Most doctors won’t argue that prenatal vitamins are necessary during pregnancy. They fill in the nutrition gaps in your diet, contain folic acid (which is vital for fetal development), help the mom-to-be stay healthy and more. Dr. Jennifer Burns from The Bienetre Center is so much for prenatal vitamins that if her patients are too sick from morning sickness to hold them down, she has them come in to the office two to three times per week for intravenous nutrients.
I’ll admit — I didn’t regularly take prenatal vitamins with either of my pregnancies. With my first, I had severe morning sickness throughout the first trimester. I could barely hold down food — much less a giant vitamin. I did take them throughout the second trimester once I felt better, and took them about once every three days during the third trimester. For my second pregnancy, most of my time was spent chasing my toddler around and, quite frankly, taking a prenatal every day just slipped my mind. I’ve never been one for medicines or even vitamins, so it just wasn’t much of a priority.
My main focus was on eating a healthy, clean diet full of the necessary vitamins and minerals. Both of my girls were born healthy and thriving — and still are.
My doctor even said that so long as I was getting the recommended vitamins and minerals through food, then skipping out on prenatal vitamins wasn’t that big of a deal (shocker!).
Jaclyn, mom of four and writer of the site Natural Momma in Progress, also chose to forgo traditional prenatal vitamins. "Because I was eating better than ever before, I felt that my nutritional needs were being met mostly through the foods I was eating during my fourth pregnancy. However, due to lack of nutrients in modern food and the huge amount of vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy, I still needed some additional vitamins, though what I chose to take was not your typical prenatal vitamin," she states.
According to WebMD, the most important nutrients a pregnant woman needs are folic acid, iron and calcium. Foods high in folic acid include leafy, green vegetables, like spinach and collard greens, broccoli, avocado, beans and citrus fruits. Since the best way for your body to absorb nutrients is in their natural form, I personally chose to eat a diet rich in foods containing folic acid, calcium and other essential vitamins.
Jaclyn, on the other hand, did something a little different. She chose to make her own prenatal vitamins out of real food. "I took food-based vitamins — capsules I made myself from dehydrated beef liver (which is abundant in folic acid as well as B vitamins that provide much-needed energy during pregnancy) and fermented cod liver oil (the highest quality fish oil available). I also took a daily probiotic, which helps to keep a mother's gut bacteria in balance during pregnancy," she says.
"Using food-based vitamins ensured that my body was able to utilize the nutrients I was taking in, and I could feel a tremendous difference between taking my natural supplements versus the unnatural vitamins I had taken in previous pregnancies," Jaclyn concludes.
I couldn't agree with Jaclyn more. Natural is the way to go — including eating a clean diet and getting an adequate amount of exercise. That’s what makes me feel my healthiest, not a pill. A prenatal vitamin should be taken in addition to a healthy diet, not instead of one.
Of course, if you do decide to skip the prenatal, you should make sure your doctor is fully aware and on board. If you won’t be able to meet all of your nutritional needs through food, a prenatal vitamin may be necessary for the health of both you and your baby.
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