It’s often one of the first things I am asked by women when they find out they are pregnant, 'should I be taking pregnancy supplements?’
Shortly followed by, ‘which is the best prenatal supplement to take?’
If you visit the supermarket or high street chemist, you’ll be met with a huge array of choice of pregnancy supplements, ranging dramatically in price. Head online and search for the best pregnancy supplements to take, and you’ll be flooded with even more options, all claiming to help you to best support your growing baby.
So how do you know what to choose and where to spend your money? Everyone is an individual, and there are general guidelines that your midwife will advise you about. If you are working with a pregnancy nutritionist, then they should be tailoring their advice to your specific diet.
Does everyone need pregnancy supplements?
In the UK, NICE guidelines are that all pregnant women should routinely take 400μg folic acid and 10μg vitamin D every day. Folic acid is important primarily in the first trimester, so this is recommended up until the 12th week of pregnancy.
Some groups of women are recommended to take a higher dose of folic acid, 5mg /day – these groups can be found here.
If you are vegan, then it might be useful to take a pregnancy supplement containing iodine and vitamin B12, plus algae-based omega 3 supplements as well, but this will depend on what your diet looks like overall.
During pregnancy, you will be checked for iron deficiency, and if your iron levels fall below a certain level, you may be advised to take an iron supplement.
What types of pregnancy supplements are there?
Seemingly there is an infinite number of different pregnancy supplements available. They range from very budget-friendly and simple ones such as these Boots Folic Acid & Vitamin D, right up to personalised 3D-printed gummy vitamins from Nourished.
The format of supplements varies too.
There really is something for everyone. So how on earth do you choose which is the right pregnancy supplement for you?
5 tips for choosing pregnancy supplements
1. Pick a reputable company
All supplements in the UK are required to be regulated as foods, and so fall under UK Food Law. The company must ensure certain legal requirements are met, including about how they are labelled and the claims that they make on pack. If you are buying supplements from the internet, it can be less clear, so do your research into the company and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Fits your dietary requirements
If you are vegetarian, vegan or require halal supplements, check the label before you buy. Some sources of omega 3 or vitamin D aren’t suitable for these diets, but there are lots of companies now selling products that will be ok.
3. Comes in on budget
Have a budget in mind for choosing a supplement, if you intend to take it throughout pregnancy. Most supplements are sold as a 1 month supply, so the cost can quickly add up. If you start taking a supplement at the very beginning of pregnancy, it could cost you up to around £300 over 9 months! Having a baby is an expensive business as it is, so keep your purchases to the essentials.
4. Is a manageable format
As mentioned above there are so many different options for how you can take a pregnancy supplement, so choose one that you can actually stomach! Any supplement is only as good as how often you actually take it, regardless of the marketing. If you find the large tablets hard to swallow, switching to a spray or gummie might mean you are more likely to take it when you need it. Some brands require you to take 3 tablets to get what's advertised on pack - if you're suffering with severe nausea in the early days, this can feel impossible.
5. Ask for help
Most multi-vitamins are sold on the premise that we would rather have all these extra nutrients as a safety net, especially when you are pregnant. In reality, many women won’t need half of the nutrients that are provided in a mutli-vitamin, and so you are paying for something that your body will get rid of. Your body is clever, and it won’t hold onto something it doesn’t need. It pays to spend some time considering what is really important to complement your diet. If in doubt, speak to a pregnancy nutritionist or dietitian who can support you in making an appropriate choice.
YOUR pregnancy supplements
So, when you are faced with the choice of pregnancy supplements, the best advice I can give is to start out with the simple option, and add in more nutrients if you need them. The NHS has some simple advice on the supplements advised in pregnancy here.
I help pregnant women to decipher health advice and make an informed decision about the right supplements for them to take in their pregnancy.
Everyone is different, and I don’t believe that what is right for me in my pregnancy, will necessarily be right for you.
I take the time to get to know you, understand your eating habits and your lifestyle, and work with you to choose something you feel comfortable with.
To schedule a free consultation and find out more about how working with a pregnancy nutritionist can help you to take control of your health, head over here and we can chat.