Saturday Review: Supplements

Health and nutrition is a big deal, and it becomes a bigger deal when you're preparing for pregnancy, when you're pregnant, or when you're parenting small children.

As you know, I'm a huge advocate for getting your nutrition from “real foods.”  I have an extensive section on pregnancy nutrition, a site devoted to preconception health with a huge section on nutrition, and I wrote a book about baby and toddler nutrition!

So I really do think you should get a lot of your nutrition from your food – the way we were designed to.  But I also think there's room for supplements in your diet.  There are some supplements I really think everyone should be getting (food-based ones).  And there are some that I think are good for specific times.  I wanted to highlight a few that have been helpful to me since Honor was born.

Nutritional Support for Emotional Struggle

I struggled with prenatal depression while I was pregnant with Honor.  It was a really hard time for me and it took a lot of willpower and a lot of prayer just for me to make sure I was eating the way I knew I should for my baby.  I still feel guilty about the rough time I had during pregnancy.

I felt pretty confident that a good birth would help me bond with Honor and bring with it a whole host of hormones to help me fall in love.  But I also knew that postpartum depression is a very real issue for many women and that I was probably predisposed to it.

Honor's birth was a wonderful experience for me and the hormonal rush did come right away.  I was truly blessed.  My sweet baby is more than I ever could have asked for and I love her so much.  But even totally head-over-heels in love I still worried about depression creeping back.  I was far more motivated to prevent it now, after having experienced it.  So I immediately started researching nutritional approaches to helping prevent it.  I found a wealth of information, and here are some of the things I decided to take:

Cod Liver Oil

I always recommend cod liver oil because of its very high nutrient profiles.  It is truly a super food.  It provides good amounts of vitamin A and D and a dose of healthy fats to help other vitamin and mineral absorption.  I also took cod liver oil during pregnancy – in fact, the entire family takes it.  We take fermented cod liver oil from Green Pastures.  My kids take this without complaint 🙂

Prenatal Vitamin

Believe it or not, I had a hard time taking a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy!  I don't feel they're absolutely essential and I had a good diet, but I've always taken one and felt kind of bad for not doing so.

After Honor was born, though, I felt much more motivated to take one, and I went back to the trusted one I took throughout pregnancy and nursing Galen.  The New Chapter Perfect Prenatal is a food-based vitamin that's easy on the tummy.  It's taken 3 times a day, so I just take it with meals.  If you order it via Amazon's “Subscribe and Save” program it comes to around $17 a month, which I think is reasonable for such a high-quality vitamin.

I think a prenatal and cod liver oil is a great supplement combination for preconception, pregnancy, and nursing.

Fish Oil

I decided to add salmon oil in to get extra essential fatty acids for both myself and Honor.  Salmon oil offers a different nutrient profile than cod liver oil and has an excellent compliment of Omega 3 oils as part of a great Omega oil profile.  I chose New Chapter again because I trust their vitamins and quality.  I have been taking their Wholemega Salmon Oil in 1000mg caps two times a day (one with breakfast and one with supper).

B-Vitamins

I specifically chose to increase my B-vitamins because they have been shown to help with depression.  At this point I have not had to struggle with depression at all since Honor was born.  To me this is wonderful, both because I did struggle during pregnancy and because Honor is a really fussy baby!  I have definitely felt stressed and overwhelmed a couple of times, but I have not felt the hopeless depression that haunted the middle of my pregnancy.

I can't say for certain if it's the vitamins (and fish oils) that are helping, but I feel like they're certainly not hurting!  I decided to go with a complete B vitamin complex plus additional levels of certain B vitamins.  The complex I chose is again a New Chapter – their Coenzyme B Food Complex.  I take this twice a day (with my morning and afternoon snack).

I also chose to take additional levels of certain B vitamins:

  • 400mg of folic acid twice a day (with both snacks)
  • 1000mg of B-12 once a day (this is a time-release caplet)
  • 100mg of B-6 once a day

These are the B vitamins that have been most shown to help in cases of depression and I feel that at this point it's a good idea to keep taking them.

Other Supplements

I also have an iodine supplement and a Vitamin D supplement.  I take these periodically throughout the week because I don't feel I need them on a daily basis.  The D supplement is Carlson Ddrops in 2000IU (these are D3, the kind you want), and the iodine is Optimox Iodoral 12.5mg tablets.

I am not taking a probiotic right now, but I think it's prudent to do so.  I'd like to either start taking one after researching it a bit, or I will probably drink a small amount of kombucha daily.  We do get probiotics via cultured veggies and yogurt, but I think more is a good thing.

The Verdict

It's a lot to take!  The extra B vitamins are a lot to swallow, but since research shows they help depression, I'm willing to take them.  Plus B vitamins have an excellent track record for being helpful during pregnancy (believe it or not, I would like to have another baby eventually :p)  I think it's prudent to keep up with them since life is pretty intense 😉

One big benefit I've noticed with the supplements is that I'm absolutely regular in going to the bathroom every day.  This has not been true for me at all times in my life, and it definitely started when I started taking all the supplements.  I can't pinpoint it to which one, but it's very nice.

I've also felt resilient despite the stresses that go with a fussy newborn, a toddler, three elementary children, homeschooling, running a household, and running a business.  I think that all the nutritional support is definitely helping, and will keep it up.

None of the supplements upset my tummy, either, which I think is important to note.  I feel like they're high quality and probably are well-absorbed.  And at this point, even if the effects are all in my head, they're all very worth it 😉

My Schedule

Remember you need to research and consult for your own supplements – I'm not a doctor, just a mama sharing her experience.  But to give you an idea, here's what my schedule is:

  • Breakfast: Prenatal,Salmon Oil
  • Snack: B-Complex, B6, B12, Folic Acid
  • Lunch: Prenatal, Cod Liver Oil
  • Snack: B-Complex, Folic Acid
  • Supper: Prenatal, Salmon Oil

About the author 

Kristen

Kristen is childbirth educator, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! She has spent years helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Find her on her website NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com and helping families through her online childbirth class MamaBabyBirthing.com

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  1. Great post 🙂 I’m always curious to see what supplements/foods health-conscious mamas intake to make sure they are getting everything they need. My pregnant friend showed me her prenatals from gerber and they weren’t very good even though she insisted they were the best on the market. I know I’ll be referencing this page when I need to in the future 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting this, Kristen! Would you recommend the same supplements for pregnancy? I am at the end of the first trimester and have been experiencing some depression. My midwife said my thyroid counts were a little low and that may have something to do with it. Have you heard of this and what is your perspective?

    1. I have heard that thyroid issues can cause depression, and I know that a lot of women get relief from treating imbalances. If your midwife recommends supplementation for it I would say to try that.

      I would feel completely comfortable taking all the supplements I mentioned during pregnancy – they are all at safe levels for pregnancy. You can discuss them with your midwife and get her opinion on them. B6 and folic acid are both routinely supplemented during pregnancy 🙂

  3. Kristen,
    I also wanted to ask you about the cod and salmon oil. Do you have problems with aftertaste with the brands you use? I have some Trader Joe’s fish oil capsules that I can’t even take because of my nausea.
    Thanks again!

    1. Stephanie – the Wholemega salmon oil leaves no aftertaste for me, though some reviewers noted it did for them. I always take it with a meal so that may make a difference.

      The Cod Liver Oil won’t leave an aftertaste long, but it can cause fishy burps. I will admit it is not easy to take (though my kids take it with no problem). I also serve this with meals (just before), and I take mine with a bite of food prepared and ready to go in as soon as the Cod Liver Oil.

  4. Kristen,
    Could you elaborate on the Cod Liver Oil? Like, how much of the cod liver oil do you take? Which exact product from Green Pastures do you take? I’m currently breastfeeding our 11 month old baby. I recently got the Green Pastures Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil in capsules (got the capsules as I wasn’t too sure about the taste). Thanks!

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