Ask the Pharmacist: Nutrients you need before pregnancy

Suzy Cohen
Expert tips on how to optimize the health of a pregnancy.

Did you know a lady came to America from Spain, lied about her age to receive invitro fertilization and had twins at the age of 66! Also, it’s true that a woman’s uterus expands to the size of a watermelon by the third trimester!

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According to the World Fact Book, the United States lags many other countries in terms of maternal death rate. Countries that do better than the U.S. include the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Canada, Germany, Israel, Iceland and many others.

No one is clear on why the U.S. has higher mortality for new moms giving birth, but it’s something that prompted me to do more research. I don’t have a specific answer to that statistic, however, I can certainly offer general vitamin tips to get your body ready for pregnancy, especially if you’ve been taking oral contraceptive medications.

Vitamin B9

Should you take Folic Acid or Folate?  The answer is folate. Folic acid is a man-made B vitamin that is always given to women by doctors. It’s suggested to reduce the risk of spinal cord issues such as spina bifida or other neural tube defects.  

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The recommendation is to take “folic acid” but I’m suggesting “folate.” It’s a more biologically active form of the same nutrient called vitamin B9. But “folic acid” is not the same as methylfolate. Folic acid does not have the “methyl” group that methylfolate has. They’ll tell you it converts in your body, but by the time the folic acid metabolically converts to methylfolate, there’s pretty much nothing left!

So, look for a prenatal that contains “methylfolate” or “folate” in its ingredient list. Those forms are the superior, methyl-promoting forms of “folic acid” and high-quality prenatal vitamins today contain those.


There are many, well-designed studies proving the benefits of DHA for proper fetal development. The healthy compounds from this special fish oil transfer from mother to baby via placenta, during breast-feeding and can also be given as a supplemental to a toddler.

DHA is also needed for proper mental and motor skill development. It can help with allergies and even attention span. Babies born with adequate amounts of DHA have improved levels of cognition.

If you have been on “The Pill” for more than a year, then you may want to consider a few other important nutrients. Certain B vitamins as well as C appear to diminish as well, as does your levels of magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Your blood levels might be elevated, but your cells could be starving. There are tests to determine that of course. Vitamin D and probiotic status are impacted from use of the pill.

Getting your body ready for the strenuous pregnancy ahead requires a lot. Consider trace minerals, a prenatal vitamin that contains “folate” not folic acid and superfoods.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit