When you get pregnant (or if you’re trying to get pregnant) one of the first things your doctor is going to tell you is to start taking prenatal vitamins. But there’s very little advice beyond that.
When I asked my doctor for a recommendation on a good prenatal, she said to talk to a pharmacist. So, I emailed my husband’s friend’s wife, who is a pharmacist and has a toddler of her own. She recommended Nature Made prenatals with DHA, because she trusts the quality control at Nature Made. She also mentioned that she recommends them all the time, and she’s not paid by them to say this stuff (I’m not paid for any of this either, by the way.)
So, why is this important? Ten years ago, I used to work as a graphic designer for a supplement company. Granted, I’m not a scientist, and I didn’t work on the manufacturing end, but I did learn about the nutritional supplement industry during my time there.
I sort of forgot about my time there but I started thinking it again over the summer. John Oliver did a segment on Dr. Oz, and a large portion of that was dedicated to the sketchiness of the supplement industry. You can watch it here.
Did you know nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA? They have very little regulation at all actually, and this includes prenatal vitamins. This means that you may or may not be getting the ingredients listed on the bottle. Or, you could be getting the wrong amount, or a low-quality ingredient. You don’t really know! Those were my takeaways from working in the industry, and they were reinforced by John Oliver’s segment.
Even with Nature Made, I can’t tell you for sure that the ingredients in the bottle are what they say they are. There’s a very big supplement lobby that works hard to prevent the FDA from regulating its products. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the best you can do is talk to professionals (such as a trained pharmacist) and pay for brand names and hope part of that money goes towards a quality product.
The other option, which I don’t know much about, are whole-food vitamins. This seems to be the supplement of choice for so-called “crunchy mommies.” To be clear, I don’t consider myself a crunchy mommy. In my opinion, whole food supplement manufacturers don’t appear to have the resources for good testing and quality control. I think in some cases, they might be taking advantage of the FDA’s lack of oversight. Proponents of whole food vitamins cite “peer reviewed studies,” but often these studies are conducted by much larger organizations on a single ingredient, and not the product as a whole. So personally, this isn’t something I would chose for myself.
The important thing is having a healthy baby that gets the nutrition it needs. I think everyone can agree that eating a healthy, whole-foods based diet is best for baby. How you choose to supplement that diet is unfortunately a tricky choice that involves a lot of research, and ultimately you just have to go with your gut feeling.