3 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Prenatal Supplement

by Asha Richards

Women’s Health Expert

One of the most common questions we are asked in clinic is What prenatal should I take? While I wish I had a one-worded answer, there are in fact many factors to consider. The prenatal that is right for you may not be right for the next person. 

Nutrient status plays a significant role in the short and long term health of women and their babies. In Australia, it is common for women to eat foods that are high in energy, trans fat, added sugars and salt, and low in fibre. Eating this way is associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. We know that in Australia many women are not meeting the recommended macro and micronutrient targets, particularly in the preconception and pregnancy phase. To touch on just two food groups–it has been reported that approximately 73% of pregnant women are not reaching the recommended 5 servings of vegetables [er day and 82% of pregnant women are not reaching the recommended 3.5 servings of animal or plant-based protein a day. These stats are alarming and again reinforce the need for prenatal and pregnancy nutrient supplementation. 

Before starting a prenatal supplement, we must consider the following 3 questions.

Do I have a preexisting health condition?

Different health conditions may predispose you to needing more or less of certain nutrients. For example, if someone has been diagnosed with Graves Disease they should not take a prenatal supplement containing iodine as it may aggravate their thyroid condition and cause serious harm.

Do I exclude any food groups from my diet?

If you follow a plant-based diet you may need extra nutrients such as B vitamins, choline and omega 3 fatty acids. If you have been following a keto diet we may need to look at your fibre and antioxidant intake. If you have food allergies that lead to your diet being restrictive this is another thing that will need to be considered.

Have you had your genes tested?

Genetic testing is helpful to see if you have any genetic variations which predispose you to needing high amounts and specific forms of certain nutrients. For example, if you have variations in your MTHFR genes this means you can have difficulty with folic acid and require a higher amount of folate throughout pregnancy. Same goes with genetic variations in vitamin B12 and choline genes–both of which are important for healthy embryo and brain development. Genetic testing is done via a blood or saliva sample. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriage please speak to one of our naturopaths about this.

If this information feels overwhelming for you, remember that you are not alone. Having a multi-disciplinary team around you during preconception, pregnancy and postpartum will ensure you are well supported in all areas of your health.The first step is to ensure your supplement regime is right for you.

  1. Slater, K., et al. Do the Dietary Intakes of Pregnant Women Attending Public Hospital Antenatal Clinics Align with Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Recommendations? Nutrients, 2020. PMID: 32823663.

by Asha Richards

Women’s Health Expert

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