It’s common practice for pregnant women to be advised to take a prenatal vitamin to ensure they are getting proper nutrients to support pregnancy and their growing baby. And thankfully, there are a wide variety of options available.
But what about after the baby arrives? Should you continue to take your prenatal vitamin, switch to a postnatal-specific vitamin, or ditch the vitamins all together?
While prenantal vitamins are available in a range of prices and forms, postnatal vitamins aren’t quite as widespread, with just a handful of companies producing postnatal vitamins.
The postnatal period can be a blur. Maybe your doctor mentioned continuing to take your prenatal vitamin, but with so much going on and a million things to think about, the details may seem fuzzy. To clear up the postpartum vitamin situation, we spoke with Brooklyn-based OB-GYN, Dr. Michelle Romanelli.
First and foremost, she explains, “supplementing with a pre or postnatal vitamin is not necessarily required for women with a well balanced and/or nutritious diet that meets the requirements recommended by the FDA.” However, many women are told to take a postnatal vitamin while breastfeeding to supplement and boost the number of minerals/nutrients that baby gets from breastmilk.
And if you are on a special diet (vegetarian or vegan, for example), it is advised that you speak with your doctor to ensure that you are addressing all necessary nutrients.
Postnatal vitamins to support breastfeeding mothers
For nursing mothers shopping for a postnatal vitamin, look for one that contains folic acid, iron (anemia can be common in new moms), vitamin D, and calcium. Some postnatal vitamins also contain botanicals like moringa and fenugreek, which have been shown to support milk production.
Different brands of prenatal and postnatal vitamins offer a range of blends, and it can be a challenge to find one that has everything on your wishlist. This is why it is so important to maintain a balanced diet while also taking your daily vitamin.
In addition to your prenatal/postnatal vitamin selection, some women choose to supplement with fish oil, especially if they aren’t consuming enough “good fats” like those found in salmon and avocado. This is relevant both during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Some clinical trials have demonstrated that children of women who took fish oil supplements during pregnancy and while nursing had higher IQs than children whose mothers received a placebo. One study has also suggested that eating more fish during pregnancy may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, though additional research is needed.
And even if you are not breastfeeding, being diligent about your vitamins is still important. Your body is recovering from pregnancy and healing from childbirth, all while you’re likely experiencing insufficient sleep, skipped meals, and exhaustion. According to a representative from New Chapter, a company that sells various vitamins, proper nutrition from foods and a good postnatal vitamin can play an important role in supporting you as your body gets back into balance.
Prenatal vs. postnatal vitamins
When comparing labels, many postnatal and prenatal vitamins contain the same core elements. Some postnatal vitamins include the additive of DHA, which is thought to be positive for newborn brain development. Not all of the studies are conclusive, though it is said that there is no harm in DHA, and therefore, there is value in the possible positive impacts. Vitamin B12 also may help with brain development and nerve network development.
Typically, a prenatal vitamin will have you covered, even if you are breastfeeding, though there is no harm in taking a postnatal specific version.
Postnatal vitamins and postpartum hair loss
So does anything help with the frustrating hair loss during the postpartum period? It’s unclear. Dr. Romanelli believes that the basic vitamins that promote hair, skin, and nail growth like biotin, folic acid, and B vitamins do make an impact. Some women choose to supplement with collagen, though the impact is not fully known.
How long should you take a postnatal vitamin?
It is important to have a diet rich in nutrients, and the addition of a vitamin can help get you there.
But how long should you continue with your pre or postnatal vitamin? Going far beyond the fourth trimester. Not to be dramatic, but Dr. Romanelli recommends to continue forever (whether it’s a pregnancy-related vitamin or a women’s multivitamin). This is especially relevant if you are planning to have another child. It is important to begin a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant, both because of the positive benefits it can have during the very early weeks of pregnancy (before you may even know you are pregnant) and to help women get into the routine of remembering their daily vitamin.
Editor’s note: Always check with your doctor before starting any supplements or vitamins, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The information in this article does not substitute medical advice from your personal doctor.
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