Prenatal Vitamins

Oh my, the “You’re an awful mother and hate your baby and only care about yourself!”* crew are going to love this secret I’m about to spill.

I didn’t take official prenatal vitamins until well into my second trimester. A few months prior to conception I started taking Vitafusion Multi Vites Gummy Vitamins and I kept taking those same supplements through something like week 16.

Mmmmm, gummy vitamins. So much tastier than those horse pills I’m taking now.

I looked through  many days of Fitday nutrition analyses taken over a period of several years, and decided that, on average, I was meeting a vitamin and mineral intake that I felt comfortable with, folic acid of course being the one I was most concerned about. As some of you know I’m a big believer in the concept of “intuitive eating”, the idea that a persons body will tell them what areas they are deficient in, and at the beginning of my pregnancy I was eating spinach salad by the bowlful. And when I say “bowl” I don’t mean cereal bowls, I’m talking huge serving bowl sizes that had me smacking my lips and sometimes wanting more.

I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that avoiding prenantals through my first trimester might have played a large part in my lack of morning sickness. Ultimately this decision not to switch felt right for me, and I guess we’ll find out in two months whether I’m going to have birth defects to deal with on account of this unorthodox decision!

When I started working with Sarah she recommended several different supplements to me. I bought five different bottles, came home and googled all of the ingredients, and decided to never take one, only take one for a short period of time to see if I thought it was beneficial for me, and have taken the other three regularly for the duration of my pregnancy.

The supplement I chose to avoid is made by Standard Process, called Trace Minerals-B-12. Though I think vitamin B12 is important, I didn’t like the idea of ingesting 32 mg of Manganese (the amount found in the recommended daily dosage) as there is some information out there that suggests excess manganese can negatively affect brain development and memory retention. Again, a look at my Fitday data over time made me feel comfortable that I would get enough manganese and B-12 without the supplement.

The supplement I decided to take on a trial basis is called Symplex F, and contains extracts from bovine ovary, adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands. Standard Process, the company that produces the supplement, claims that the hormones found within help to balance female sexual hormones. Sarah recommended it to help keep mood swings at bay and a smile on my face. I thought it sounded iffy but I decided to try it out anyway, just in case. I didn’t see any change and so I stopped taking it once the bottle ran out.

I am currently taking three different supplements, and will continue taking them for a period of time after baby comes as well.

Tuna Omega-3 Oil made by Standard Process. We believe (both husband and I!) that DHA in particular is so important for building a healthy brain and TH frequently asks me if I’ve been taking my fish oils regularly. I’ve also been working to fit in three servings of fish each week as well. We want a smart baby! If you’re stressed about mercury levels in fish oil supplements I would suggest starting with this NYTimes article on that very subject.

Choline made by Standard Process is my second supplement, and has also shown positive correlation with healthy brain development. Can you tell how badly we want a baby with a nice sturdy brain?

Last but not least are the yellow horse pills, MultiStart Prenatals by Dr. Michael Murphy. Packed with just about every vitamin and mineral I can imagine needing, I think they work fine and after checking to make sure they didn’t contain anything at a level I was uncomfortable with I went ahead and stocked up on them. I’m sure there are hundreds of prenatal vitamins that would work just as well, I didn’t feel like doing any more looking though. 🙂

I’m curious, what vitamins did you take through your pregnancy and why?

*Yes, there really are people who like to speak up and criticize my every admission that I’m not perfect,  already. I thought it wouldn’t start until baby gets here, but they like to get an early start. Happily, there are many more of you who say nice things and make me feel like I’m doing a good job. I like you guys!

60 thoughts on “Prenatal Vitamins

  1. Supplements are just that… they “supplement” your dietary intake. Every nutritionist in the world will tell you that if you can get the vitamins and nutrients from food rather than a pill, you will be better off. Given that you track your food intake scientifically and can say with assurance that you were/are meeting those intake levels, it makes perfect sense that you wouldn’t need to supplement with pills.

    Glad to see that you were all over the folic acid and now are all about the Choline too. From the few graduate level nutrition classes I’ve taken, I can say that somehow, these seem to be new and unheard of for many expectant mothers.

    Jenna Reply:

    The importance of choline was surprising to me! If my midwife hadn’t suggested it I don’t think I would have heard of it otherwise.

  2. I take gummy vites too. They are delicious, and I have noticed that my energy levels are higher since I started taking them.
    I’m not a big believer in prenatal vitamins, personally. All of the pregnant women I know stopped taking them early on because they’re horrible and mess with your system, and they had healthy kids.
    I would believe more in intuitive eating, but I have a friend who spent her first trimester craving bourbon, cheetos, and bacon. If you can tell me what nutritional needs cheetos meet, I’ll believe that whole eat-what-you-crave thing, but I think that they’re nutritionally bankrupt.

    Jenna Reply:

    Haha, no one who advocates the idea of intuitive eating (in what I would deem the correct way) would agree that your friend was practicing such a thing.

    The books themselves talk about two different kinds of hunger, mouth hunger and (I think it’s called, it’s been awhile since I read the books) stomach hunger. Mouth hunger takes from social/emotional/environmental cues, and is usually fulfilled with junk food. Stomach hunger is the things your body actually NEEDS, and the idea of intuitive eating is that you will want to eat the things you are really in need of if you take out all of the social/emotional/environmental cues.

    The best example I can give you? My recent obsession with oranges. I’ve had two already today and I would eat a third if I had the room for it after dinner. I’ve had a cough/sore throat/stuffy nose on and off for a few weeks now and because I believe in Intuitive Eating I think that my body is telling me to up my Vitamin C intake to fight things off.

    Those are the kind of cravings that I think Intuitive Eating is talking about, not donuts and cheetos.

  3. I have been taking pre-natal vitamins and a chewable calcium supplement (Viactiv – though I hate its flavor and would love to find a better one) since last May. Though I really need better nutrients for my health, I started doing this for my hair and nails before my wedding (so vain, I am!!). Looking at my FitDay records, I do not have the balance you have. I mean, there are some days where my fitday record is something like:

    Coffee (Black)
    Pizza, Pepperoni, 1 slice
    Brownie, Chocolate, with Frosting
    Tortilla Chips, Corn
    Queso dip, with meat
    Wine, table red

    So you can see… I might need a supplement or two. I continue to take both of the vitamins now because I figure we will have children in a few years, and I hope to be a healthier ‘me’ in preparation for that time. I have also tried to add a piece of fruit or cup of veggies here and there!

    Sarah Reply:

    LOL That looks like a fun day! I have days like that too 🙂

    Pink Heli Reply:

    My problem is that *most* of my days are kind of like that!!

    Jenna Reply:

    Don’t we all have days like that? I remind myself to focus on my diet long term, not the day-to-day, and as long as I can look at a week or a month at a time and see good stats I think I’m doing pretty well.

  4. My doctor actually told me NOT to take them, because they were part of what made me so sick from weeks 3-17. I started taking them again about week 20, and didn’t feel good, so the doctor told me to lay off and eat right and take the same Flinstone vitamin our son takes, just to give my body a good jumping off point.
    Prenates are certainly best when you CAN take them, but if they’re going to make you feel lousy, it’s just not worth it!

  5. I’m not expecting yet, but we are trying. I’ve been taking prenatals for a couple months now, and haven’t had them make me feel sick to my stomach once! I have a small snack around bedtime & take my vitamin then, and I think that’s been helpful. When I used to take a multi-vitamin in the daytime, they would make me feel ill, so that’s when I started the night time thing, and it’s been a great solution for me!

    Kate Reply:

    I’ve been taking them for my Wedding Hair too! We must have stomachs of steel because I don’t notice any nausea and have taken them on an empty stomach with no negative side effects. Do they make prenatal gummy vitamins? Cause they really should.

  6. I started taking the cheap Wal-Mart prenatals once I found out I was pregnant, and have stuck with them through most of the pregnancy. I took some fancy prescription ones with added DHA for a few weeks, because I got free samples, but wasn’t going to pay full price. Instead, I bought a bottle or DHA+ fish oil capsules from the health food store and took it with my cheapy prenatals, which ended up giving me more of most vitamins & more DHA & Omega 3 than the expensive ones.

    Sarah Reply:

    Be careful with those “cheapy” vitamins. Be sure to research them (like Jenna did online with all her vitamins). While they say they have “x” mg of a certain vitamin, the cheaper brands have proven to be short of that “x” amount when lab tested. (Some expensive ones do too!) You might be better off investing your money in more fresh foods that will be sure to deliver.

    MrsW Reply:

    I went with the walmart ones too.. the prescription ones made me sick.

  7. I should try gummy vitamins. I have some horse pills but I never take them because I hate swallowing pills. But gummy vitamins look like fun!

    People have had healthy babies for years without prenatals. So there naysayers. I highly doubt my mother had any prenatals.

    I think it’s smart to research what vitamins and minerals you take in naturally through food (like you did with fitday) and to research the supplements suggested. Never hurts to be sure!

    I think you are doing a terrific job! 🙂

  8. I take these:

    I picked them because they are made from real foods, and are free of colors, flavors, and preservatives. They also have a lot of ingredients that “normal” vitamins don’t have, like red raspberry leaf, chamomile, ginger root, and alfalfa just to name a few. Here is list of the supplement info:

    I chose the system where you take 6 vitamins a day. I liked the idea of spacing them out, and have never felt any nausea (not sure if this is because I’m not taking a whole dose at once, because of the vitamins themselves and the ginger and other things they add to aid in fighting nausea, or if I was just lucky:). There is also a once a day supplement.

    Besides these I take fish oil.

    Kelli Nicole Reply:

    Those are the vitamins I take and I love them! Well, I don’t take the prenatals yet, but whenever I get married I plan on starting prenatals just in case I accidentally get pregnant. I also take cod liver oil and a vit D gummi that’s so yummy as well as a calcium gummi (it’s for kids, but I mainly take it because two of them curb my sugar craving). I also have some vit C powder that I take AND probiotics when I remember (it’s been a while since I’ve taken those though). Boyfriend gets all the same ones.

    Jenna Reply:

    You take 6 vitamins spaced out out throughout the day?!?!?! I take all 8 of mine in one gulp, even though the bottles say it would be best to take them 3x/day, but I can’t remember!

  9. Prenatal vitamins are nice and all, but it’s kind of hard to get the benefit from them when you are BARFING them up everyday. I didn’t take them often with both pregnancies because they wouldn’t stay down. I think it’s great to take them if you can, but way more important than vitamins is trying to eat the best diet possible.

    New moms tend to put *everything* they hear from their doctor and *everything* they read in books in the “You Must Do This or Your Baby Will Come Out with Five Arms” category.

    Really, there’s only a few major things to do/not do: Don’t drink, don’t smoke, eat a well balanced diet, get checked out by your doctor/midwife regularly, and well, you probably shouldn’t go sky-diving either. My friend almost had a heart attack when she realized she was out of prenatals one day and couldn’t get more for a few days – – they are nice to take if you feel you need them and most women should, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

    (let’s see if I get in any trouble with you Jenna for what I wrote!)

    Jenna Reply:

    I guess I see prenatals (for the most part) as avoiding the problem in a lot of cases. If we’re worried about nutrition we should be focusing on changing our diets, instead I feel like we overall say “Having a good diet is too hard, so let’s just give pills to fill in the holes instead.”

  10. I started taking Gesticare, a prescription pre-natal when we were started trying to conceive and through my pregnancy. I’ve always taken a multivitamin, so it wasn’t a big switch for me, and I tried a lot of prenatals before I committed to Gesticare. It was the easiest to take!

    I don’t know if I would have waited until my 2nd trimester to start, but as my midwife once told me, women in third world countries have healthy babies all the time without all the things we do it with.

  11. I just blogged about this very thing!

    I’ve been taking my prenatal for the last 6 months. It’s by Platinum Naturals and contains 500mg of DHA and I only have to take one a day. The one I really wanted to take was organic and from whole foods but I would have had to take 6 a day and that right there knocked it off my list.

  12. Hmm…I’m of the opinion that prenatals are a must, but regular multi-vitamins make me ill (I’ve passed out from taking them before, they made me so naseous!). I’ve never thought that pre-natals might do the same thing. Definitely worth looking into!

  13. Those are what I’m taking instead of prentals. I have morning sickness and there is no way on earth I could swallow those horse pills they call prenatals. I’m eating a fairly balanced diet so I am not concerned in the least about getting everything I need.

  14. I didn’t take them either, Jenna. Never believed in it. I’ve taken a regular vitamin (it’s a prenatal, but you’re supposed to take 2 and I’ve taken 1) the entire time. It didn’t make a difference with my sickness – because even on the days I skipped it, I threw up (sometimes worse).

    I did have to supplement some days with 2 when I felt I ate really badly, but other than that – I just haven’t done it.

    Oddly enough, I’ve not had problems with constipation, and did you see the news article they released recently linking high amounts of Folic Acid to asthma???!

    There is a very small camp out there (if you look, you’ll find it) that believe this overdosage of vitamins may be causing harm to fetuses – overloading their tiny, developing systems, and perhaps even causing bigger problems than we even realize. I actually lean toward that camp.

    Jenna Reply:

    I didn’t see the release about Folic Acid and asthma, but I found the info really interesting. It will be interesting to see if our baby develops asthma as I didn’t take a Folic Acid heavy supplements (like I said, just gummi vitamins) any FitDay said I was hitting about 400mg on average, which seems to be the minimum amount from what I’ve read.

    I don’t disagree with the idea that too many vitamins and really high levels can cause harm. I pee most of them out anyway, sometimes I worry if that’s my body way of telling me I’m overloading myself as well!

  15. Luckily, mine have never made me sick, although they are HUGE. I started taking them about two months before wes started TTC. I get them through a prescription from my OBGYN because they’re only $5 with insurance 🙂

  16. Thanks for the fish oil link. The hubs and I both take fish oil because it’s fairly common for folks in the northern Midwest to have vitamin D deficiencies from all these sunless winter days. My pregnant sister warned me that she’s taking a fish oil supplement that’s “mercury free”, which freaked me out: am I poisoning myself? Glad to know I’m probably not. 🙂

  17. I started with prenatals while TTC, but once i was actually pregnant they made me so sick and I switched to two Flintstones vitamins per my doc’s suggestion. I also took expecta, a dha supplement three times a week. Around my 5th month, I went back to my prenatal, added a calcium supplement and continued taking the expecta.

    Now that my little girl has arrived and I’m breastfeefing, I am still taking the three.

  18. I took prenatal vitamins throughout my first trimester and I didn’t have morning sickness either. Then again, I took all-natural ones from my naturopath rather than the Centrum Materna that a lot of people I know take, so maybe that’s a factor? She did say those don’t sit well with a lot of people’s stomachs.

  19. I’ve been taking prenatals for a few months, just because we’re planning TTC in the near-ish future. Plus, I am AWFUL about remembering my birth control on breaks from school. I take the Target vitamins and they don’t make me sick. Yet. I’ve thrown up from other vitamin brands in the past, so I was nervous.

    But I’m with you, Jenna. I’m working on my diet to get it to a place where I don’t need a lot of supplements.

  20. I am a fan of eating good foods instead of taking vitamins. I think it helps your body digest it.

    That’s so great that your midwife and you can work together to find something effective. I think it is all a personal thing

  21. I had no idea pre-natal vitamins were considered such a must-do for pregnancy. But then, I’m skeptical of the bodies ability to absorb nutrients beyond the required amount you should be getting from food effectively from pills. I always though that most vitamins were a scam that just resulted in expensive urine.

    Maybe pregnancy is different in that your nutritional needs are beyond what is feasible to get from food alone? Not to mention the higher stakes. Or my initial premise could just be wrong (given that I have no idea where it comes from, that’s probably the case).

  22. The doctors I’ve talked to about it say different things, but the things they seem to have consensus on are (a) any vitamin that is called “prenatal” is fine, and most regular multivitamins are fine (check that the folic acid isn’t low though) except that regular multivitamins might have too much of something that you’re not supposed to go overboard on when you’re pregnant (but I don’t remember what vitamin that is – maybe E?), (b) flintstones and other similar chewable vitamins are always a good option as they have the same amounts of the important stuff as the grown-up vitamins (check it before believing), and they’re easier to chew and digest (recommended often for people with digestive disorders like colitis because it is easier for your body to absorb) and (c) the absolute most important thing to take is folic acid and you really should start that long (I’ve heard between 3 months and a year) before you get pregnant to build it up in your body, because anything you take after you know you’re pregnant is probably not helping with the birth defect problem.

    Also, they think fish oil is good for fetal brain development but it is also really good for any adult who is taking it, boosting your brain and reducing inflammation and bad cholesterol, among other things.

    Kelli Nicole Reply:

    I’m pretty sure it’s vit A that you’re supposed to be careful with.

    FM Reply:

    Yes, that’s the one! I remember now because I’ve been eating lots of carrots recently and I was all proud of myself for sneaking them into all my food, and thought it was funny when I learned I might have to limit that when I get pregnant.

  23. I’d be curious to hear how you differentiate between “intuitive eating” and “cravings” which I remember you saying you don’t believe in. I tend to lump the two together but maybe that’s because I almost never crave sweets and other things without nutritional value?

  24. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your decision. You have made effort to get what you need by actually eating it

    Prenatal vitamins made my mother’s already awful morning sickness worse.

  25. I, too, am an avid fan of the gummy vitamins from Costco/Sam’s Club/ Who says taking a daily vitamin should feel like shoving an innertube down your throat?

  26. Interesting approach…

    Jenna, in line with your article about mercury in flsh oil from the NYT, do you care to comment on this article as well?

    Weren’t you saying you were planning on avoiding vaccines from multiple use containers for a similar reason? Do you still feel that way now that there’s been so much buzz about the retraction of the original article?

  27. I think the best thing you can do is feed your body and your baby healthy, nourishing real food and only supplement where you’re lacking.
    It sounds like you’re doing a great job of that.

    Now that we’re trying to conceive I’ve been taking a calcium, folic acid and iron pill because I have been borderline to anemic over the years while also trying to eat more greens, beans and meat and cooking in cast iron to help those levels.

    Any vitamin that helps balance your diet out is good, even if it doesn’t have the word prenatal stamped on it.

  28. I looooove Standard Process supplements! I’ve never gotten sick to my stomach taking them, which is typically my excuse for not taking vitamins. That and I tend to gag a LOT when trying to swallow pills 🙂 Symplex F did wonders for me when going off birth control, my hormones were all over the place. I’m like you with the salads (even though I’m not pregnant)- I simply cannot get enough. Ever. I love salad. *off to find salad…*

  29. I have a couple of innocent questions and I would love to hear from some of you. For those of you who are proponents of natural supplements such as Symplex F or others, doesn’t it bother you that none of those pills are ever tested by an overseeing organization such as the FDA? Aside from that, how do you know that what they say it will do is actually what it does. I ask since most of these are never subjected to clinical trials (well, maybe aside from those conducted by the manufacturer).

    I’m very perplexed at the effort to use science and data on one hand to make a case for alternative medicines or alternative approaches to health, and then the attitude that data and oversight is unnecessary from that point forward. I’m not saying that you guys feel that way, but in some ways that’s how it perceived by those in the allopathic community.

    Out of curiosity, also, would any of you be willing to share how much they cost? I know I could Google it, but I’m asking about the out-the-door price, (I know chiropractors who will tell me they make quite a big profit on what they’re able to sell at the office). I ask because I’ve got congestive heart failure patients who are unwilling to pay $4 for a 90-day supply of a generic ACE-inhibitor due to “cost”. Even when I tell them it is known that it will increase survival and decrease hospitalizations! On the flip side there are so many people willing to pay out of pocket for expensive natural supplements when so little is known about if or what benefit (or side effect!) they might provide.

    I would love to see a conversation about this sometime. Jenna, feel free to delete or move it if you feel it’s hijacking this thread. I just love your commenters and I know I would get thoughtful, honest answers to these burning questions of mine.

    Sophia Reply:

    Helena, that would be an interesting conversation to me as well. I know some people who purchase colloidal (sp?) silver, random minerals, supplements, etc. from their chiropractor, and they spend about $100 monthly on the supplements alone. I can understand a multi-vitamin, maybe, to cover the common bases of well known vitamins and nutrients. I don’t necessarily think any of these supplements are harmful but as a self professed health nut myself I have had a hard time pinning down proof that they work, or rather, that they do everything they claim to do.

  30. I have to admit I got a little squigged out about the Symplex F you mentioned that contains “extracts from bovine ovary, adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands”. Only because of all the weird complex hormonal processes that go on during pregnancy and development of the baby, I don’t understand why one would take hormones from another animal during that time.

    Maybe I’m not understanding the way it works correctly, but my first thought was that I probably wouldn’t be comfortable taking it while pregnant. I’m certainly *not* saying “you are harming your baby you irresponsible lady!”, and I know it was recommended by your midwife, who I’m sure is a very capable and awesome lady herself 🙂 I’m just a little wary when we start talking about taking additional hormones from totally different animals during pregnancy, because I’ve never heard of that recommended.

    Helena Reply:

    Well, actually you bring up a point I didn’t make earlier ~ is there blood monitoring that goes into taking Symplex F? It sounds a bit like Armour Thyroid, a natural form of levothyroxine (thyroid hormone) taken by patients with hypothyroidism. It’s basically dehydrated pig thyroid gland ground up and formed into pills. Every once in a while I’ll get a rare patient with a true allergy to levothyroxine and we’ll switch to this preparation. Problem is, since Armour Thyroid is made from dried pig glands, the amount of thyroid hormone actually present in the thyroid gland may vary from animal to animal.

    Yes it’s natural, but it’s serious stuff, and requires monitoring of TSH, T3 and T4 levels.

    I looked up Symplex F to see if they say anything about the amount of hormone in there. I found something else. They state that it contains: Protomorphogen™ from the various glands. What the heck is that? Well, apparently it’s just a term trademarked and owned by Dr. Royal Lee (and from that point forward used by Standard Process Inc.)

    So, Symplex F contains Proprietary Blend: 138 mg Magnesium citrate, bovine ovary PMG™ extract, bovine adrenal PMG™ extract, bovine pituitary PMG™ extract, and bovine thyroid PMG™ extract (processed to remove its thyroxine – Thank God!).

    If you Google the term Protomorphogen you’ll get 13 pages of return. Curious, I then went to the gold standard site for medical research, PubMed, and entered it there – to find not a single entry. I’ve never had NO returns. Ever. (curiously, if you split the word into 2, proto & morphogen you get 126 returns, mostly relating to fruit fly research).

    But the Magnesium is interestsing… Magnesium citrate is used frequently as a laxitive, only in higher doses. What is its purpose in this supplement? As far as I can tell it’s the only think you’re getting for your dollar and they don’t even mention its purpose on their site.

  31. Jenna you are a horrible person, how could you NOT take prenatals right away!

    Okay totally kidding… so many people don’t and just aren’t woman enough to admit it. I didn’t take them until I found out I was having twins, and it was mainly because I could not possibly eat the extra 600 calories they wanted me to, but I had to try 3 different multivitamins before one didn’t make me sick! I ended up taking the womans one a day prenatal vitamin, a B supplement which contained all various B levels and only B vitamins, iron, and folic acid… I missed many doses and guess what, my babies are perfect 🙂

  32. I actually just started taking prenatal vitamens in preparation for TTC, but I’m glad you posted this. I have been talkign to a friend who is seeing a nutritionist and she’s not getting pregnant due to vitamen deficiencies. So I think your method is a wonderful idea.

  33. great timing for this posting. The BF and I are looking at TTC the middle of next year and I have started doing a lot of research. And I was just thinking about the fact that Jenna hadn’t talked about pre-natal vitimans. I was even going to ask the question this week on the site for “questions” but I couldn’t remember the site, hehe

    It is good to hear from all sorts of people. I hate taking things that aren’t in my food, even when I am supposed to. And I do really believe that my parents and their parents all produced amazing kids without the help of technology and all the vitamins. In my life I follow the idea of the fewer things the better, and I was really wondering if all those ideas about having to have a ton of this and a ton of that was true.

    Thanks Jenna. Since That One will be around before we TTC, I will know if I should start taking the vitamins once we see pictures… *smile*

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