By Shannan Garrison
Once you know you’re pregnant, so many things start going through your mind: your diet, doctor or midwife appointments, lifestyle habits, exercise, and, of course, the health of your baby.
One thing that may need to be given more thought is the prenatal you choose to take while on this journey. Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Choosing a supplement may seem overwhelming, but by looking for one that includes these ingredients, you’ll feel confident about the choice you’ve made.
Your doctor may recommend a supplement with folic acid. But, to get an active folate that the body can immediately use, look for methylfolate. It not only supports neurodevelopment for your baby (1, 2, 3), including visual, language, and memory skills (4), it also supports your body’s energy production (5, 6), brain’s processing speed (7), and memory. And it is needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (8), which affect sleep (9), cognitive function (10), and mood (11).
DHA is an omega 3 essential fatty acid that becomes incredibly important during pregnancy (12, 13). Without DHA, a baby's brain, spinal cord and eyes cannot develop properly (14), so it's vital that you get enough of the nutrient throughout pregnancy. It also boosts mom’s mood, sleep, and memory (15), (16, 17) —but our bodies don’t make it, so you have to take it. And, unfortunately, women must limit their consumption of fish during pregnancy. As a result, many moms-to-be struggle to get the DHA they and their babies need through diet alone. The recommended amount by the March of Dimes is over 200 mg of DHA.
Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of prenatal and perinatal choline on neurodevelopment (18, 19). Like methylfolate, choline acts as a methyl donor and can change gene expression. This is so important because it means you can change your phenotype or gene expression through environmental factors, such as what you eat. And if you have the MTHFR gene variant, choline requirements are increased even more.
During pregnancy, your brain changes. Science has confirmed many moms-to-be experience brain fog, slight memory issues, and more. But, not all is lost; by adding probiotics to the above essentials, you can support a healthy gut-brain connection. Your gut, through its Gut Microbe System, influences your brain's function. Plus, with probiotics, you’ll get the added benefits of promoting better digestion and healthy regularity, and a supported immune response (20).
Along with vitamin D's more well-known benefits, like supporting immunity (21), (22), and helping to build healthy bones, it can also be supportive when on your pregnancy journey (23, 24). The vitamin D receptor is found in 900 genes in the human body, an appreciable part of the human genome. The brain is filled with vitamin D receptors and proteins that are turned on by vitamin D. It’s important to include vitamin D in your regimen while pregnant to support you and your baby’s needs.
Iron deficiency rates are highest for young women, infants, and children under the age of two years old. So, additional iron is needed more than ever in female growth stages, such as pregnancy. Without it, the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen to make energy. And it helps red blood cell production (25), helps attention span (26), and supports your body’s immune response.
Looking for supplements with the above ingredients to support you on your journey? We’ve got you covered.
Mama Bird Prenatal Multi+
is designed to support you and your baby’s growing needs at every stage of pregnancy. With our once-daily neuro-nutritional prenatal, you’ll get an ultra-packed, vegan-friendly vitamin crafted with organic herbs, probiotics, a digestive enzyme blend, and methylated vitamins and minerals. Also available: Mama Bird AM/PM Prenatal Multi+ and Mama Bird Prenatal Multi+ Iodine & Iron Free.
One Fish, Two Fish Prenatal DHA
was created to help women bridge the diet gap and avoid DHA deficiencies before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. We only use real, pure triglyceride oil, not synthetic ethyl ester oil like others do. Also available: No Fish, No Fish Vegan Prenatal DHA.
Sunny Skies Vitamin D Drops
are made from pure fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil) and vitamin D3. This sunshine-in-a-bottle supplement helps restore and maintain vitamin D levels. Pure and potent, they contain no vitamin K2, which can interfere with medications.
(2) Folate and epigenetic mechanisms in neural tube development and defects, Sivan Vadakkadath Meethal, Kirk J. Hogan, Chandra S. Mayanil & Bermans J. Iskandar, Child's Nervous System, Volume 29, pages1427–1433(2013).
(3) Folate and Vitamin B12: Function and Importance in Cognitive Development, Bhutta ZA, Hurrell RF, Rosenberg IH (eds): Meeting Micronutrient Requirements for Health and Development. Nestlé Nutr Inst Workshop Ser Nestec Ltd., Vevey/S. Karger AG., Basel, 2012, vol 70, pp 161–171
(5) Mitochondrial function and toxicity: Role of the B vitamin family on mitochondrial energy metabolism, Elsevier, Chemico-Biological Interactions, Volume 163, Issues 1-2, 27 October 2006, Pages 94-112.
(6) Vitamin B Supplementation: What's the Right Choice for Your Patients? J Psychosoc Nurse Ment Health Serv, 2017 Jul 1;55(7):7-11, doi: 10.3928/02793695-20170619-02.
(7) Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial, Volume 369, Issue 9557, 20–26 January 2007, Pages 208-216.
(9) Serotonin control of sleep-wake behavior, Sleep Medicine Reviews, Volume 15, Issue 4, August 2011, Pages 269-281.
(10) Serotonin and human cognitive performance, Curr Pharm Des, 2006;12(20):2473-86. doi: 10.2174/138161206777698909.
(11) Serotonin in Mood and Emotion, Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience, Volume 21, 2010, Pages 367-378.
(12) Benefits of docosahexaenoic acid, folic acid, vitamin D and iodine on foetal and infant brain development and function following maternal supplementation during pregnancy and lactation, Nutrients, 2012 Jul;4(7):799-840. doi: 10.3390/nu4070799. Epub 2012 Jul 24.
(13) DHA supplementation and pregnancy outcomes, Am J Clin Nutr., 2013 Apr;97(4):808-15. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.050021. Epub 2013 Feb 20.
(14) Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the developing central nervous system (CNS) – Implications for dietary recommendations, Biochimie, Volume 93, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 7-12.
(15) Maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n‐3) consumption during pregnancy decreases postpartum depression (PPD) symptomatology, Volume 25, Issue 1, Experimental Biology 2011 Meeting Abstracts, April 2011, Pages 349.7-349.7.
(16) Red blood cell long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) levels in pregnant women predict length of gestation via effects on sleep quality and inflammation, Elsevier, Volume 49, Supplement, October 2015, Page e33.
(17) Docosahexaenoic Acid and Adult Memory: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, PLOS 1, 2015; 10(3): e0120391.