Prenatal Vitamins (part I)

As soon as a woman discovers she is pregnant, she will most likely be advised by her doctor or midwife to take a prenatal vitamin supplement which may bring up a couple of questions: Why do I need to take a prenatal vitamin? Which prenatal vitamin should I take?

Maybe you never bothered to ask these questions because your doctor or midwife simply told you to take “this specific prenatal” 3 times a day for the duration of your pregnancy (and while breastfeeding). I think most of us have enough common sense to be able to say that pregnant women need prenatal vitamins to ensure that their babies are getting all the nutrients he or she needs. But couldn’t we just improve our diets? Wouldn’t eating healthy foods ensure that we are getting all the nutrients we need for our babies?

There was a time in the history of mankind that we could get all the nutrients our bodies required through our food. Unfortunately, times have changed. Our food isn’t as nutrient dense as it could and should be. With the onset of the industrial revolution, a new standard for food production was set into motion: “faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper.” With the use of pesticides and other chemicals on crops, farmers’ yields increased exponentially, but these practices also stripped the soil from its natural nutrients. The focus is on producing more, more, more of the same crops without allowing the soil time to replenish the nutrients, which results in less nutrients in our food. Furthermore, almost all of the nations produce is picked green, before it can reach its ripe “peak” of nutritional density, and shipped thousands of miles away. The result of these practices is that healthy foods such fruits, vegetables, and grains are less nutrient dense. To make matters worse, we have pesticides and other chemicals in our food, air, and water supply that cause both short and long term negative effects on us and the environment.

Even if we eat the most ideal diet while pregnant, our diet will be nutrient deficient (unless we grow our own organic produce or buy from local organic farmers). This is not even taking into consideration meat, dairy, and eggs which all have the potential to provide ample nutrients for the pregnant women, but is severely limited because of the way these protein sources are produced (more to come on this topic in later blogs).

The sad fact is that we cannot get all the nutrients we need from our food. While this is detrimental for all of us, it is particularly problematic for pregnant women. If these mommies don’t get the nutrients needed to feed not only their bodies, but also their growing babies, vitamins and minerals will be drawn out of the mothers’ bones, muscles, fat, etc. to provide for their growing babies needs. Thus, prenatal vitamins are employed to supplement those nutrients that mommies can’t always get from their diets.