Supplements For Pregnancy & Nursing

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If you’re currently pregnant (or have been in the past), you know how important it is to take a prenatal vitamin throughout your pregnancy, and even while you breastfeed your baby. But do you know why?

Pregnancy and nursing are times in a woman’s life when it is essential to get enough nutrients to nourish her baby. With a well-balanced diet, a baby will take from her body what he/she needs in order to thrive and grow, but without proper supplementation, a mother is the one at risk of malnutrition.

Below are the supplements that I chose to take during my first pregnancy and continue to take today, as a breastfeeding mom:

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When you start thinking about conceiving, you should also start taking a prenatal vitamin. It can be very stressful to wonder if you are getting what you need during pregnancy, and taking a prenatal vitamin can help fill the gaps in your diet. Below, find a breakdown of the most common minerals and vitamins in prenatals, and what they do:

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I went with Prenatalgyn throughout my pregnancy because it was extremely complete with 22 key minerals and vitamins, a probiotic blend, even magnesium (to keep things moving… you know what I’m saying), and ginger, for morning sickness.

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After I gave birth to Liam, I switched to a prenatal without iron (Rainbow Light, Just Once Iron Free Multivitamin). My mother is a naturopathic doctor and recommended that I switch after giving birth, when my iron levels were back to normal.

Women and iron actually have a very complicated relationship. We need the iron during pregnancy (many of us tend to be iron-deficient or even anemic), but unless you suffer from chronic fatigue and have very heavy periods, you may not need iron supplementation after giving birth.

“Iron attracts oxygen directly to it. when it contacts delicate body tissues, the singlet oxygen molecules, termed free radicals, detach and destroy body tissues.  This mechanism is called oxidant damage or free radical damage, a potent cause of inflammation.”

Besides, iron found in food sources is absorbed better by the body, anyway — aim for poultry, beans, red meat, whole grains, and eggs.

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Fish oil is underrated not only for pregnant women, but for all adults. My husband had been taking fish oil supplements for years and encouraged me to do the same a few years ago. The benefits are endless, but here are ten of them:

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We recently bought the GNC brand, but have used these, by Dr. Tobias, in the past as well, which are purified with molecular distillation – one of the few current methods that can purify from heavy metals, PCB’s, and other toxins.You want to aim for 600mg of DHA per day.

Note: If you’re concerned about the “fishy” burps, take the fish oil in softgels (and not liquid) form. To be extra safe, take the supplements with meals for better digestion.

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Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial to your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of bacteria as a bad thing, relating it to disease, but your body is full of good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are naturally found in the body and are known to keep your gut healthy, but supplementing is always a good thing.

Below are some of the benefits of taking a probiotic supplement:

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We have tried a variety of brands, but love the HyperBiotics Pro-15. They’re tiny pearls that you take once a day, have 15 probiotic strains (including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus), and 5 Billion colony forming units per pearl – which is equivalent to 75 billion colony forming units of standard probiotic capsules!

We’ve also tried the Nature’s Bounty brand and Dr. Tobias.

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This one applies solely to pregnancy — unless you tend to be iron-deficient (see above.) Roughly 47% of non-pregnant women and 60% of pregnant women have anemia worldwide, and including iron deficiency without anaemia the figures may approach 60 and 90% respectively. The high risk of women of fertile age and pregnant women for incurring negative balance and iron deficiency is due to the substantial iron demands of pregnancy (

During my pregnancy, despite the 18mg of iron in my prenatal, I was iron deficient (not anaemic, but close.) I knew something was going on because I was exhausted constantly.

I bought the Nature Made brand, and only took the supplements once every two days to not exceed the suggested dose. I always took them with a glass of orange juice, for better absorption. I also tried to include as many iron-rich foods as possible in my pregnancy diet, as shown below:

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I drank red raspberry leaf tea throughout my entire pregnancy. It is naturally high in magnesium, potassium, iron and b-vitamins which helps with nausea, leg cramps, and  sleep during pregnancy. It is also extremely beneficial for the female reproductive system and strengthens the uterus and pelvic muscles, which midwives say leads to shorter and easier labors (

You’re welcome. 

I alternated between two “mother to be” blends: Traditional Medicinals (this one is a combination of red raspberry leaf, strawberry leaf, stinging nettle, spearmint, fennel, rose hip, alfalfa leaf, and lemon verbena leaf) and Yogi (which includes a similar blend, including peppermint, dandelion, and cardamom)

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Once I gave birth to Liam, I switched to a milkmaid tea, which helps support healthy breast milk production and promote healthy lactation.

I alternated between Earth Mama Angel Baby (which is a blend of fenugreek, fennel, red raspberry, stinging nettle, milk thistle, orange, anise, caraway, and alfalfa) and Traditional Medicinals (which also has coriander, spearmint, lemongrass, lemon verbena, and marshmallow root).

Supplements aren’t magical pills and it is essential to have a diet rich in whole foods in the first place. You can find other healthy nutrition tips for you and your family here!

Note: My husband takes a multivitamin, fish oil, probiotic, and pumpkin seed supplement (for prostate health) daily as well, so these supplements aren’t just for pregnant or breastfeeding moms! It’s all about supporting a healthy lifestyle and diet.


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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