Your prenatal vitamin is more than just a vitamin – it’s a potent little capsule brimming with key nutrients that include minerals, antioxidants, and yes, other vitamins, all of which support your fertility health and your growing baby. But while people tend to throw the terms around interchangeably, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are distinct. Here’s what makes all three different and why they matter in your prenatal vitamin.
Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants, Oh My
- Vitamins are organic nutrients derived from plants or animals. There are 13 essential vitamins, including A, C, D, E, and K, plus the B vitamins. They all play important roles to keep the body functioning, and some are especially critical during preconception and pregnancy.
- Minerals differ from vitamins in that they’re inorganic elements in soil and water, which are then absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. Fifteen minerals, including calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, and selenium, have been identified as essential for health. Like vitamins, specific minerals are even more important if you’re trying for a baby or currently pregnant.
- Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation, a reaction that can produce free radicals in the body. Nutrient antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, plus the minerals copper, zinc, and selenium, are typically found in produce, which is why a diet rich in fruits and veggies is so important for our general health. Nuts, whole grains, and some meats can be good sources of antioxidants as well. But wherever they come from, antioxidants are really important during pregnancy, for reasons we outline below.
In your prenatal vitamin, you’ll benefit from a specialized blend of specific vitamins and minerals, some of which qualify as antioxidants. Nutrition has long been established as important during pregnancy for mamas and babies, and insufficient nutrients during the preconception and pregnancy stage can have serious consequences.
What to Look for in a Prenatal
So, what exactly should you be seeing on that prenatal vitamin label? We’re so glad you asked! There is no single standard for nutrients and more specifically, amounts of those nutrients, when it comes to prenatal vitamins. Let’s be clear – there absolutely should be. But it is what it is, so here at Beli, we referenced all the the available research on fertility and prenatal health and deferred to the authorities in the field – specifically, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) – to formulate the most effective prenatal vitamin possible.
Let’s break down the nutrients in Beli for Women, which category each falls into, and why it’s something you need if you’re planning on a baby or navigating the ups and downs of pregnancy.
- Vitamin C. Yes, it’s a vitamin, and in a prenatal vitamin, it supports the development of your baby’s bones and teeth. For mamas-to-be, vitamin C supports immunity and aids in the absorption of iron. Important note here that the body can’t store vitamin C, which means we need a steady supply.
- Vitamin B6 and B12. This pair of B vitamins works together during specific points of the ovulation cycle. But they offer individual benefits too. One study found that higher B12 blood levels can support fertility in women who are undergoing treatment for infertility. Meanwhile, B6 lowers the level of a certain amino acid, which is linked to higher rates of pregnancy. It also helps promote balanced levels of estrogen and progesterone.
- Vitamin D. Surprise – vitamin D is technically a hormone, not a vitamin, and it’s non-negotiable for absorbing calcium properly. Another surprise – Beli for Women is one of the only prenatal vitamins on the market meeting the APA’s recommendation of 4,000 IU of vitamin D. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “It is unlikely your prenatal vitamin provides enough vitamin D. A recent study found women taking 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing preterm labor/births and infections.” Vitamin D deficiencies are a big deal – they’re linked to complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, postpartum depression, and a higher risk of miscarriage. For your baby, insufficient vitamin D levels can be detrimental to healthy bone development and long-term health after delivery.
- Vitamin E. This vitamin really is a vitamin, and it helps protect both reproductive function and egg quality. It’s found abundantly in skincare products because of its impressive ability to supercharge cellular repair, and it works similar magic in human eggs by defending against oxidative damage.
- Zinc. This trace mineral helps support reproductive hormones, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to conceive.
- Vitamin K2. This vitamin assists in the production of progesterone and estrogen. It’s also particularly beneficial for women with PCOS. In one study, women with PCOS who supplemented with K2 had lower levels of free testosterone and DHEA for greater hormonal healing.
- Folate. A bioavailable form of folic acid, which is a B vitamin, this critical nutrient is needed by every single cell in your body for healthy growth and development. Before and during pregnancy, it helps prevent neural tube defects. In fact, that’s one of the reasons women hoping to conceive are advised to start prenatal vitamins well before a pregnancy.
- Choline. This compound isn’t a vitamin or a mineral, and it rivals folate in terms of its importance during pregnancy (actually, it’s often grouped with that B vitamin complex because of their similarities). Beli is one of the only prenatal vitamins with the recommended 400 mg of choline, which is key for proper spinal cord and brain development, as well as protection against neural tube defects.
- Chromium. This essential mineral may help improve fertility in women with PCOS. During pregnancy, it’s particularly important if you develop gestational diabetes.
- Magnesium. We need this mineral all the time, but particularly during pregnancy. It aids in the growth and development of your baby before pregnancy and during the newborn stage. Plus, research shows magnesium influences fetal programming and disease presentation in childhood or adulthood.
- Iodine. Another trace mineral, iodine supports thyroid hormones for mom and baby, which assists normal brain and nervous system development.
Quick note here – Just as important as what we put into Beli prenatal vitamins is what we left out. Beli for Women is intentionally formulated without vitamin A, which can be harmful in the earliest stages of pregnancy. In excess amounts, it’s associated with congenital birth abnormalities, and many women receive adequate amounts of vitamin A in their diet. We also exclude DHA, not because it’s not important during pregnancy, but rather because it’s not shelf stable when combined with other nutrients. It’s best accessed through food or with a separate supplement.
When it comes to conception and pregnancy, knowledge really is power. Understanding the differences between vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as which belong in your prenatal vitamin, sets you up for all the excitement to come.