As explained in the book, supporting infant brain development starts with making sure you are getting the right nutrients during pregnancy.
A good-quality prenatal multivitamin and a nutritous diet will go a long way toward that goal, but there are likely still a few key nutrients that you will have to supplement separately.
Read on for my top recommendations for choosing a prenatal and the additional supplements you may need during pregnancy to support brain development.
Remember to check with your doctor before adding any new supplements.
What to Look for in a Prenatal
- Choose a prenatal containing methylfolate rather than synthetic folic acid, ideally 800 to 1000 micrograms.
- Check that your prenatal contains at least 150 micrograms of iodine. If it does not, use iodized salt and eat fish or dairy regularly.
- Recommended brands: Ovaterra’s Advanced Prenatal, Mama Bird AM/PM, Thorne Basic Prenatal, UK: Naturelo
Additional Supplements to Support Brain Development During Pregnancy
- Unless you eat eggs on a daily basis, supplement with 300-500 mg per day, whether as part of your prenatal or as a standalone supplement.
- Prenatal containing sufficient choline: Ovaterra’s Advanced Prenatal,
- OR: separate choline supplement: Solgar Choline, Douglas Laboratories Choline Bitartrate, Nested Choline
2. Vitamin D
- The optimal vitamin D level for preventing preterm birth is likely at least 40 ng/ml.
- Many women will need to supplement with 5000 IU per day to reach that level.
- Look for a soft gel or liquid version containing vitamin D3.
- Good brands to consider: Doctor’s Best, Seeking Health
- Seeking Health Optimal D3 Liquid seems to be among the most effective brands for addressing vitamin D deficiency. It has 2000 IU per drop. One option is to start with 3 drops per day for two weeks (i.e. 6000 IU), then reduce to 2 drops per day (i.e. 4000 IU).
3. Fish oil/ Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Choose a good-quality fish oil supplement providing at least 500 mg DHA, along with at least some EPA.
- Alternatively, eat lower-mercury cold-water fish, such as salmon, at least 2 or 3 times per week.
- Top recommendation: Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA
- Other good brands to consider: Garden of Life Prenatal Omega 3 Fish Oil; Best value: NOW DHA-500
- Most women will get enough iron from their diet and prenatal multivitamin, so there is no need to take a separate iron supplement unless blood tests suggest a deficiency. (Getting tested for anemia in the third trimester is important!)
- If you are anemic and your doctor recommends taking additional iron, look for iron bisglycinate, a form with fewer digestive side effects.
- Recommended brands: Solgar Gentle Iron , Thorne Iron Bisglycinate
- As will be discussed in Chapter 17, adding a probiotic during pregnancy is optional, but may help to reduce inflammation and support a healthy microbiome for your baby. For that purpose, one good choice is L. rhamnosus GG, found in Culturelle.
- In the third trimester, certain strains are helpful to reduce the odds of testing positive for Group B streptococcus and therefore requiring antibiotics at delivery. These strains are: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, found in Jarrow Femdophilus , Rephresh ProB and Metagenics Ultra Flora Women’s.