Prenatal vitamins for PCOS can be a valuable tool to boost fertility, have a healthy pregnancy, and ultimately a healthy baby.
If this is your goal, you’ll absolutely want to incorporate a good prenatal vitamin supplement into your routine. But which prenatal vitamins are best for PCOS?
If you’re new here, hi! I’m Alyssa, a registered dietitian and fellow PCOS-er. I’m here to help you comb through the BS and get clear info on PCOS.
This article will dive into why prenatal vitamins are important and which nutrients you’ll want to look for. I’ll also provide you with a few brand names of prenatal vitamins for PCOS that I frequently recommend to my clients and how to determine which one is the best option for your unique needs.
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Prenatal vitamins are essentially a multivitamin for pregnant women. They provide higher levels of certain nutrients that have been identified as beneficial for a healthy pregnancy.
If you are already pregnant, prenatal supplements are absolutely a good idea for anyone, including those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Since it takes about 90 days for an egg to fully mature before ovulation, it’s wise to take prenatal vitamins 3-6 months prior to when you’re planning to conceive. They can help to improve egg quality, which will ultimately increase pregnancy and live birth rates.
Now, you may be wondering if prenatal vitamins are good for PCOS if you’re not pregnant nor are you trying to conceive. Let’s dive into that.
The answer as to whether you should take prenatals if you’re not trying to conceive is a bit gray. Depending upon your symptoms and what your current dietary intake looks like, prenatal vitamins may be helpful for preventing some nutrient deficiencies. But for some people, it may not be necessary and may be a waste of money.
You may be better off identifying which specific PCOS symptoms you’re struggling with and choosing individual supplements that can improve them.
Some of my favorite PCOS supplements that I often recommend to my clients are fish oil, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, berberine, or an inositol supplement.
Be sure to read these articles to get a little more clarity on some common supplements:
Prenatal vitamins likely won’t magically get you pregnant. Although, they will provide essential nutrients that can optimize your body and get it ready for a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins can improve egg quality, which can increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins don’t increase ovulation rates though…and you can’t get pregnant if you’re not ovulating. Ovulation patterns can often be sporadic for those with PCOS, particularly if you’re struggling with irregular periods.
If pregnancy is your goal, consider your diet. The foods you’re eating, in addition to taking a high quality prenatal supplement, can make a big difference. A healthy diet can help to improve the underlying hormonal imbalances, regulate your periods, and significantly increase your chances of getting pregnant.
If you’re feeling stuck with where to start on what to eat to improve your fertility and get pregnant, I’ve got you. Be sure to check out this blog: PCOS Diet To Get Pregnant (Free PDF & Recipes)
Probably not. Prenatal vitamins are not a magical potion that can prevent everything unfortunately.
The hormones that are produced during pregnancy can decrease your insulin sensitivity. This means that it’s more difficult for your body to manage your blood sugar levels with the insulin you’re able to make. Given the high prevalence of insulin resistance with PCOS, women with PCOS are unfortunately at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Some research has shown that myo-inositol supplementation may be effective in preventing gestational diabetes in women with PCOS (1).
When you’re trying to conceive or are already pregnant, there are certain nutrients that are very important to prioritize. These nutrients have been identified as being very important for preventing birth defects and pregnancy complications, while ensuring proper fetal growth and development.
Let’s explore the nutrients that are needed in higher amounts during pregnancy. We’ll also discuss how much is needed and which foods are good sources of these nutrients.
Omega 3 fatty acids are emerging in more recent years as a vital component for a healthy pregnancy. They’re particularly important for fetal brain and eye development (2). There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA.
ALA is found primarily in plant sources. Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and canola oil are all good sources of ALA omega 3 fatty acids.
DHA and EPA are the most biologically active and have been shown to improve childhood development when the mother ingests adequate amounts of these types of omega 3’s (3). Our bodies can convert ALA into DHA and EPA, however, it doesn’t do this very effectively so consuming food sources or supplements with DHA and EPA is necessary.
DHA and EPA are found primarily in fish and seafood sources. It’s recommended to consume low mercury fish sources during pregnancy. Salmon, sardines, herring, and trout are low mercury fish that are good sources of DHA and EPA.
The recommendations for omega 3 fatty acids during pregnancy are 1400 milligrams (mg) of ALA daily and at least 200 mg of DHA daily. If you don’t regularly consume food sources that are high in ALA, DHA, and EPA, you’ll want to consider a prenatal supplement that can provide you with these.
Folic acid or folate are arguably two of the most common nutrients we hear discussed when it comes to pregnancy. For good reason too since this nutrient has long been studied for its ability to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida in early pregnancy.
Since early pregnancy is a crucial time to prevent neural tube defects, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends taking 400 micrograms of folic acid supplementation for at least one month prior to pregnancy (4).
Folic acid and folate aren’t really equal though so let’s talk about the difference between these two nutrients.
Folate is also known as vitamin B9. It’s naturally occurring in a wide variety of food sources such as spinach, black eyed peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and rice.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It’s frequently used in prenatal vitamins or added to certain foods such as fortified cereals.
Since folic acid is artificially made and doesn’t naturally occur in the body, it must go through a methylation process before it can actually be used in the body. In other words, your body must convert folic acid into a usable form of folate, which can then participate in several bodily processes. Some women may have a difficult time converting folic acid to the usable form of folate – particularly if they have a common gene mutation called MTHFR.
Most of the folate found naturally in foods is a methylated version of folate called 5-MTFH. This type of folate also accounts for over 95% of the folate in our bodies (5). When choosing a prenatal supplement, I usually recommend choosing one with a methylated version of folate. If this sounds confusing to you, don’t worry, I’ve outlined some of my favorite prenatal vitamins below that all fit the bill for folate.
The recommendation for pregnant women is to consume at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily. This can be in the form of food or supplementation.
Pregnant women have higher iron requirements. A non-pregnant adult woman who is menstruating needs 18 mg of iron daily. For pregnant women, the recommended iron intake increases to 27 mg of iron per day.
Iron is necessary for creating more blood and delivering oxygen to the fetus. If you’re not consuming enough iron from food or your daily supplements, you can develop iron deficiency anemia.
Both animal foods and plant based foods can contain iron. Animal foods contain heme iron, while plant-based foods contain non-heme iron. The body absorbs heme iron significantly better than non-heme iron.
Foods that are good sources of heme iron include oysters, beef liver, sardines, beef, and chicken. Non-heme iron sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, spinach, cashews, and potatoes.
Vitamin D is another key nutrient during pregnancy. While it is known as a vitamin, it’s actually a hormone as well. Coincidentally, vitamin D deficiency is particularly common in PCOS (6).
Low vitamin D levels can cause higher androgen levels, such as high testosterone levels. This may actually contribute to menstrual cycle irregularities and lower ovulation rates, making it more difficult to get pregnant. Higher vitamin D levels are associated with better IVF outcomes and more live births.
Vitamin D is important to increase fertility, but it’s also very important once you’re pregnant also. It contributes to fetal bone and teeth formation, as well as normal cell growth and development.
The current recommendations for vitamin D in pregnancy for the general population is 15 mcg (600 IU) daily. Those with PCOS likely need higher amounts of daily vitamin D though (remember, vitamin D is a hormone). 2000 to 4000 IU of vitamin D daily has been suggested although there is not an established recommendation. Vitamin D levels over 30 ng/mL are associated with better pregnancy outcomes (7). Talk to your healthcare provider about having your vitamin D levels checked.
Food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, salmon, trout, mushrooms, and fortified dairy. It’s often difficult to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone so many women do require vitamin D supplementation.
Choline is another nutrient that has more recently come into focus as one of the key nutrients for pregnancy. It is essential for fetal brain development and the prevention of birth defects.
The recommended amount of choline for pregnancy is 450 mg of choline per day. Food sources of choline include beef liver, eggs, beef, soybeans, chicken breast, and cod.
Calcium needs are higher during pregnancy, going from 1000 mg to 1300 mg daily. This mineral plays an important role in bone and teeth formation, along with the development of heart, muscles, and nerves.
Food sources of calcium include fortified dairy products, fortified plant milks and juices, sardines, tofu, spinach, and kale.
Now that we’ve talked about key nutrients that should be prioritized for pregnancy and even preconception, how the heck do you choose a prenatal vitamin for PCOS?! Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
There are a few things I look for when it comes to nutrition supplements for PCOS and pregnancy. I’ll look for quality, purity, vitamin forms used, and the vitamin dosage.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements. Because of this, you’ll want to look for a supplement company that uses third party testing to ensure that what you’re getting is what they say you’re getting.
Choosing the right prenatal vitamin for you will depend upon your individual needs and what your diet looks like. Because of formulation practices, there isn’t one single prenatal that has absolutely everything that everyone will need in it. For example, it’s difficult to find a prenatal vitamin that has an adequate amount of both iron and omega 3 fatty acids in one supplement. You’ll need to evaluate your options, your dietary intake, and then determine if you need to include an additional supplement, such as iron, separately.
Note: it’s important to always take your prenatal vitamins with a meal that contains fat so that you’re able to adequately absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your supplement.
There are several prenatal vitamins that can be good choices for you and your unique needs. This is not an exclusive list.
Here are a few of the best prenatal vitamins for PCOS:
This may be a good option for someone who has iron deficiency or increased iron needs. It does not have any DHA or EPA so if you don’t consume fatty fish, you may need an additional supplement.
These gummy prenatal vitamins are not my first recommendation for a prenatal vitamin, however, it’s a good option for those in various situations such as struggling with nausea or taking large pills. There are lower amounts of most nutrients in these prenatal gummies. Additionally, there’s no iron, DHA, or EPA so you may need additional supplementation if you’re unable to get these nutrients from a balanced diet.
The FullWell prenatal multivitamin has significantly higher levels of calcium, choline, and vitamin D than you’ll find in most prenatal vitamins. The serving size requires you to take 8 capsules daily. It doesn’t provide any iron, DHA, or EPA.
The Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal has significantly higher levels of calcium and vitamin D than you’ll find in most prenatal vitamins. It has ample amounts of choline, although less choline than the FullWell option. The serving size requires you to take 8 capsules daily. It doesn’t provide any iron, DHA, or EPA.
The company Theralogix manufactures this prenatal vitamin. Theralogix also manufactures the popular inositol supplement Ovasitol. This prenatal supplement provides adequate amounts of iron, vitamin D, and the omega-3 DHA, along with ample amounts of choline. If you choose to use this prenatal vitamin, use my provider code PRC: 202702 to save 15%.
After reading through these prenatal vitamin supplement options, you may need additional supplementation. If you need to supplement with additional DHA and EPA, I recommend this omega 3 fatty acid supplement.
If you need to supplement with additional iron, I recommend this iron supplement.
Taking prenatal vitamins is important for pregnant people and for those trying to conceive. They should supplement a healthy diet, not replace it.
Prenatal vitamins provide essential vitamins that support fetal growth and development. They’re also important to reduce pregnancy complications and birth defects, especially of the brain and spinal cord.
Key nutrients that are important for pregnancy and prenatal supplements include folic acid or folate, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, omega 3 fatty acids, choline, iodine, and vitamin D.
Choosing the best prenatal vitamins for you will depend on your specific needs.
Disclaimer: This is for educational purposes only. It does not replace medical advice. It is not intended to treat any medical conditions including polycystic ovary syndrome. Always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new nutritional supplements.
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