There are some supplements for pregnant women that are more important than others for your baby's health and development.
Once you start trying to conceive or confirm your pregnancy, your nutrition becomes critically important. You’re no longer eating to maintain your figure or look good in your bathing suit. Your body is responsible for nourishing a growing fetus, and the health of the nutrients flowing through your body will have a big impact on the health of your new baby. Combine that responsibility with the reality that most pregnancy food cravings aren’t for super healthy foods, and you see why supplements are important for most pregnant women.
We’re going to fill you in on five of the best supplements for pregnant women, but it’s important to discuss all supplements with your doctor first. Your medical team is aware of your personal medical history and can help you decide which supplements you should take and what dose you should consume. While our bodies are the same in many ways, there are also differences between women.
Probiotics are capsules filled with live microorganisms that are similar to those naturally found in your gut and one of the best supplements for pregnant women. Due to the use of antibiotics, poor nutrition and other issues, the ratio of healthy to harmful microorganisms is easily disrupted. This leaves your body more susceptible to illness and disease, ranging from the common cold to heart disease.
Replacing the healthy bacteria on a daily basis is a simple way to regain balance of those microorganisms. Three of the biggest benefits of probiotics include:
Research has shown that supplementing with probiotics during pregnancy is safe for otherwise healthy women. It’s likely safe if not helpful for women with many diagnosed medical conditions, but it’s important to check with your doctor if you do have a condition to manage besides pregnancy. Research has shown that the bacteria stay in the gut and aren’t passed to the developing baby. They also do not enter your breast milk, so you can continue supplementation while breastfeeding.
Now, how do you select the best probiotics? Since you’re supplementing with live organisms, quality is critically important. You want to make sure that the bacteria you consume are living and healthy. In most cases, this means selecting a probiotic that requires refrigeration. There are some high-quality probiotics coming out that don’t need to remain cold, but for the most part, living microorganisms need to stay in a cool, dry place to survive.
Since there are multiple types of microorganisms that do different things in the human body, it’s important to take a supplement that includes at least three different strains of bacteria. The variety in strains is probably better for you than receiving a high dose of one strain.
What makes krill oil one of the most important supplements for pregnant women is the high quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a nutrient that the human body depends on but cannot synthesize naturally. This means that your body can only use the omega-3 fatty acids that you consume through your diet and supplementation. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are the primary source of these fatty acids for most people, but pregnant women are cautioned to limit their consumption of fish due to the potential of heavy metal contamination in our fish supply.
This creates an interesting dynamic where pregnant women need the omega-3 fatty acids to aid healthy fetal development but are limited on their options for consuming it naturally through diet. This makes supplementation through krill or fish oil even more important.
Fish oil is what most people think about when they consider supplementing for omega-3 fatty acids, but there are some benefits to using krill oil instead:
Better absorption is important because your body has to absorb the fatty acids in order to put them to good use.
Most women have heard of folic acid because it is one of the most important nutrients for healthy fetal development. Most doctors caution all women of childbearing age to take daily multivitamins that contain this B vitamin because it is needed for development even in the first weeks of pregnancy. Many women are around six weeks pregnant before they know about the pregnancy, so it’s important that folate is available at conception because it is one of the most critical supplements for pregnant women.
According to the March of Dimes, folic acid can prevent neural tube defects. They recommend that all women take 400 micrograms daily, and the dose should increase to 600 micrograms once a pregnancy is confirmed. The neural tube develops into the spinal cord and brain within the first month of pregnancy, so starting the supplement in the second month is often too late to help with that process. The supplement is still needed to help with overall fetal development and growth.
Folate is the natural form of this vitamin, and folic acid is the synthetic version. Most women are more familiar with the term folic acid because it’s the cheaper form that is used in many multivitamins. If you want to maximize your benefits, take a folate supplement and start before you conceive if possible.
It has been estimated that at least half of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium, and that becomes an even bigger problem for pregnant women who need this mineral for healthy fetal development. Research has shown that supplementing with magnesium likely lowers your risk of developing preeclampsia and may influence your baby’s birth weight.
You can boost your magnesium intake naturally replacing processed foods with the following healthier options:
These foods naturally contain magnesium, but most people don’t consume enough of them with consistency. This is what leads to deficiency and is the reason that most pregnant women are better off supplementing. You can still make healthier diet choices as often as possible, but you won’t feel guilty when your hormones and stress levels lead you to comfort foods instead of a salad.
Your body has an increased demand for calcium during the second and third trimesters, and the need continues if you breastfeed. The calcium that you consume must support your body while also passing to the baby for healthy development of the skeletal system. It is believed that your body will give the baby the calcium needed to create strong bones at your own expense if your body is deficient, so you’re doing yourself a favor by supplementing with up to 1,000 mg of calcium daily.
The exact amount that you need to take in supplement form depends largely on your dietary choices. If you like milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products that are rich in calcium, then you may need a smaller supplement dose. If you know that your intake of dairy isn’t sufficient, then you may go for the full 1,000 mg daily dose. Talk with your doctor to see if you may need a bit more than that.
There are a lot of calcium supplements available today, including gummies and chewables. Use these tips to select the highest quality calcium supplement for you and your growing baby:
Your body may not properly absorb more than 500 mg of calcium at a time, so think about breaking up a larger does into morning and night doses. This will ensure that you receive the full benefit of your supplement
Not all supplements are designed just for pregnant women. For instance, current research has stressed the importance of most people taking probiotics to support a healthy balance of microorganisms in the gut. When shopping for the best supplements for pregnant women, look for the highest quality products available to the general market. Those marketed just to pregnant women or women in general aren’t always the best options.
If you’re still in the planning and hoping phase of pregnancy, now is the time to start taking these supplements. You have the advantage of preparing your body ahead of time so that your womb is ready when the baby finally arrives.