While the majority of required vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and other constituents we need for optimal health can be met by eating a balanced and varied whole food diet, when it comes to pregnancy additional support is really important (in addition to a great diet). Preconception and pregnancy supplementation helps women to meet the additional physiological demands on the body during this time so that they have sufficient stores available to nourish themselves and the developing baby.
I advise women to take a preconception and pregnancy supplement during the preconception period and throughout pregnancy. It’s important to note that some people may require additional support based on various different factors (especially during the preparation period) so I always recommended discussing your own personal situation with a qualified health practitioner. It's also important to remember that it is not just the woman who may need supplementation. Supplementation is equally as important for male fertility as you both prepare for pregnancy and should not be overlooked.
Here are my recommendations for what you should be looking for when you choose a preconception supplement.
Activated B Vitamins
The eight B vitamins (sometimes referred to as B complex) play unique and synergistic roles that are important for supporting a healthy pregnancy. B Vitamins can be found in supplement form as they are, or they can be ‘activated’. The body has steps to follow when it receives vitamins, and for the case of B vitamins, they must be changed into a bioavailable form that can be absorbed and utilised by the body (a whole process in itself). Therefore, purchasing a supplement with ‘activated’ B vitamins means that the body gets to skip a step and use the vitamin straight away, making them much more efficient.
Any supplement that contains Choline gets double points from me. A nutrient that is rarely spoken about in regards to pregnancy and is usually not found in commercial preconception supplements, despite being arguably as important as folic acid. Choline is crucial for spinal cord formation, placental function and early brain development. A nutrient you don’t want your child to be missing out on.
Natural Vitamin E
The form of the nutrient used is really important when it comes to utilisation within the body. Vitamin E is a great example of this as there is quite a significant difference between the natural and synthetic forms. The natural form is at least twice as physiological effective as the synthetic form, making it far superior.
Vitamin E functions as a lipid-soluble antioxidant, protecting cells of the body from damage by harmful free radicals. This is especially important for babies to receive in their breastmilk (or formula) to help support them during the vaccination period.
On a supplement label, natural vitamin E (what you should be getting in a preconception supplement) is listed as d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopherol acetate, or d-alpha-tocopherol succinate. Whereas synthetic forms of vitamin E are labelled with a dl-pre x.
Zinc is involved in up to 300 different enzymes within the body and is therefore in extremely high demand during pregnancy. Zinc is essential for embryogenesis (the formation and development of an embryo) and spermatogenesis (the formation and development of the sperm), making it an essential nutrient for any preconception formula.
Despite living in a country with endless amounts of sunlight, you’d be amazed by how many patients I see with Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is required for foetal skeleton development, immune function, gene expression and hormone secretion, so it is very important for mothers to receive their recommended daily intake throughout pregnancy whilst still being sun safe.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for the activation of proteins that play important roles in the process of blood clotting, heart health and calcium metabolism which is the process of bone building and maintenance.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps to defend the body from oxidative stress. Reproductive cells and organs are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress, so it is important that antioxidant levels are high as couples prepare to conceive. Selenium is important for optimal functioning of the thyroid gland, supports the immune system and is also required for maintaining healthy sperm motility and maturation.
And in additon to your prenatal multi, DHA
DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s an omega-3 fatty acid (an extremely beneficial type of fat) that helps with growth and development and has a high level of evidence for its’ use.
Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA and those that do may contain suboptimal levels or may be poorly sourced or contaminated with toxins such as heavy metals. When it comes to preconception care and pregnancy I always advise mothers to supplement DHA separately to their pregnancy multivitamin to ensure that they are getting a safe form of DHA and a therapeutic dose. An average dose would be 1000mg (or 1g) per day, but certain individuals may need a higher dose due to factors such as underlying health conditions and dietary factors.
Wondering where you can get your hands on a supplement that contains all of the above? Want to know if a supplement poses any contraindications to a medication or supplement you are already on? Or feel like you may need something else supplementing? Let me know so that we can schedule a consultation and work out a preconception and pregnancy regime that is tailored to your specific needs. Find out more here.