Think all prenatal vitamins are equal? Think again.
Here is the truth: Prenatal vitamins...and all supplementation for that matter.....are not really regulated by the FDA.
What does that mean?
It means things can go on the shelf without any sort of review process. So what you think is in the bottle, might not actually be in there and/or they could be tainted with extra fillers or contamination from the factory floor due to poor manufactoring procedures.
The rule that the FDA has put in place to regulate supplements is: What’s on the label should be what’s in the bottle, and if it’s not, heavy fines ensue.
But there is no one actually watching on the side of the FDA to make sure that happens.
This verification responsibility has been put on, what they like to call, "independent watch dogs".
The thing is though, it costs a ton of money to do this. So the majority of these independents charge supplement companies a major heavy duty fee to get tested, cleared, and given the stamp of approval.
However, it still is not a requirement.
Therefore we have this situation where there are many genuine companies that are honestly manufacturing high quality products, with the best ingredients possible, but that cannot afford to pay the heavy fee to get verified. Next to that are companies that are large enough that can afford the seal of approval on their high quality product. And then, last but not least, there are the bad seeds. The ones who are not doing business for the right reasons, selling you shoddy products, and who are essentially getting away with it.
Bottom line that you need to know is: All prenatals are not created equal.
So can you trust the ones your care providers may endorse? Meh. Maybe, maybe not.
Many times even physicians and midwives don’t know how to look for high quality products because they don’t learn that stuff in school. They’ve got people coming in their door left and right, trying to sell 'em their goods, and sometimes a health care provider makes their decision on whomever offers the best package, not necessarily on the quality standards.
So lets get savvy on how to shop for a good prenatal.
Here is what to look for:
Seals of approval. The biggest ones being USP verified and NSF certified. Also, look for ConsumerLab approval. These seals mean the product has been cleared of contamination, delivers what it claims, and manufactures products in alignment with the FDA Good Manufacturing practices.
Other labeling to look for is Potency Guaranteed. This isn't exactly the gold standard, but if a company is willing to put themselves in a legal position as this, then I'm pretty certain they are confident that their products will check out ok.
Third, look for an expiration date. Expiration dates are not required by the FDA, but any company that doesn’t put an expiration date means sketchy business to me. There are some vitamins like B and C that have a short shelf life….so if there is no expiration date, how long do you know that bottle has been sitting there??! Not good.
Fourth, look for red flags on the ingredient list. If you see sugar, artificial colorings, preservatives, shellac or chlorine, put it back. It means subpar quality.
Next, make sure your prenatal has the appropriate dosage:
Folic Acid should be in the 600-800 mcg range.
Iron, around 10-18 mg.
Calcium, around 400-800 mg, and should be in the forms of calcium citrate, calcium lactate, or calcium malate NOT calcium carbonate as that is the form that is the least absorbable…of course it also happens to the cheapest.
And nowadays the newer prenatals are focusing on Vit D, somewhere in the 200-400 IU range.
If you have something special going on like celiac disease or you are taking other medications it is crucial to sit down with your doctor and make sure you are getting compatable doses. Sometimes you might need more of something, other times less than the recommended value.
If your doctor has no clue, find somebody who does. I always think it’s worth getting their opinion.
The following list is of brands that have consistently proven their worth: GNC, New Chapter, MegaFood, Garden of LIfe, Delta Labs, Spring Valley, and Nordic Naturals.
(I'll add here that this list is not exclusive, so just because your prenatal is not on here doesn't mean it might not be good, nor am I affiliated with any of them.)
See ya next time!