamins help support milk production and energy levels.10 Even if you are not breast feeding, continuing to take a prenatal vitamin is recommended because it helps replenish iron stores depleted during the third trimester and delivery.11

Iron helps to prepare your body before and after delivery. Your body can lose up to 20% of its blood supply during a normal delivery. Maternal iron deficiency has been associated with depression, stress, and cognitive function in the postpartum period. After pregnancy, supplementing with iron daily helps replenish what is needed to maintain healthy iron levels in the body.12

 

References

  1. Folic Acid. Recommendations: Occurrence Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/recommendations.html
  2. Understanding Iron Deficiency Anemia. http://www.anemiainwomen.com/html/risk.htm
  3. Anemia Fact Sheet. Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Womenshealth.gov.
  4. AkzoNobel (Manufacturer). https://www.akzonobel.com/ferrazone/productinfo/
  5. Dunstan JA, Mitoulas LR, Dixon G, et al. The effects of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on breast milk fatty acid composition over the course of lactation: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Res. 2007 Dec;62(6):689-94.
  6. Colombo J, Kannass K, Shaddy D, et al. Maternal DHA and the Development of Attention in Infancy and Toddlerhood. Child Development. Volume 75, Issue 4, pages 1254–1267, July 2004.
  7. Becker DV, Braverman LE, Delange F, et al. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. 2006 Oct;16(10):949-51.
  8. CRN Releases Science-based Guidelines on Iodine in Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements for Pregnancy and Lactation. The American Thyroid Association. http://www.thyroid.org/crn-releases-science-based-guidelines-on-iodine-in-multivitaminmineral-supplements-for-pregnancy-and-lactation/
  9. Healthy Lifestyle. Pregnancy Week by Week. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945?pg=2
  10. Allen LH. B Vitamins in Breast Milk: Relative Importance of Maternal Status and Intake, and Effects on Infant Status and Function. Adv Nutr May 2012, vol. 3: 362-369, 2012.
  11. Bothwell TH. Iron Requirements in Pregnancy and Strategies to Meet Them. Am J Clin Nutr. July 2000
    vol. 72 no. 1 257s-264s.
  12. Beard JL, Hendricks MK, Perez EM, et al. Maternal Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Postpartum Emotions and Cognition. J. Nutr. February 1, 2005, vol. 135 no. 2 267-272.