When I got pregnant for the first time, I dutifully asked my OB which prenatal vitamins I should be taking. I also asked her what I should be eating (or not), if I needed a flu shot, and so forth. Generally, I did whatever I was told, which included taking two Flintstones chewable vitamins each day (I had awful morning sickness so this was the most I could handle).
Everything was going fine until the end of my pregnancy. I started experiencing severe constipation, which actually caused me to start bleeding heavily. One trip to the hospital later (the baby and I were fine), the doctor informed me that it might be the iron in the chewable vitamins causing the problems. Worried, I immediately stopped taking them, and the constipation got less severe.
Then, out of desperation, I had to start taking the vitamins again after my daughter was born because my iron levels were so low. To my surprise, they worked, but only for a few weeks before I suffered from constipation and general malaise again.
So when I became pregnant a second time, I decided to do my own research and veer from doing exactly as my doctor instructed. After all, women have been giving birth much longer than prenatal vitamins have been available. I started to discover a more natural way of living, from skipping some of the optional prenatal tests (like the quad screen) to eating a different type of diet, which prompted me to plan a home birth. Needless to say, prenatal vitamins didn’t exactly fit into my new picture. Rather than pop pills, I used a bottle of liquid prenatals that I mixed into my smoothie each day – a supposedly more whole-foods-based and absorbable variety. I didn’t notice any difference in my health though.
Still on my quest for a more natural way of living, I discovered Weston A. Price, an organization that teaches traditional diet principles. That is, eschewing modern processed foods in favor of what our great-grandmothers ate – “real food,” if you will. My husband and I learned all about eating sprouted grains, pastured meats, raw milk, plenty of organic produce, and even taking fermented cod liver oil. We became all about probiotic foods. I was so much healthier and felt so much better eating this way.
The answer, ultimately, was no. I did not want to take a prenatal vitamin. I know my decision is met with criticism by my peers and by medical professionals, but that’s okay with me. I didn’t need a supplement to make me or my baby healthy. All the evidence I needed was in how my body reacted to supplements – they never made a bit of noticeable difference in how good I felt, while healthy foods made me feel genuinely good.So, when I did conceive my third baby, I had a choice to make: Did I think that a prenatal vitamin was worth it? And if so, was there one that I would find acceptable, given my lifestyle?
Instead, in choosing my pregnancy diet, I tried to be very careful. I drank lots of (raw) milk, ate only pastured meats (at home), lots of eggs, spinach almost everyday, lots of lettuce (leafy greens for folic acid and iron!), yogurt, lots of other fruits and vegetables, I never skimped on the fat, and so on. I limited grains and sugars and any junk food that would have “taken away from” my excellent nutrition. Not that I didn’t cheat from time to time, but overall I tried to do very well.
And indeed, throughout my pregnancy I tested extremely well on every measure and felt great. I didn’t suffer from any anemia for the first time, nor any spotting, nor any of the other minor annoyances that I thought just came with pregnancy. I carried my baby all the way to 40 weeks (for the first time), and he was born weighing a pound and a half more than my other babies with a perfectly healthy placenta. By following my own mother’s intuition and backing it up with trustworthy information, I was able to have an extremely healthy baby without any medical intervention – something women have been doing since the beginning of time.