Real Women Talk About Prenatal Supplements

Pete Croatto, Contributing Editor

August 2, 2012

6 Min Read
Real Women Talk About Prenatal Supplements

When I was a newspaper reporter, my editors were always on us to get quotes from "real people" ordinary folks who didn't have an official title. I always hated it doing this, because it meant killing an afternoon as I interrupted confused and annoyed people about a zoning ordinance or snow storms.

With prenatal supplements, I think it's refreshing to get to the "real person" perspective. It's very easy to get caught up in studies and statistics and not seek the opinion of people taking these supplements. In the case of prenatal, most women are advised to take them by their doctors, so there's huge research potential.   

I happen to have a lot of female friends and family members who were recently pregnant. If ever there was a time to develop a makeshift focus group, this was it. So, I took to Twitter and Facebook for opinions. Boy, oh boy, did I get some good ones.

I have kept the identity of these women anonymous.

Woman #1

I think the supplements helped (and still do). I am not the healthiest eater, so I wanted to make sure that I was getting everything I needed to grow a healthy baby. I took Now Foods Prenatal [Woman #1 worked there] while I was trying to get pregnant, throughout my pregnancy and while nursing. I noticed from the very beginning that my nails were stronger and my hair seemed to be growing faster. Once I got pregnant, I always had the energy to make it through the day and at night I slept well (at least until the very end when I was too big to get comfortable). Was that ALL due to the vitamin? Probably not. But I can't help but think that it helped in a major way. I have a very healthy baby boy that is growing and maturing just like he should be. I couldn't ask for anything more.

As a pregnant woman, I was VERY careful what I put into my body. I think that I was even more careful because it was my first. I was extremely wary of anything over the counter, even Tums. I was told by my doctor that it was okay to take Pepcid Complete for my horrible heartburn and ibuprofen for aches and pains but that scared me so I stayed away. I think I took two ibuprofen my entire pregnancy.

Along those lines, choosing a prenatal can be tough. There are so many products on the market that range from having the minimum recommended ingredients to having way over what is recommended for a pregnant woman. And there are products out there that have stuff in them that I have never heard of. That is scary to me. I don’t want to put something in my body that has never been studied or has only been studied in five adult males or only in mice in China. Which leads me to another point, it would really be helpful for those of us wanting to learn more in a limited amount of time if manufacturers would put more information about the ingredients on their website – even better if the info was on the same page as the product.

And when I say information, give me study info, not just a definition. If the prenatal has Amino Acids in it, tell me why they are good for pregnant women and show me the study (or an abstract) where it says that it’s good. Make it easy for me. Consumers, like me, are lazy. I want what is best, but I’m not going to spend hours going over the fine details to make a choice. I think that is part of the reason so many people resort to buying a prenatal at a big retailer. It’s easy and they saw an ad on TV that said it was good. I know the natural products manufacturers don’t have the money to advertise on TV, but the easier they can make it for me to choose, the more likely I will.

Lastly, before I chose a prenatal, I had to know the manufacturer and know that they really did have me and my baby's best interest at heart. I'm lucky in that I have worked for NOW Foods so I know how they source and store their ingredients and I know how they manufacture. I know their products are great. I also know that if I have a question about the product, I can call them directly and they will answer all of my questions. I don’t think I would ever choose a product that I couldn’t call the manufacturer directly and ask questions (without getting shuffled around 10 times.)

I think one thing for manufacturers to keep in mind is that pregnancy is a very scary time for most new moms. They don’t want to do anything wrong, anything that would hurt the baby. The more information a pregnant woman can get the better.

Woman #2

Make them more palatable for a woman with terrible morning sickness. So many vitamins and supplements have a really nasty smell/taste, especially DHA supplements. I didn't have terrible morning sickness (just some queasiness) and even I had some difficulty tolerating some of the other pills I tried. I know of many women who just don't take them in the beginning because their size/smell made it impossible to keep them down.

Also, from a prescriber's perspective; we need more Kosher supplements. I know it's not a huge market, but we really struggle finding a prenatal vitamin/supplement that our Jewish patients can take. (Woman #2 works in a fertility center.) Sometimes we don't even know of one that we can recommend.

Women #3

There were little things that were nice--stronger fingernails and healthier looking hair, that kind of thing. But the best was that I felt emotionally very at peace and happy. I know some people would mark that up simply to the pregnancy, but I stayed on the supplements for about seven months after my daughter was born and noticed a difference once I went off.              

Woman #4

I felt you get what you pay for as far as prenatals. The OTC were worse than the prescription. And the generic prescription was definitely worse than the brand name. You got the sense that the pharmaceutical manufacturers had listened to past complaints and ticked them all off a checklist.

The prescription had all the bells and whistles in one pill: stool softener, DHA and no aftertaste. The gelcap form made it easier to swallow (prenatal vitamins are HUGE) and the pill itself had a vague vanilla taste when you put it in your mouth -- similar to the first second of a Tic Tac. At the risk of being vulgar, I'd also say the prescription "burped" better. The air came up citrus as opposed to fishy.

About the Author(s)

Pete Croatto

Contributing Editor

Pete Croatto is a freelance writer in Ithaca, New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland,, VICE Sports, and Publishers Weekly. 

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like