One of the most common questions I get asked when a pregnant woman comes in for her first Naturopathic consultation is “what supplements should I be taking?” usually followed by “how do I choose a high quality supplement?”. Taking supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is crucial because the demands of the growing baby and the changes taking place in the mom require more than what we can typically get from food alone. Especially when we consider that the average North American diet is less than perfect and that many women battle morning sickness in their first trimester and may not be able to eat a well-rounded diet. In this 3 part blog post I will tell you how to choose high quality supplements, offer my recommendations for which supplements every pregnant woman should consider taking, as well as where to focus if financial limitations restrict your health care budget.
There is a hierarchy where supplement quality is concerned. At the top of this hierarchy are Professional Grade Supplements. These are supplements that are only available from a medical provider, usually a Naturopath. This is for several reasons:
a) when treating a disease condition, we need to be sure that we are using the most reliable, highest quality products because we are using the supplement as medicine.
b) the ingredients in the supplements may require medical knowledge to ensure safe use
c) the dose of the supplement may be high enough to require medical knowledge to ensure safe use
Professional Grade supplements are hypoallergenic, they typically contain the form of the vitamin that the body can absorb and use, and they are usually 3rd party tested, which means that we know that what it says on the label is actually in the product. I recommend that pregnant women use this quality of supplements, as we want to ensure that they are effective, clean and safe.
Products from health food stores (like Pomme Natural Market, Choices Market, Whole Foods, etc) are useful for health maintenance. This means that you have reached your health goal and you want a basic plan to maintain your health. Good quality brands that can be found at health food stores are SISU, AOR, MegaFoods, NutraSea, Nordic Naturals and others. The important thing to look for when choosing a supplement of this quality is that it contains no more than approximately 3 non-medicinal ingredients.
Low Quality Supplements are supplements such as no-name brands, brands found at discount stores, Costco, or even pharmacy brands. These typically have many non-medicinal ingredients like binders, fillers and dyes. They often contain the cheapest form of the supplement instead of the form the body can use. They aren’t 3rd party tested and usually are not hypoallergenic. While these supplements are usually cheaper than higher quality supplements, you likely aren’t benefiting much from them and in the worst case scenario they may be causing you harm. I don’t recommend using these brands of supplements.
If you choose to self-prescribe supplements during pregnancy, it is important to do your research: just because it is natural doesn’t mean that it is safe! Basics like a prenatal vitamin, fish oils and a probiotic are generally safe for self-prescription. But I recommend seeking medical advice from an appropriately trained professional if you are looking to treat a concern or a dis-ease condition during pregnancy. Relying on what the clerk at the store recommends can also be hazardous because even though they may have knowledge of the supplements, they don’t know anything about you.
In parts 2 and 3 of this post I will discuss my vitamin and supplement recommendations for pregnancy, as well as what to do if it’s not always possible to afford or access Professional Quality supplements.
The information in this blog does not constitute medical advice. You should always consult your medical provider before starting a supplement protocol.