Your ultimate guide to supplements during pregnancy and postpartum

Most research came from Coaching & Training women academy certification manual

Before becoming pregnant, most women are using supplements in some kind of way. Whether it’s just a multi vitamin or protein supplements. We supplement are a daily basis. That is just a fact in this world. We need to supplement in order to get all the nutritional needs in our system. So when we become pregnant what supplements should we avoid and which ones are safe for us to use. This article will go into great detail of:

  • Stable supplements you should be taking while pregnant
  • Safe supplements you should take under certain conditions
  • Supplements to take during each trimester
  • Supplements for postpartum

Stable Supplements to take while pregnant

Prenatal vitamin: A prenatal vitamin is a critical component to providing a woman’s body with the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Each nutrient commonly found in prenatal vitamins are designed to keep both mother and baby as healthy as possible during pregnancy.

Fish oil: Taking one to two teaspoons of fish oil a day will ensure a woman is meeting her dail omega-3 needs. If taking capsules, five to 10, 1000 mg capsules is equivalent of one to two teaspoons of fish oil.EPA and DHA are the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and in fish oil. They are very good for pregnant and nursing mothers, as they are beneficial to the development of baby’s brain, visual system, motor function, and may play a role in babies gestation time and birth weights, according to research from Brigham and Women’s hospital.

Vitamin D: During pregnancy, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D can greatly reduce the risk of preterm birth, infection, and gestational diabetes. Some other benefits of Vitamin D include, bone strength, increased cognition, immune health, and feelings of well-being, as well as reduced risk of some forms of cancer, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes. So how much does a pregnant or postpartum woman need? While 600 IU per day is most commonly recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, one recent Medical University of South Carolina study found that 600 IU per day is not enough for all women. In that study, researchers furthermore stated that vitamin D supplementation of up to 4,000 IU per day is effective and safe for women and their babies. Just watch your prenatal vitamin to see how much vitamin D you are getting there before you go supplementing vitamin D.

Probiotics: These supplements help to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria in the gut and can positively impact digestions and immune system function. The healthy bacteria in the gut can increase the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. The recommendation is to rotate through different brands to get your body exposed to several different probiotic strains.

Choline: This B vitamin is a key factor for not only adult cognitive health, but also baby’s brain development, with research showing that choline levels during pregnancy directly affect development of infant and childhood cognitive function. In one Epidemiology study of 180,000 pregnant women who were currently taking adequate amounts of folate, choline was still shown to significantly reduce the risk of the neural tube defects. The recommendation is for pregnant women to take 450 mg total of choline per day. Making sure again to check your prenatal vitamin to see how choline you are getting from that but also eating the right food sources of choline. Some examples of great food sources:

  • Whole eggs: 145 mg per egg
  • Shrimp: 154 mg per 4 ounces
  • Scallops: 125 mg per 4 ounces
  • Chicken: 97 mg per 4 ounces
  • Turkey: 95 mg per 4 ounces
  • Tuna: 88 mg per 4 ounces
  • Salmon: 82 mg per 4 ounces
  • Collard greens: 73 mg per cup
  • Brussel sprouts: 63 mg per cup
  • Broccoli: 63 mg per cup

Caffeine: High caffeine consumption can increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and still-birth. The amount of caffeine linked to these problems is not definitive in the research, but the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists recommends limiting the consumption during pregnancy to 200 milligrams, which is the equivalent of 12 ounces or two cups of caffeinated coffee per day. Keep in mind that caffeine content varies from brand to brand and roast to roast. For instance on tall (12 oz) Starbucks dark roast contains 195 milligrams of caffeine, while the same serving size of it’s Pike Place roast contains 235 milligrams.

Safe supplements to take under certain conditions while pregnant

Supplementing Protein: Sometimes getting enough protein through foods on your plate can be very challenging. On days when protein intake may be lacking, protein powders and supplemental protein shakes can be a great way to increase protein intake. The recommendation is to read labels very closely and pick a brand/powder that has the fewest ingredients listed on the product’s label and the more ingredients you can identify as whole ingredients, the better.

Greens supplements and vegetable powder: We all know when need to eat our greens and vegetable, but just like protein some days it’s just not possible to get the right amount of greens and vegetables in. So we need to supplement either with a vegetable packed drink or greens supplements and vegetable powders. The recommendation is to look for a green supplement that does not contain alfalfa. Ingesting alfalfa in large amounts has been shown to act like estrogen in the body and contains coumestans that may affect pregnancy.

Green tea: Green tea is beneficial because it contains powerful antioxidants such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body. These free radicals are known to play in aging and all sorts of diseases. Pregnant women can drink green tea hot or ices, however they prefer. Just remember that green tea does contain caffeine (unless it says decaf), so make sure to add that to your caffeine totals for the day.

Supplements for morning sickness: For mild cases supplementing with ginger (250mg every 6 hours) and pyridoxine/vitamin B6 (10-25mcg every eight hours) has been found somewhat helpful in reducing morning sickness. Just make sure you talk with your provider about these options for your morning sickness.

Supplements to avoid while pregnant

While there are plenty of beneficial supplements that are perfectly safe to take while pregnant, there are some supplements and naturally occuring herbs that can be harmful during pregnancy. These include, but not limited to blue cohosh, rosemary, turmeric, vitamin A, herbs in general, St. John’s wort, and some essential oils. Make sure to read labels closely and if any say caution again use for pregnant women, you should stop taking them and consult with your physician.

Supplements for the First and Second Trimester

Folate: Folate is necessary for rapid cell division and the prevention of neural tube birth defects. Folate also helps in the complete development of red blood cells and supports nervous system functions. It can be consumed from whole foods such as spinach, asparagus, collard greens, broccoli, beets, lentils, cauliflower, and liver. A woman can get folate from her prenatal vitamin. Just make sure to check the label to make sure it contains the right amount. The right amount of folate is 400 to 600 micrograms (ug) in the form of 5-methylenetetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) per day. If your prenatal does not contain enough folate, you can consider taking a folate capsule in addition to the prenatal. You can always consult with your physicians on the right dosage.

Supplements for the Third Trimester

Omega-3 Fatty Acid: DHA: In the third trimester the fetus is using the most amount of DHA, about 30 to 45 mg/day. DHA is important for growth and development of the baby’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), and it’s retina. What this means is: a) the baby needs DHA for development b) the baby will take the mother’s DHA. Many pregnant women complain of “mom brain” where they difficulty remembering concentrating, and there are some anecdotal evidence that suggests DHA may help with these symptoms. The recommendation is that pregnant women get at least 200 mg of DHA/day from either whole foods (fish) or supplements.

Supplements for Postpartum

Prenatal vitamins: Should be continued for at least two to three months following pregnancy, will help ensure that you are maintaining healthy vitamin and mineral levels. In a recent paper in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, experts stated that childbearing women are commonly deficient in iron, iodine, vitamin B12, calcium, folate, and vitamin D– all nutrients that are recommended when looking for a prenatal vitamin.

Iron: Some women experience very heavy bleeding during labor and delivery and for two to four weeks post-delivery. This is normal and most likely okay, since woman’s blood volume does increase by up to 50% during pregnancy. However, losing that much blood may lower your iron levels. Talk with your provider and see if you need to supplement iron.

Fish oil: In the past, there was some research that suggested that mothers who consume fish oil also reduce their risk of postpartum depression. Current research suggests that fish oil has no effect on reducing postpartum depression, but we still recommend it for it’s other health benefits.

Vitamin D: Remember the vitamin D benefits we talked about earlier including, bone strength, increased cognition, immune health, and feelings of well-being, reduced risk of some forms of cancer, heart disease, and Type-2 diabetes. If you decide to breastfeed, it’s important to know that breast milk is typically low in vitamin D, and you must supplement with over 4,000 IU per day to transfer any vitamin D to her infant from breast milk.

Probiotics: Both mother and baby would likely benefit from taking probiotics, especially if she had a C-section and is breastfeeding, Research published in The Journal of Nutrition shows that a baby’s gut intestinal microbiota (GIT), which affects overall health and immune function, begins to develop in utero and continues during breastfeeding. Take a high quality probiotic while breastfeeding may be helpful for the baby.

Collagen: Collagen is the main structural protein found in connective tissue. Many women insist that taking collagen has been beneficial to their post pregnancy healing and recovery.

Remember that the ultimate goal of pregnancy to keep yourself and your baby healthy. If you have any concerns or questions about supplements please consult with your physician!


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