When you fall pregnant, you’re suddenly inundated with choices that you have to make. Big decisions, like where you want to deliver your baby, who’s going to be your healthcare provider, what are you going to name your child? And these big decisions are mixed with millions of other decisions that you need to make – what kind of pram/car seat/cot are you going to buy? Are you going to use cloth or disposable nappies? Are you going to co-sleep / use a dummy / breastfeed? I’ve written about my overwhelming first visit to a Baby Expo before, but the problem is that each of these choices also comes along with many different options. In most cases you aren’t just choosing between two different brands or products, but often five or more! Any many of these brands rely on a marketing strategy of convincing all parents-to-be that they’re the WORST PARENTS EVER if they don’t choose their particular product.
And when it comes to choosing a prenatal vitamin, you’re “supposed” to make this decision even before you fall pregnant. Many sources will recommend that you start taking a prenatal vitamin at least a couple of months before you conceive. For my first pregnancy my GP recommended a particular brand of vitamin, but once I fell pregnant I found that it gave me terrible cramps (probably due to the particular form of iron included). So I ended up just taking folic acid and relying on a healthy diet to get all the necessary nutrients. Thankfully Evan arrived as a big, healthy, 4.3kg bundle of joy, so my strategy seemed to work. Now, with my second pregnancy, I’ve developed a severe iron deficiency which is leading to extreme tiredness, headaches and heart palpitations, so I’ve started looking again at various prenatal vitamin options. But, if you head to the prenatal vitamin section of your pharmacy, you will once again be confronted with the choice between more than 10 varieties of vitamin. I asked the moms of Twitter how they chose their vitamins, and some of their responses were quite interesting (my personal favourite: “They were pink”)
Mama’s, how did you choose your prenatal vitamins?
— Danielle Smith (@thingsdeeloves) November 12, 2017
The Nutrient Game
So how do you actually choose? I decided to take a more objective approach, and look at what we’re “supposed” to be taking during pregnancy, and then comparing that list to the available supplements. Firstly, it’s really difficult to find any consensus or guidelines on which vitamins and minerals should be taken, and in which doses. I found this one which seemed to be quite comprehensive, but keep in mind that there are others that will differ somewhat.
|Vitamin/Mineral||Recommended dosage||Natural sources|
|Biotin||30 mcg||Cooked egg , cheddar cheese, whole-wheat bread cooked salmon, pork, avocado|
|Calcium||1000 mg||Ready-to-eat cereals, milk, cheese, cornmeal, yogurt, wheat flour, collards, rhubarb, sardines, spinach, soybeans, turnip greens|
|Choline||450 mg||Egg, salmon, turkey, beef, pork lion, lamb, soybeans, baked beans, ham, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), kidney beans|
|Chromium||30 mcg||Broccoli, grape juice, orange juice, English muffin, waffle, potatoes, garlic, basil, beef, turkey breast|
|Copper||1000 mcg||Beef, cooked oysters, cooked crab , mushrooms, chocolate, tomato products, nuts, mature soybeans, sunflower seeds, chili con carne, cooked clams|
|Fluoride||3 mg||Fluoridated drinking water, cooked seafood, tea.|
|Folate||4 mg||Enriched white rice, ready-to-eat cereals, cornmeal, turkey giblets, wheat flour, lentils, cowpeas (black-eyed peas) , beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), okra, spinach, asparagus, beef|
|Iodine||220 mcg||Cheese, bread, milk, salt, cooked seafood|
|Iron||27 mg||Beef, turkey, duck, cooked clams, chicken, soybeans, fortified cereals, lentils, spinach, lima beans, refried beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, and prune juice|
|Magnesium||360 mg||Buckwheat flour, bulgur, oat bran raw, semisweet chocolate, fish, wheat flour, spinach, barley, pumpkin seeds, cornmeal, soybeans, white beans|
|Manganese||2 mg||Raw oat bran, wheat, bulgur, pineapple, barley, nuts, ready to eat cereals, white rice, spaghetti, okra, brown rice, chickpeas, spinach, raspberries, lima beans|
|Molybdenum||50 mcg||Beans , lentils, peas, nuts, cereals, peas spinach, broccoli|
|Pantothenic Acid||6 mg||Ready to eat cereals, beef, mushrooms, chicken, turkey, duck, canned condensed or evaporated milk, sunflower seeds, couscous, rice, bulgur, yogurt, corn , peas|
|Phosphorus||700 mg||Cornmeal, canned condensed or evaporated milk, raw oat bran, fish, ricotta cheese, duck, barley, clam chowder, soybeans, bulgur|
|Selenium||60 mcg||Nuts, chicken or turkey giblets, fish, cooked oysters, turkey, duck, wheat flour, enriched white rice, oat bran, pork, ricotta cheese|
|Vitamin A||770 mcg (2565 IU)||Turkey and chicken giblets, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, collards, kale, cantaloupe, turnip greens, beet greens, winter squash|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamine)||1,4 mg||Ready-to-eat cereals, enriched white rice, wheat flour, oat bran, pork loin, enriched cornmeal|
|Vitamin B12||2,6 mcg||Cooked clams, turkey giblets, cooked oysters, cooked crab, fish, ready-to-eat Cereals ,beef, lamb|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||1,4 mg||Turkey giblets, milk, ready-to-eat cereals ,duck, yogurt, soybeans, spinach|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||18 mg||Chicken, fish, duck, wheat flour, barley, ready to eat cereals, tomatoes , turkey, enriched white rice , buckwheat flour, yellow cornmeal, pork loin, ham ,bulgur, beef, couscous, lamb, peanuts|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)||1,9 mg||Ready-to-eat Cereals ,Chickpeas, fish , beef, turkey, enriched white rice, potatoes, chestnuts, buckwheat flour, chicken breast and giblets, pork loin, prune juice , duck ,bananas, plantains|
|Vitamin C||85 mg||Oranges, grapefruit, sweet red peppers, papaya ,cranberries ,strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts|
|Vitamin D (cholecalciferol)||5 mcg (200 IU)||Salmon, rockfish , tuna, milk with added vitamin D, ready-to-eat cereals, skin exposure to sunlight|
|Vitamin E||15 mg||Ready-to-eat cereals, tomato, sunflower seeds, nuts, spinach, safflower oil, turnip greens|
|Vitamin K||90 mcg||Kale, collards, spinach, turnip greens, beet greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli|
|Zinc||11 mg||Cooked oyster, ready to eat cereals, baked beans, turkey, beef, cooked crab, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, kidney beans|
The Key Players
Secondly, I headed to my local pharmacies to see what was available. As I’ve already mentioned – the choices are extensive – so I chose to include the brands which can be found in most stores:
|Supplement||Price per dose/day*|
|Chela-Preg Trimester 1||R 6,92|
|Chela-Preg Trimester 2||R 7,57|
|Chela-Preg Trimester 3||R 8,25|
|Pregnavit M||R 2,67|
|Stellar Mama||R 8,33|
|*based on average price from Clicks & Dischem|
So which supplement is the best? I tallied the ingredient lists against the recommended vitamin/supplement list, and the details are summarised in the graph below (humour me, I’m a scientist 🙂 )
So, which is the “best” prenatal vitamin? Overall the Chela-Preg Trimester packs came out tops, with the highest number of recommended nutrients. An added advantage is that these packs come with added supplements such as Omega’s. Unfortunately, these ranges are also among the most expensive. The remaining five brands fared reasonably well. The best “value for money” was Pregnacare, since it contains one of the highest numbers of nutrients above the 100% RDA (recommended daily allowance) range, and at a reasonably low cost of R3.48 per day. Similarly, Pregnavit M contains a high number of nutrients, but is the cheapest of the lot.
Remember that different supplements work for different people, so you may need to try a few out before finding one that works for you. I hope these details will help to make your decision a little easier! You can check out the Clicks and Dischem websites to find all the available options.
- I am scientifically, but not medically, trained. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making health- and supplement-based decisions.
- These supplements are intended to supplement, not replace, a healthy diet. Check out the table above to see which foods contain the nutrients that you need. A healthy diet is one of the simplest and easiest ways of supporting a healthy pregnancy.
- This is not a sponsored post.