Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin – What Every Expectant Woman Needs to Know

Good nutrition is key for good health. This is particularly important during pregnancy to ensure both the mother and the growing baby receive all the essential nutrients for proper growth and development. However, even those who eat healthy may not be getting enough nutrients because many factors can deplete nutrients from the body. According to reports 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women have a vitamin and mineral deficiency, and without supplementation, roughly 75 percent of pregnant women would be deficient in at least one vitamin. This is why prenatal vitamins are essential for women before, during and after pregnancy—to fill in dietary gaps and prevent deficiencies.

Prenatal supplements differ from regular multivitamins in that they are specially formulated with increased levels of certain nutrients that are required to support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of deficiency syndromes in both mother and baby. These nutrients include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc.

Folic acid is particularly crucial for women to take in the early stages of pregnancy because studies have shown that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida by 70 percent.  Since neural tube defects occur within the first 28 days of conception, doctors recommend that women planning to get pregnant take a daily prenatal supplement that contains folic acid.

There are other health benefits associated with taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that prenatal multivitamins fortified with folic acid can reduce the risk of three common childhood cancers: leukemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma and they can also reduce the risk of a wide range of serious birth defects, including cardiovascular and limb defects, cleft palate, oral cleft, and urinary tract anomalies.

Women who suffer with morning sickness should look for a prenatal that contains ginger. Clinical research has found that ginger is safe and effective for reducing nausea during pregnancy. Unlike the prescription anti-nausea medication (Diclectin), ginger does not cause drowsiness or dry mouth.

Prenatal supplements vary greatly in quality and composition. Read the labels carefully and look for these key attributes when choosing a product:

  • A minimum of 0.4 to 1 mg of folic acid, 30 mg iron, 200-250 mg calcium, 800 IU vitamin D and 100 mg vitamin C along with
  • Easy to swallow vegetable capsules
  • Free of chemical additives such artificial colours (dyes), titanium dioxide and potential allergens such as dairy, egg, yeast, and gluten

Prenatal vitamins should be taken throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Take with a main meal and a full glass of water.

As a pharmacist, health writer, and new mom, my top recommendation is femMED’s Pregnancy + Ginger formula. It contains all the essential nutrients along with ginger to combat morning sickness. Unlike most other prenatals, femMED’s Pregnancy and Pregnancy + Ginger formulas are free of chemical fillers, dyes and allergens.


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Birth Control Methods

What is a recommended birth control pill or birth control method apart from condoms?

There are several birth control methods to consider. The natural way is the rhythm method, which involves avoiding intercourse right before, during and after ovulation, which is the time of the month when an egg is released from the ovaries and you can conceive. You will need to know your cycle well and have regular cycles in order to use this method. A woman who has a regular menstrual cycle has about 9 or more days each month when she is able to get pregnant. These fertile days are about 5 days before and 3 days after ovulation, as well as the day of ovulation.

Other options include IUDs (intrauterine devices), which come in a variety of types. They are highly effective, very safe and well tolerated. Diaphragm, contraceptive sponges and spermicide are other options to consider but they are not as effective as IUDs.

Here is a link to a good overview of the various methods of birth control:

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Top Five Problems During Pregnancy – And What To Do About Them

Pregnant? You may soon be trying to cope with the top five problems during pregnancy.

Good news! These survival kit essentials will help get you through.

Pregnancy can be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, yet most women seem united when discussing their most common discomforts. From back aches to morning sickness, hemorrhoids, varicose veins and heartburn, spread the word to anyone you know who is pregnant that there are ways to get relief from these symptoms without risking harm to their  growing baby.

We interviewed Dr. Sherry Torkos about these top five problems during pregnancy, and she had some excellent advice for us.

For back aches: “There are a number of really good tactics. Wearing a pregnancy support takes the pressure off your back and belly. There also are stretches and exercises that alleviate back pain. Try not to stand in one position for long periods of time. And be careful to always use the proper bending technique. Instead of bending at the waist make sure you lift by bending your knees (whether it’s groceries or young children). Also wear good supportive shoes. If back pain persists, you can try acupuncture and massage. Tylenol also is safe for you and your baby.”

For morning sickness: “Listen to your body and don’t force yourself to eat anything that will make things worse. For example if eggs make you nauseous, don’t eat them. Ginger has been clinically shown to help prevent nausea and vomiting, and has traditionally been used in herbal medicine to help relieve these symptoms. There is a pre-natal vitamin containing ginger from femMED that is all natural. Eating small, frequent meals may also help.”

For hemorrhoids: “One of the most common problems during pregnancy.  Drink lots of fluids and keep your stool soft by eating a diet high in soluble and insoluble fiber. If you have trouble eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables, bran, etc. try a fiber supplement. Avoid straining when having a bowel movement. And keep one of those inflatable ‘donuts’ handy for sitting because they take a lot of pressure off of the rectal area.”

For varicose veins: “Blood pooling in your extremities can cause your veins and dilate and bulge. The higher hormone levels and weight gain from pregnancy can aggravate varicose veins, as can standing for long periods of time. Support stocks can be incredibly helpful because they provide graduated compression that encourages blood flow back toward your heart. Try to move around as much as you can; flexing your ankles and moving them in a circular motion helps to pump your calves which gets your blood moving. Eat lots of berries and grapes to help strengthen the walls of your veins.”

For heartburn: “During pregnancy, you are at a greater risk of heartburn – especially during the later stages – because the growing baby puts pressure on your stomach and esophagus. This causes the stomach acids to back up. Try eating small, frequent meals and avoid spicy or fried foods which can worsen the symptoms. It’s also helpful to avoid eating just before bedtime. If you still have problems when you lay down, prop up your pillows so that your head is elevated above your stomach. Other things to try include avoiding wearing anything tight around your waist, not bending over from the waist, and taking calcium supplements.”

“At this time in your life it is important to take control over your health. Focus on eating a nutritious diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and read ingredient labels thoroughly. When the health of your baby is at stake, it’s not enough to assume that a product is healthful. Taking the extra time to review the ingredients will give you extra peace of mind knowing what you are you are putting into your body is safe and beneficial, and will not harm you or your baby.”


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Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Buying a Prenatal

Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Selecting a Prenatal

There is something special (and stressful) about the months during which a women is trying to conceive and throughout the 40 or so weeks of pregnancy. With the health and wellbeing of their new arrival top of mind, women are more likely to take better care of themselves, eat a more balanced diet, get more sleep and start taking pregnancy vitamins (prenatal vitamins).

For many women, taking vitamins during pregnancy may be their first introduction to vitamins. And, if you’ve ever visited the vitamin aisle at your local drug store or natural health food store, you’ll know that the number of options is overwhelming. With so many brands, ingredients and information in the market, how do you choose the right pregnancy vitamins for you and the health of your baby?

Here are some things to consider when selecting your pregnancy vitamins to ensure you get the best prenatal supplement for you and your baby:

The Basics

The first step in selecting the right supplement for before, during and after pregnancy is to choose from one of the many pregnancy vitamins also known as prenatal vitamins. Avoid a regular multi-vitamin as it will be lacking the appropriate dose of the two most important added ingredients – folic acid and iron.

A quality pregnancy vitamin should include a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals, 30mg of iron and a minimum of 1mg of folic acid. Folic acid should be take for at least two to three months before conception to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and other birth defects like cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects.

Ginger and Pregnancy

Up to 80% of women suffer from nausea(often called ‘morning sickness’ although for many women it lasts all day) and if you are one of these lucky women , finding pregnancy vitamins with the recommended dosage of folic acid, iron, AND ginger should be a priority.

Wondering: Is ginger safe during pregnancy? Ginger has long been a natural remedy associated with reducing nausea and stomach upset, and has been clinically proven to safely reduce nausea associated with pregnancy. Doctors, midwives, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals often recommended anti-nauseates such as Diclectin for those suffering from morning sickness. And while it can be an effective remedy and is considered ‘safe’ by reputable medical professionals and resources such as, supplements containing ginger offer a safe, natural solution that is gentle on your system and that of your unborn baby.
In our next post, the most dangerous ingredients in prenatal vitamins and how you and your baby need to avoid them.

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Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Buying One Part 2

A continuation of our previous post.

Dangerous Ingredients

Taking prenatal vitamins for the health of you and your baby? Then watch out for these dangerous ingredients found in some of the leading prenatal vitamins. Make sure to read the labels carefully. Avoid prenatal supplements that include ingredients like BHT, FD&C red no. 40, Sodium Benzoate and Titanium dioxide.

BHT is a skin, liver and kidney toxicant. It is stored in the liver and in fat making thin people more at risk for damage associated with consumption of this ingredient. Studies have shown that BHT promotes cancer and the growth of tumours.

In Europe, FD&C red no. 40 which is often used as a food colorant, is not recommended for consumption by children and yet many of the leading prenatal vitamins include this in their formulations. It is banned in the UK, Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Sweden.

Sodium Benzoate combined with ascorbic acid and potassium benzoate may form benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Similarly, Titanium dioxide was recently classified as a possible carcinogen to humans. Carcinogens have long been considered cancer promoting and should be avoided by all people.

The presence of these dangerous ingredients in some of the most popular prenatal vitamins is shocking and scary. Make sure you read and compare labels carefully and do your own research to find the safest prenatal  vitamin for before, during and after pregnancy.

Veggie Capsule versus Gel Capsule

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you may be surprised to learn that many prenatal vitamins (and supplements and other over the counter drugs in general) are made with gel capsules. Gel capsules are made with Gelatin; a substance derived the bones, tissues, organs and intestines of animals like cows, pigs and chickens.

If you’re a vegetarian or simply loathe the idea of gel caps (who could blame you!), look for a supplement that is made with vegetable capsules. Veggie capsules are often used only by premium brands and supplements due to the higher manufacturing cost. So look for brands that offer their products in veggie caps, in addition to a more appealing supplement, you’ll also know that their priority is quality not cost.

Not your first pregnancy or have a prenatal vitamin you swear by? Check the ingredients and compare all the prenatal vitamins available at your local pharmacy. Don’t rule out switching brands for a supplement that has the right effective ingredients, is free of dangerous ingredients, and doesn’t use dairy, gluten and any other unnecessary fillers.

Not sure where to get prenatal vitamins? Shop online or visit your local grocery store, pharmacy or natural health food store. Make sure you do your research in advance and take a list of what ingredients to avoid and which ingredients to look for.

Found the perfect prenatal vitamin? Share it with us!

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