There’s a lot of debate over whether pregnancy vitamins are needed or not and I’ve taken some time to reflect over it as both a Pharmacist and mother, who has experienced three pregnancies first hand, and I’d like to take the chance to share my views!
Of course we all know that a healthy balanced diet is the best way to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to run all of the mesmerising systems that we do just to sustain our own lives never mind those of our growing WonderBabas. But I challenge that by asking you to tell a mother with her head down the toilet vomiting for the 6th time that day to eat a fully balanced diet. Or to tell a tired and exhausted mum, who is cooking to survive and provide comfort, to prepare more nutritionally balanced meals for herself and her growing baby. Like anything in life I feel that we do our best, and from my own experience providing myself with an optimal diet to ensure the safe and best environment for my babies to grow was not always appetising. Continuously cooking nutritionally balanced meals can be exhausting and sometimes, especially when there were other little toddlers around, survival was all I could really hope for!
So I suppose what I am saying is that of course a nutritionally balanced diet can provide most vitamins and minerals needed, but is that always possible? No! So this of course is where pregnancy vitamins come in handy!
It’s important to note that 400mcg of folic acid and and 10mcg of Vitamin D are recommended during pregnancy by the HSE. So even if you choose not to take a multivitamin – you should still take supplements containing folic acid and Vitamin D. Clonfolic is a cost effective brand of folic acid – it’s available here or in most (if not all!) pharmacies nation wide!
So I thought the easiest way to compare all of the different brands of pregnancy vitamins would be of course to make a chart! Sure I love a chart – just check out my childrens multivitamin guide here to see 😉 I then analysed the chart and now will explain the value of each vitamin or supplement for your health and discuss which products perform in every aspect! Some people may prefer to get something heavy on omega 3 or some mums may be more focused on the vitamin B content for energy etc. This way everyone can make a well informed choice of product for themselves depending on their needs! I chose the main pregnancy supplements available in my Pharmacy. I included Floradix to give mums an option of going for a safe ‘non specific to pregnancy’ supplement.
Here are my findings of the product review! Click here to download a copy of the Pregnancy Vitamin Chart.
So what is good for what?!
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is great for immunity and is at acceptable levels in all products mentioned in my chart.
Vitamin D – Sona Pregnaplan Complete and Sona Pregnaplan Morning have low levels of Vitamin D. All other products mentioned contain the recommended 10mcg. Vitamin D is needed for bone development.
Vitamin E – Vitamin E is good for cell protection but actually isn’t recommended at high levels in pregnancy. Pregnacare products and Clonfolic Multicare have low but adequate levels of Vitamin E. The Sona Pregnacare products have higher levels but that may not necessarily be a benefit.
The Vitamin B’s! – All products contain good levels of Vitamin B1, B2, B3,B6, B12. Vitamin B5 is not present in Sona Pregnaplan Morning and is a good one to take if your not eating enough chicken, potatoes, beef, porridge, tomatoes, eggs, brocolli or wholegrains which are all good sources. Vitamin B5 plays a role in the breakdown of energy from food and the production of antibodies so isn’t one you should miss. Vitamin B7 (biotin) is good for energy production and possibly has a role in insulin synthesis and is present in all except the Sona pregnaplan products.
Folic Acid – You need 400mcg of this a day for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and all listed products contain this except for floradix as it is not pregnancy specific so you would need to take clonfolic in addition to this.
Beta Carotene – Can help in Vitamin A deficiency and is present in safe levels in all of the above products except for floradix.
Calcium – This is good for your own and babies bone development and more. There is decent levels of calcium in Pregnacare Max – not in any of the other products.
Copper – Copper is good for infant growth, brain development and immunity. It is present in good amounts in all of the products (except floradix which again is not a pregnancy vitamin specifically – but is safe in pregnancy)
Inositol ( also known as Myo-Inositol) – This is present only in Pregnacare Max. This is of note as it is thought to have a role in regulation of hormonal activity and insulin sensitivity and there is a thought that it may be of use in gestational diabetes – more studies are needed though to have evidence.
Iron – Clonfolic Multicare comes out on top for Iron. All products have decent amounts though so unless you are low in Iron any of them would be fine.
Iodine – This helps with thyroid hormone regulation and is present in all except floradix.
Magnesium – This helps convert food to energy and has a role in parathyroid gland function and bone health. There are adequate amounts in each of the listed products.
N-Acetyl Cysteine – This is present in Pregnacare Max alone. It could potentially be effective in patients suffering from recurrent pregnancy loss but more evidence is needed.
Omega 3 – Pregnacare Plus Omega 3, Pregnacare Max and Seven Seas Pregnacare Plus all contain good levels of DHA and EPA. This can be useful for foetal development, foetal weight and gestational term timing. Sona Pregnaplan Complete and Morning and Seven Seas Pregnancy tablets contain lower levels and the rest contain none.
Potassium – Seven Seas alone contain potassium which may have a role in BP reduction – although the level of potassium is relatively low.
Selenium – Good levels in all products listed other than Floradix. It is good for immune system development and reproductive health.
Zinc – All products contain good levels which is encouraging as zinc is useul to promote wound healing, cell production and the processing of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
What else do I need to know?
- Many of the products are suitable for vegetarians, but not all as some use a gelatine capsule – please see the additional information included in my chart.
- All are gluten free.
- Sona Pregnaplan Morning contains the highest levels of ginger which may be helpful for those with severe morning sickness. Both Seven Seas products contain lower amounts whereas Pregnacare does not contain ginger. Remember if you can handle making a natural raw ginger tea that would be best!
- I included Floradix as it is safe in pregnancy and some women may want an iron supplement with little all else in it.
- Pregnacare Max seems quite good to me in that you get calcium, omega 3, inositol which I see as important and are not available in other products. It also contains the same if not more of most other ingredients.
It’s worth noting once more that the natural source of every vitamin is best absorbed by your body and having a balanced and healthy diet is the best way to maintain optimal health! I just know that in each of my three successful pregnancies I felt different, sometimes I could eat and sometimes I couldn’t, sometimes I couldn’t bare the smell of cooking meat, sometimes it was fine! The only thing guaranteed for me was that I craved club lemon!! The point is that if you feel you could be doing a little better on the nutritional side of things then you can check out my chart and at least know how the different products on the market compare and select the one that suits you best!
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page or my website contact page or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262.