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10 Prenatal Supplements Worth Taking (And 10 That Aren't)

When a mom-to-be is planning a baby, she wants to be in the best physical shape possible. Moms are all aware of the recommendations for eating a healthy, balanced variety of foods to provide adequate nutrition for the mom and baby. However, certain supplements are recommended in pregnancy, either because the body cannot produce them, or they can help healthy growth of the baby.

However, there are some vitamins and herbal supplements that can have adverse effects on pregnancy. It is not safe to assume that because something is picked up in a health food store, it will be safe to take for those nine months. A doctor’s opinion should always be sought before considering any dietary supplement when moms are expecting.

Chicago Tribune reports that herbal supplements are not all subject to the rigorous testing and research that we might hope for. Until this is the case, it is important to check any side effects that herbal supplement may induce, before introducing them into the mom’s bloodstream. What mom ingests while pregnant will most likely cross the placenta to the baby, and some supplements can produce adverse effects that outweigh the benefits.

There are many well-known brands that produce prenatal supplement combinations in a once a day tablet form. While it is still wise to consult a doctor before taking these, they are more than likely to agree that the supplements will help mom and baby, especially if morning sickness prevents much food staying down.

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20 Worth Taking: Folic Acid

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Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 and it is vitally important for pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy. According to Pregnancy Birth and Baby, enough folic acid in the mother’s body helps to prevent neural tube defects, or birth defects in the spine of the developing baby, conditions such as spina bifida.

Women should take a dose of 400 mg of folic acid when they are trying to get pregnant and up until the twelfth week of pregnancy, as this is the time the baby’s spine is developing. Some women will be advised by their doctor to take a larger dose of folic acid. This will occur if you or your partner have a family history of neural tube defects or if you have diabetes.

19 Avoid: Too Much Vitamin A

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There are two types of vitamin A. There is preformed vitamin A and also provitamin A carotenoids. The first type is found in animal products and can be used by the human body as retinol. The second type is present in fruit and vegetables and has to be converted into retinol by the body.

Sage Journals points, when you are pregnant it is fine to intake the carotenoids, but too much-preformed vitamin A can cause many health issues. Therefore, check the packaging of any supplements for preformed vitamin A. Enough should be provided by a healthy diet.

18 Worth Taking: Iron

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Research has shown that there is a link between iron deficiency in a mother and birth outcomes. When mothers have an iron deficiency or anemia, the baby is at risk of being born too small or too early, according to the NHS.

Taking a supplement containing iron in pregnancy will halve the mother’s risk of developing anemia, but it can also cause constipation. However, many mothers can obtain plenty of iron from their foods, so it might not be recommended to take the supplements, but routine blood tests should confirm this. If there isn’t sufficient iron in the bloodstream, then it can prevent oxygen from being efficiently distributed to vital organs and of course to the baby.

17 Avoid: Rosemary

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While eating rosemary in a varied diet is not a problem in pregnancy, the essential oil of the herb should be avoided. It can stimulate uterine contractions before the body is ready to go into labor. It can also lead to raised blood pressure.

Essential oils should be used with caution in pregnancy and it is also safest to get medical advice before using any that have not been recommended by a doctor. Some are used to induce labor so should be avoided. Rosemary oil should be avoided completely during pregnancy.

16 Worth Taking: Calcium

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The human body cannot produce calcium. However, the body will recognize that it needs calcium to form the bones in the growing baby. NIH point that the baby will ‘steal’ calcium from the mother’s body and this will be taken from bones and teeth.

Therefore, it is essential for the mother-to-be to ensure that she is consuming enough calcium to keep her own bones strong and healthy as well as there being enough to sustain the baby. Calcium has other vital functions within the body, so to remain healthy, it is recommended for mothers to take a supplement, especially if they are under the age of eighteen.

15 Avoid: Vitamin E

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Health experts have warned pregnant women of the risks of taking vitamin E supplements in pregnancy. It is also thought to be a contributory factor in birth complications and low birth size, after 3D scans were monitored by researchers.

This is confusing information for pregnant moms, as vitamin E was previously recommended as a precaution against health issues like pre-eclampsia, according to The Telegraph. It is now thought that it has more of an adverse effect than a benefit. The professor in charge of the latest research believes that high levels of vitamin E in the mother’s bloodstream can affect the ability of nutrients to pass across the placenta successfully.

14 Worth Taking: Fatty Acids

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Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for the health of the mother and baby. However, the body does not make these fatty acids, so it is necessary to take them in supplement form or get them from our food. Most diets don’t have sufficient EPA and DHA, so pregnant women are recommended to take a supplement to ensure healthy brain and organ development in the baby.

NCBI reports that the supplements are recommended because so much of the omega 3 is used by the baby for brain and nervous system development, so the mother may become deficient. It is helpful to take the supplement if a mom is breastfeeding as fatty acids are used to make breast milk as well.

13 Avoid: Passion Flower

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While passionflower supplements are believed to be safe for pregnant women in moderate doses, a large dose can stimulate the uterus to contract. It is not always possible to gauge the dosage in some herbal remedies, which include teas, tinctures, and oils, so passion flower is best avoided.

Passionflower is used as a supplement to induce calm and to normalize sleep patterns. However, due to the chemicals within passion flower extract, it is not thought to be safe to take in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. It has also been found to be problematic if used in conjunction with other herbal supplements, according to Get Fit. Jillian Michaels.

12 Worth Taking: Vitamin D

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Vitamin D is important for the body as it helps to regulate calcium and phosphate levels. These minerals are used to keep bones strong and healthy. When you are pregnant, vitamin D is used to regulate calcium and phosphates in the baby’s body and to make bones and teeth. In rare cases when the baby is deprived of vitamin D, it can result in rickets, according to Baby Centre.

Vitamin D is also linked to preventing some cancers and diabetes. Low levels of vitamin D have been found in some smaller babies. Although humans get the majority of their vitamin D from sunlight, if you live in a colder climate, supplements are necessary and adequate sun protection should be used.

11 Avoid: Goldenseal

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Goldenseal is also a herb and again is not recommended for consumption by pregnant women. When it crosses the placenta, it can affect the unborn child, according to Allergies.emedtv. When taken late in pregnancy it has been linked to jaundice.

The full risks are not known as research is not conclusive, but goldenseal does contain a substance called berberine, which is the element that can cross the placenta. It is a popular misconception that herbal supplements are safe to take, even in pregnancy, and in this case, the reverse may be true.

10 Worth Taking: Zinc

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Zinc is referred to as an essential trace element, as it is needed by the body, but only in small amounts. However, the human body cannot store zinc, so we need to get it in our diets or in a supplement.

Zinc boosts the immune system and promotes quicker healing and also prevents diseases such as Wilson’s disease. It promotes growth and can help treat respiratory and bladder infections, as well as colds and flu.

It is also used to treat malaria and postpartum depression, so it may be useful to take after the baby is born, in case this is an issue, suggests Web MD.

9 Avoid: Dong Quai

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Dong quai is a root that has been used for years by herbalists to help women with menstrual problems and to improve circulation. However, it can cause health problems some women, and for that reason should not be taken in pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester, reports American Pregnancy Association.

Midwives have historically used the root, which is part of the celery family, to induce labor at full term. Dong quai strengthens the uterus and regulates contractions, and for that reason cannot safely be taken unless imminent labor is desired and under medical supervision. It can cause issues if taken during pregnancy.

8 Worth Taking: Copper

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Another trace mineral is copper, which is essential for producing red blood cells. It is vital in pregnancy to have enough copper as the blood flow of the mother increases dramatically, and the copper will help form the necessary blood cells in the baby.

NCBI reports, you only need 1 mg per day and slightly more when breastfeeding, but a deficiency, although rare, can cause problems, so it is worth checking that your pregnancy supplement contains copper. It is also found in nuts, wheat bran cereals, greens, seeds and even some chocolate, but in such small amounts that a supplement is recommended for pregnancy.

7 Avoid: Black Cohosh

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According to Research Gate, Black cohosh is a herbal supplement that has been used in the past by midwives to induce labor. In conjunction with another herb called blue cohosh, it produces the necessary uterine contractions to encourage labor to begin. It is also used to alleviate symptoms of menopause and menstrual pain and has been successful for these conditions.

It is highly recommended that pregnant women do not take a supplement containing black cohosh until more research can establish its safety, according to Live Strong. Some mothers who took black cohosh to induce labor in their third trimesters reported fetal complications including seizures and kidney issues.

6 Worth Taking: Vitamin B6

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Vitamin B6 is responsible for helping to carry out over 100 processes in the human body. It enables the body to produce amino acids and to metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It helps essential processes such as producing blood and healthy brain function.

NIH points that it is vitally important to have enough Vitamin B6 in pregnancy to ensure efficient brain development in the baby and specifically to form neurotransmitters. For the mom-to-be, it has been used to help ease the discomfort of morning sickness and also regulates blood sugar levels. It can alleviate newborn ailments such as low birth size and eczema.

5 Avoid: Saw Palmetto

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Saw palmetto is a small palm tree, the berries of which are used in dietary supplements. When taken orally, saw palmetto can lower estrogen levels, which could cause a hormone imbalance in pregnant women, points LiveStrong. It has not been tested by the FDA for side effects, and therefore should be avoided while pregnant.

Although further research needs to be done, the supplement is known to affect the hormonal metabolism within the body, and as pregnancy is heavily related to hormones, it is best to steer clear of saw palmetto. As with any supplement, seek proper medical advice if you are unsure.

4 Worth Taking: Vitamin B12

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Most women know that folic acid is vital for the development of a healthy baby. Accoring to The World Health Organization, Vitamin B12 is just as important. This is because it is vital for neural tube and brain development. Sadly, as many as one in twenty adults are deficient in Vitamin B12, so it is important that pregnant women ensure they are consuming enough.

A pregnant mom needs 2.8 mg of vitamin B12 per day, and it is present in most protein-rich foods. However, if a mom is experiencing sickness or can only tolerate certain foods, it is safest to take the vitamin in a supplement. Pregnancy compound supplements will surely contain the recommended daily amount.

3 Avoid: Vitamin K

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Vitamin K is an essential component for blood clotting, as well as ensuring healthy bone development. Babies are often given a shot of vitamin K just after they are born to counteract any deficiency.

However, our bodies are perfectly able to store vitamin K in the liver, there is no need to take a supplement during pregnancy. Most people get plenty of vitamin K in their diet and it is not done away with during the cooking process, so raw and cooked foods will provide an adequate supply. Green leafy vegetables contain Vitamin K, as do fortified cereals, meat, and dairy foods.

2 Worth Taking: Iodine

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While iodine deficiency is rare in the US, an estimated 18 million babies are born with some form of mental deficiency each year due to lack of iodine in the mother, according to What to Expect. Our bodies only need a tiny amount of the mineral, but deficiency can cause serious problems that are easily preventable with iodine in the diet.

It is a growing problem in the western world, so supplements are recommended for pregnant women to ensure that the baby does not have health issues from lack of iodine. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women cook with iodized salt and take a supplement in addition of 150 mcg per day.

1 Avoid: Yohimbine

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As with other herbal supplements, consumption of yohimbine by pregnant women has been linked to premature labor. Yohimbine is the active substance of yohimbe bark, which is gaining popularity as a performance enhancer for athletes, points Kaizon.

More research needs to be done on the actual effects of Yohimbine on pregnancy, but it is not recommended for pregnant women because of potential effects on the fetus. It also has some unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, headaches and difficulty in sleeping. As with any supplement, consult a health professional before taking it during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Sources: Americanpregnancy, Aptaclub, Drugs, Telegraph, Pregnancyandchildren

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