HealthierbyNature.com's Fit for Success

Sunday, June 12, 2005 at 10:22 AM

Choosing a prenatal that is right for you: Best information, explanations and comparisons

Compiled and Edited by Julie Pippert, Creator of healthierbynature.com and the Fit for Success program, which makes you, your home, your life and your family healthier, naturally.

Your hear it from friends, your doctor, signs at the store...almost everywhere: you need a multivitamin and multimineral supplement. It is almost universally agreed that women who are trying to conceive, pregnant and lactating need supplementation on top of a healthy diet. This is to ensure optimum required nutrition for your body as it supports a growing baby.

The difficulty is that such demand creates a vast supply. How do you select the best prenatal, the one that is right for you, your situation, and most importantly, your baby?

First, you need to consider your own health situation, any medications you are already taking, and consult your doctor. Second, you should know what the important vitamins and minerals are, and their appropriate amounts and balances. Third, it is important to know any side effects of some ingredients. Finally, you need to do a breakdown of popular and recommended brands and their ingredients.

Does that sound overwhelming? Don't worry; this article does it for you. Although this article doesn't include every single prenatal on the market, it does include popular ones. The information will also hopefully make you knowledgeable enough about important ingredients to have or avoid so that you can read a prenatal vitamin’s ingredient label and determine on your own whether it is right for you. In case of any questions, always ask your doctor. Please do check into any samples you receive, even those from your doctor, and ensure that you feel confident it is the right one for you.

Other good sources of information

You might like to read the Mayo Clinic's explanation about supplementation, who needs it and why. It also discusses

-how a multi-vitamin should be balanced, and not contain megadoses above and beyond recommended daily allowance or doses that are vastly out of balance.

-fat soluble versus water soluble vitamins

-warns about possible drug interactions and effects of overdosing

-provides easy-to-understand guide about choosing and using supplements (e.g., expiration dates, storage, etc.)

You might also like to read, "The Scoop About Prenatals Vitamins," which discusses (as this article does) how not all prenatals are alike and equal and that they should be used as supplements (to a healthy diet) and not as a replacement.

Caveat and qualifier

This article compiles information through research and a variety of sources (see sources at the end of this article) and presents that information to you so that you may do your own research and make your own decision. This article does not prescribe nor intend to prescribe, nor intend to replace medical advice. Make sure to discuss prenatals with your obstetrician and ensure that the one you select is okay for you and your pregnancy.

About important vitamins and minerals

Below, are explanations and definitions of the vitamins and minerals that are key so that you understand what the vitamin or mineral is, what it does for the body and why it is important.

Note: Although this article uses the familiar phrase recommended daily allowance (RDA), the newest phrase is dietary reference intake (DRI). The phrases are interchangeable and the values each suggests are identical.

Biotin and pantothenic acid---Biotin is a key component of a healthy multivitamin and multimineral that is necessary for formation of fatty acids and glucose, which are used as fuels by the body. It is also important for the metabolism of amino acids and carbohydrates. For more information see Biotin. Pantothenic acid goes side-by-side with biotin. While Biotin metabolizes proteins and carbohydrates, pantothenic acid metabolizes food and synthesizes hormones and cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed by the body for the proper functioning of its cells' membranes, particularly in the brain. Pantothenic acid is a B-complex vitamin that humans require for growth, reproduction, and normal physiological function. For more information, see Pantothenic acid and biotin.

Calcium---Calcium is essential for bones (including teeth). It is essential for skeletal development of babies during pregnancy, and pregnant and lactating mothers are at heightened risk for calcium deficiency. Therefore, the normal RDA for women 19-50 of 1000 mg per day should be increased with an extra 400-600mg per day either through supplementation or three extra servings of dairy per day. Note: It is impossible to put the entire RDA in one tablet (that you could swallow) and calcium doses should not exceed 500 mg at a time. The Department of Agriculture states that a supplement that includes calcium should also include Vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption. For more information and breakdown of how much calcium common foods include, see Calcium in diet.

Iodine---Iodine is essential for the normal metabolism of cells. It is a necessary nutrient for the production of thyroid hormones and normal thyroid function.

Magnesium---Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, for more information see Magnesium.

Phosphorus---The main function of phosphorus is to form bones and teeth. It also is important for metabolizing carbohydrates and fats, synthesizing protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues, producing ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy. Phosphorus works with the B vitamins. It also assists in the contraction of muscles, in the functioning of kidneys, in maintaining the regularity of the heartbeat, and in nerve conduction. For more information, see Phosphorus in diet.

Vitamin A---You want to make sure to include Vitamin A in the proper amount while trying to conceive, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. MedLine Plus explains, "Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it generates the pigments in the retina. It may also be required for reproduction and breastfeeding." For more information, see Vitamin A.

Vitamin B---Vitamin B is complex grouping of B vitamins that are very essential. The many types of Vitamin B---all of which primarily work to convert food into energy---include:
-B1, which is thiamine and also supports the heart, cardiovascular system, brain and nervous system;
-B2, which is riboflavin and supports body growth and helps form red blood cells
-B3, which is niacin and also supports healthy skin, nerves and digestive system
-B6, which is pyridoxine and also supports the immune system, normal nerve function and helps form red blood cells
-B-12, which is essential in the process of forming red blood cells and to the nervous system

For more information, see my source for Vitamin B information at MedLinePlus.

Vitamin E---Important: Vitamin E doses that exceed 400IU may be harmful. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells, tissues, and organs from free radical damage.

Prenatal Comparison

Natalins tablets (Mead Johnson)

--Contains no Biotin

--Low Calcium

--Low Magnesium

--No Phosphorus

--No Pantothenic Acid

--Contains Polyethelene Glycol which may produce brain and kidney damage

Niferex PN (Central Pharmaceuticals)

--Contains no Vitamin E

--No Magnesium

--Very low Calcium levels

--No Phosphorus

--No Biotin

--Contains Methylcellulose, which may cause intestinal obstruction if insufficient water is taken

PreCare Prenatal Caplets (Ther-Rx)

--Contains no Vitamin A

--No Vitamin B1

--No Vitamin B12

--No Biotin

--Due to improper balance of B vitamins this causes a "dumping" thus not using the proper absorption of Vitamins B6 and Folic Acid

--No Phosphorus

--No Iodine

--No Pantothenic Acid

--Contains cellulose polymers

Prenate 90 (Bock)

--Contains no Biotin

--No Pantothenic Acid

--No Magnesium

--Very low Calcium levels

Materna Tablets (Lederle)

--Contains Only 19% RDA Calcium

--Only 6% RDA Magnesium

--Only 10% RDA Biotin

--No Phosphorus

--Contains Methylcellulose, which may cause intestinal obstruction, if insufficient water is taken

--Contains Methylparaben, which may cause gastric upset

--Contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a typical compound found in anionic detergents.

Natalins RX (Mead Johnson)

--Contains no Phosphorus

--No Iodine

--Contains Hydrochloride, which may be a direct pulmonary irritant and inflame conjunctive of eyes

--Contains Cyanocobalamin, which may cause sensitivity reactions, gastrointestinal distress, thrombosis and itching rash

Stuart prenatal (Stuart)

--Contains no Biotin

--Low Calcium

--No Magnesium

--No Phosphorus

--No Iodine

--Contains Hyddroxpropyl Methylcellulose, which may cause intestinal obstruction, if insufficient water is taken

Stuartnatal (Stuart)

--Contains no biotin

--Low calcium

--No magnesium

--No phosphorus

--No iodine

--No pantothenic acid

--Contains cyanocobalaniin which may cause sensitivity reactions, gastrointestinal distress, itching and rash.


Vita-Lea (Shaklee)

--Contains all essential 12 vitamins and 7 minerals in proper balance

--Contains 27 whole vegetable sources, which are readily absorbed by the body

--Contains no toxic chemicals

--No herbicides

--No pesticides

--No sugar

--No artificial colors, flavors or additives of any kind

--Contains phytochemicals and the alive enzymes not found in synthetic vitamins

--Processed by low-heat method keeping enzymes alive

--Contains 100% of RDA of Biotin and Folic Acid

--100% guaranteed potency

Zenate (Solvary Pharmaceuticals)

--Contains Carnauba wax (when heated to decomposition emits acrid smoke and irritating fumes)

--Contains Magnesium Stearate (when heated causes toxic fumes)

--Contains Polyethylene Glycol, which may produce brain and kidney damage

--Contains Stearic Acid, which may cause intestinal obstruction

--Skin sensitization is usual

--Contains Titanium Dioxide, which may cause pulmonary irritation

--No Biotin

--No Pantothenic Acid

--Low Magnesium

--No Copper

--No Phosphorus


References and Sources

-University of Mississippi Learning resource Center

-Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products 5th edition; Gosselin, Robert; Smith, Roger; Hodge, Harold; Braddock, Jeannette; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1984.

-Chemical Exposure and Human Health: A Reference to 314 Chemicals With a Guide to Symptoms and a Directory of Organizations; Wilson, Cynthia, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1993.

-Handbook of Poisoning, 12th Edition. Appleton and Lange, Norwalk, Connecticut, 1987.

-Poisoning: Toxicology, symptoms, treatments (American lecture series; publication no. 1019) , Arena, Jay, New York, New York, 1979.

-Hazardous Chemicals Desk Reference, 5th Edition, Lewis, Richard Sr., Alameda, California, 2002.

-MedlinePlus Drug Information. Note: MedLine Plus is a service of the U.S Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

-National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements

© 2005. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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