Choosing your prenatal multivitamin is not to be taken lightly: its composition can have an impact on your health and the health of your baby. Your body has extra needs when you’re pregnant, and vitamin supplements are the best way to get these essentials. Your diet and physical condition play a big role in determining what supplements are right for you.
Prenatal Multivitamin or Folic Acid Alone?
Your uptake of folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron should be greater at the beginning of your pregnancy and even before you become pregnant. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may have a negative effect on both the baby’s health and yours.
That is why the Canadian government and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends taking a multivitamin before and during pregnancy instead of folic acid alone. Prenatal multivitamins are designed to meet the mother’s health specific needs as well as the needs of your growing baby.
|Folic Acid||Consuming enough folic acid in the first 28 days of pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube malformations.|
|Vitamin B12||In combination with folic acid, Vitamin B12 reduces the risk of neural tube defects in early pregnancy and of premature birth.|
|Iron||Iron maintains a high energy level, resistance to infections and tolerance of blood loss in childbirth.|
A well-balanced diet may be enough. It is very difficult to have the required quantities of iron when you become pregnant. Moreover, many women are unaware they are pregnant at the beginning of pregnancy.
For both these reasons, it is important to start taking a prenatal multivitamin adapted to your state of health two to three months before your pregnancy and up to four to six weeks after giving birth. If you are breastfeeding, keep taking your prenatal multivitamin as long as you are doing so, to make sure you always have sufficient iron stores.
The best choice is thus to take a combination of folic acid and prenatal multivitamin designed to meet the needs of the pregnant woman. Note that in Canada, there are prescription prenatal multivitamins specifically designed to optimize the absorption of iron, calcium and folic acid.
Your Prenatal Multivitamin Checklist
- Adequate dose of elemental iron
- Folic acid: daily dose of 0.4 to 1 mg (unless a higher dose is recommended by your doctor or nurse)
- Vitamin B12
- Presence of a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN) on the Label
- No precautionary statement on the label indicating a contraindication during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Vitamin A: must not exceed a maximum total uptake of 3000 mcg of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) or 10,000 international units (IU)
Test your knowledge with our pre-pregnancy quiz.
Taking a prenatal multivitamin help cover any nutritional gaps in your diet as they contain many vitamins and minerals that are especially important such as: folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium. Don't forget to make an appointment with your doctor for a pre-pregnancy consultation. Based on your consultation, your doctor will be able to tell you which prenatal multivitamin is best suited to your state of health.