A lot of women get inspired to live healthfully once they become pregnant -- they are motivated to do the "right thing" for the good of their babies. The "right thing," for most women, includes a daily dose of prenatal vitamins.
It turns out, prenatal vitamins are widely accessible and recommended by most healthcare professionals, but there is a lot of misinformation about them. Are prenatals really necessary? And is everything that is in them really all that good for mom and baby? It's important to know what you put in your body, especially when you are expecting. So before you head over to your local pharmacy or push that one-click checkout button on Amazon, get your facts straight and get the truth about prenatal vitamins.
Here are 6 myths about prenatal vitamins, exposed.
Myth 1: Prenatal vitamins are a cure-all
It's important to keep in mind that prenatal vitamins are supplements, not replacements. A healthy diet of real foods is really the best way to get the most important nutrients during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are a nice nutritional boost (especially for those who may have morning sickness or food aversions) or at making up for some of the nutrients we come up short on in our everyday diets. That said, prenatal vitamins also have some deficiencies in certain nutrients, like calcium. So remember to eat as varied as possible and check with your doctor to make sure you choose the right supplement for yourself.
Myth 2: Prenatal vitamins are 100% necessary
Prenatal vitamins are a nice nutritional boosts, but there are other options to get that boost. There are also good multivitamins that are safe for pregnancy. Some of the things you need to look for? Adequate amount of folic acid and other vitamins and minerals that are essential to a growing fetus, and lower doses of vitamin A, which can cause birth defects. Alternatively, you can opt for more target supplementation. Folic acid, iron and DHA are all important nutrients that you many women are deficient in during pregnancy.
Myth 3: All prenatal vitamins are created equal
There are a billion different brands of prenatal vitamins, and all of them claim to be “complete” or “best” or “fill in positive adjective here.” The best prenatal vitamin is the one you feel best about taking and one that includes the recommended doses of the important nutrients you need. Some people (myself included) prefer food-based vitamins (versus synthetic) because they are derived from real foods and therefore, are digested more completely, are easier on the stomach and don’t include any potentially harmful ingredients. Some prefer the gummies because it’s the only way they can stomach eating them. Read your labels and make sure you’re comfortable with what you see, which leads me to my next myth…
Myth 4: If it’s in a prenatal vitamin, it must be good for me
This one is really a bummer. You would think if something was marketed as supporting the healthy development of your baby, that you could trust the ingredients to actually be good for you. However, often times prenatal vitamins include ingredients that our bodies have a hard time digesting because they aren’t recognizable to our systems. These ingredients can include synthetic ingredients and chemicals, such as artificial coloring and flavoring, GMOs, and added sugar – the list goes on. Make sure to avoid anything that includes a food dye, which you can spot by locating a color and a number (for example, red #40); and the general rule of thumb is: if you don’t recognize it or can’t pronounce it, avoid it or at least make sure to look it up.
Myth 5: If a prenatal vitamin is on the shelf, it must be safe
This one goes for all vitamins and it’s a real kicker. Since vitamins are classified as a supplement, they aren’t regulated by the FDA. At all. The only time the FDA steps in to stop a brand from putting out vitamins is if negative side effects have been reported. Kind of scary right? The good news is, a few third-party organizations have emerged to do the testing the FDA has declined to do, so when shopping around, best to look for a seal of approval from U.S Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International. It doesn’t always guarantee effectiveness, but should guarantee safety.
Myth 6: Prescription vitamins are better than over-the-counter ones
Many vitamins that are prescribed are also available over the counter. While pharmaceutical companies would love for you to believe that their prenatal vitamins are the best on the market, most of them will actually work on most women. One of the true benefits of getting prescribed prenatal vitamins is that your insurance may pick up the cost instead of you having to pay out of pocket.