5 Steps to Help Find the Best Prenatal (for You!)
Before getting pregnant, I was a true supplement junkie. I took between 10-20 supplements throughout the day. There was a mix of herbs (in both liquid and tablet form), vitamins, satchels, tablespoons of vitamin C, etc. You name it, I had it. I’m a big believer in all of it given it helps your body perform at its best. It doesn’t replace healthy habits, clean eating and exercise but it helps take your body to the next level. Not to mention it also kept me super healthy and I hadn’t been sick in years.
This post is in collaboration with and sponsored by Bird & Be. All opinions and thoughts remain honest and my own.
Supplements contain important minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids that support overall health and optimize health. However, something I’ve mentioned many times before is that not all supplements are created equal. Let’s shift our thinking to prenatal supplements specifically, since this is going to be the theme for today. When it comes to critical nutrients, the form and the dose is key for bioavailability. Too much can be toxic (especially lipid soluble vitamins) while not enough can result in sub-therapeutic dosing and cause deficiencies. Some vitamins are critical for a healthy pregnancy and it is often less well known to the general population that supplements also benefit gamete quality (sperm and egg), embryo development and placental health. As I dive into the things you need to consider for your prenatal, I will be describing Bird & Be’s in detail because Aaron and I were both taking their prenatals 6+ months before we got pregnant to prepare our bodies. And yes, there’s a prenatal for men because it takes two to tango and you want to give your body the best chance it has so the quality of the sperm can also be improved through the male prenatal. Now let’s dive into the specifics!
When choosing a supplement to consume (or really any product) you want the best quality for a price that’s reasonable. When it comes to the Bird & Be’s formulas, we’re talking about the La Mer quality for the Cerave price tag, which is a complete win. Their formula was developed by the two co-founders of Conceive Health, Dr. Tracy Malone and Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald, who previously developed formulas for global supplement brands. Bird & Be formulas are also validated by Dr. Dan Nayot, Bird & Be’s Chief Medical Advisor, as well as a panel of OBGYNs and REIs, two compounding pharmacists and a series of natural product formulators and regulatory experts. This intense level of review is what you want when you’re betting your body, your hard earned dollar and your future child’s development and health on a supplement. In addition to that, the type, form and dose of each supplement was selected based on peer-reviewed published studies and clinical expertise. This is the real deal, and so much has gone into the creation of the formula from people who are qualified to do so. This is not based on marketing, branding and cute logos. It is based on research and medical studies, which is where I place my loyalty.
More and more we’re hearing about bioavailability. Content creators, and the social media world is generally getting smarter and smarter. I give credit to Gen Z because they’re so curious, always asking questions. Why this? Why is that? It’s all a good time because it forces businesses to use higher quality products if they choose to, and understand their clientele isn’t going to be a specific person if they don’t adjust.
Anytime I have compared supplements, or asked my girlfriends how they compare supplements, it’s clear that all of us collectively have gone for the option that has a higher amount of whatever it is. I bet you do this too! It’s like we’ve been trained that the more there is of something, the better it is right? Not always. All of our bodies use nutrients differently based on genetics and lifestyle habits. This is why some people have a more difficult time converting nutrients into forms that their body can actually absorb, which is how we get to the concept of bioavailability. For example, you might be taking an iron supplement but you may still be iron deficient. You might take an Omega 3 supplement but you could still be deficient. It’s because the supplement or form of those vitamins that you’re taking is not being absorbed by your body.
So instead of taking chances with forms of vitamins that our bodies need to work to convert, Bird & Be has cut to the chase and included active forms of vitamins such as preformed vitamin A, and B Vitamins (Folate, B5, B6, B12). These ready to use nutrients can “walk in” so to speak directly to our cells and start working right away.
One of the major examples of this is the inclusion of both Folate and Folic Acid. Most prenatals will contain one OR the other, but most of us don’t know which form our body will be able to actually take advantage of which is why Bird & Be includes both forms. This way you’re covered no matter what.
Folate versus Folic Acid
Folic Acid is the synthetic form of Folate (B9), and 5-MTHF is the active form found in foods and in many prenatal vitamins. Folic Acid is only found in fortified foods, supplements and pharmaceuticals. It lacks coenzyme activity and must be reduced to the metabolically active tetrahydrofolate form within the cell. L-5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate (L-5-methyl-THF) is the predominant form of dietary folate, and is easiest to metabolize for those with a MTHFR gene variant. When we measure blood folate, studies show that 5-MTHF converts to higher folate concentration in plasma, which is one of the reasons many prenatal brands are choosing this type of Folate.
However, only Folic Acid has been proven to prevent NTDs (Neural Tube Defects) in large scale clinical studies. In addition, many OBGYNs agree that everyone should be on the minimum amount set out by the CDC and Health Canada. Bird & Be prenatals have 400 mcg of Folic Acid (equivalent to 600 mcg of DFE aka dietary folate equivalent). They have also included 600 mcg (or 1,000 mcg DFE) for those that may not process Folic Acid effectively. Most people do not know their gene status, and many don’t want to (or don’t even know they can!) get tested to find out more information about their genes. By including both forms, Bird & Be goes above and beyond to ensure that Folic Acid and Folate are options in the prenatal, and that regardless of gene status, you have enough of both forms in there that your body can absorb it. If you want to nerd out a bit more on this (trust me I did) they provide a deeper dive into Folate vs Folic acid here.
Another example is Iron.
Many prenatals on the market use cheap and less bioavailable forms of Iron in higher doses (cue in us selecting these when we search because we think higher Iron is going to be ideal). However this tends to cause digestive upset like constipation or nausea. Iron can be rough on the stomach in general, but if you’re using a lower quality less bioavailable form, it’s definitely not going to be easy on your insides. Gentler and more bioavailable forms such as Iron Bisglycinate Chelate reduce these side effects, which is specifically why Bird & Be has chosen this form.
The prenatal for a healthy 25 year old is going to (likely) have less ingredients than the one for someone who is advanced maternal age (35+). In addition, someone who has been trying for a bit longer may want an additional boost so it’s important to note that one prenatal is not going to solve every single person’s concerns or be the best fit for a woman in any stage. There are benefits to choosing a more customized prenatal depending on where you are in your journey.
With Gentle, Prenatal and Power packs available, you can target the supplements and nutrients for your own circumstances. In addition, as I mentioned earlier Bird & Be has prenatals for eggs and sperm. While men may have a harder time taking them (anyone else’s husband “forget” to take vitamins basically every day??) there are substantial benefits to ensuring the sperm is also healthy when trying.
In addition, Bird & Be has just added a postpartum formulas and more boosters (calcium, magnesium and lactation support.) I’m looking forward to seeing the postpartum vitamins because I think oftentimes women are overlooked once the baby is born, but that’s really when we need a lot of nutrition and we end up deficient in a lot of areas.
Additional (Beneficial) Ingredients
Bird & Be includes ingredients that other prenatals do not. Trust me I went down the line with some of the most popular prenatals and compared them ingredient by ingredient. I told you I was a supplement junkie!
This fatty acid is necessary for fetal brain, eye and nervous system development, decreases the risk of preterm birth, increases infant birth weight, and decreases occurrence/severity of postpartum depression in new mothers. It also improves sperm parameters. Their vegan DHA softgel is included in every formula and sourced directly from algae. Fish consume algae, or eat other fish that consume algae, so the DHA comes directly from the source. This also means it doesn’t have the fishy aftertaste. Genius if you ask me.
Choline is an essential micronutrient that helps the body break down and process fats. Cells use fat as fuel, and eggs and sperm need A LOT of fuel. Here are a few of the many benefits:
Embryo: Reduces risk of neural tube defects (an important companion to Folate!)
Helps the placenta develop
Most supplements skip or skimp on it. Their prenatal packs 100 mg of Choline Bitartrate into the prenatals for sperm and 150 mg for eggs (a little extra because choline demands are at their highest in pregnancy and lactation).
When it comes to the formulation and adding ingredients, Bird & Be is giving the consumer the best quality in the correct amount based on research and studies. They are not cheapening the products and making a higher margin profit, but rather giving us the best quality for the lowest price. There’s a lot to be said about this.
Made in Canada
For me personally, the FDA is a joke. They approve ingredients like Red 40 and allow for canola oil to be infested in all our food (I mean even the “healthy” options have canola oil as the first ingredient). In addition to that in the US, the FDA is also not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. Personally, I prefer products that have undergone extensive research and science before they're marketed to me.
Bird & Be supplements are made in Canada, where supplements are licensed by Health Canada and before being sold. Their ingredients are also third party tested (not a requirement in the US) so it always adds additional layers to make sure it’s safe and good for us, especially during this sensitive time.
I hope this (somewhat light) breakdown is informative and helps you make the right decision for you and your family, when it comes to prenatals. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, a trained medical professional or anyone qualified to give you health advice. I am merely a content creator who reviews products (across various niches) and gives my personal opinion. The information provided in this post has been fact checked by the Bird & Be team, so it is factual and correct to the best of my knowledge, but please always consult your doctor or medical professional.