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15 Nutrients to Look for in a Postnatal Multivitamin

6 min read

The postpartum phase is one of the most nutritionally demanding life stages—and a prenatal multivitamin might not cover all those needs. Learn why switching to a postnatal vitamin might be a good idea, and what nutrients to look for.
The postpartum phase is one of the most nutritionally demanding life stages—and a prenatal multivitamin might not cover all those needs. Learn why switching to a postnatal vitamin might be a good idea, and what nutrients to look for.

Many moms can likely attest: Those initial first weeks after giving birth are challenging, to say the least. Our bodies go through a lot when we bring another human into this world, and that marathon doesn’t end when we finish laboring. And yet, while there tends to be a lot of focus around preparing for baby, the postpartum period may all too often be overlooked—which isn’t ideal for new moms who have lots of questions.

One big part of that is nutrition—a crucial foundation to help support this highly demanding time in our lives. And if a new mom is breastfeeding, how she’s fueling her body plays an important role in supporting her baby, as well. To put a finer point on it, the committee of scientists and nutrition experts behind the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines recently called for more dietetic research around this crucial lifestage.* (1)

But here’s what we do know: Among the 29 essential micronutrients, lactation increases the demand for more than half of the micronutrients compared to pregnancy and other life stages. And any mom who has recently birthed a child—whether she chooses to breastfeed or not—deserves to feel supported in her body as she traverses this new chapter of life.*

A balanced, nutritionally dense diet is an important start. But since meeting our nutrient demand is so key during the postpartum period (especially if we’re breastfeeding), a multivitamin can be a smart way to help bridge any potential gaps. The catch? Many women may opt to keep taking their prenatal multivitamins which, while better than nothing, aren’t necessarily formulated or the specific postpartum life stage. Others may choose to forego a multivitamin altogether.*

Instead, we recommend opting for a quality postnatal multivitamin specifically designed to support the nutritional needs of postpartum mothers. But let’s dig into what that actually means.

First things first: Here’s when women should consider taking a postnatal multivitamin (and when to stop).

It’s pretty simple, actually: New moms should consider making the switch from a prenatal multivitamin to a postnatal multivitamin as soon as they give birth. This is a good way to help ensure that supplementation can be synced up with the nutritional demands of the postpartum period and lactation.*

As for when to switch back to a regular multivitamin? Our rule of thumb is to take a postnatal multivitamin for at least six months after birth—or potentially longer, if continuing to breastfeed.*

Pro tip: Look for these 15 nutrients in a quality postnatal multivitamin.

It sounds like a lot, but that’s the kind of nutritional support that can help bridge gaps during this highly demanding life stage.*

Vitamin A. This nutrient helps support normal immune function, but 40% of lactating women aren’t consuming enough vitamin A from their diets. Pro tip: There are different forms of vitamin A, but we recommend looking for beta-carotene in a postnatal.* (1)

Vitamin D3. Like vitamin A, vitamin D helps support normal immune function. But diet may not always be the most reliable source. To get specific, most women only meet about 40% of their vitamin D needs through diet alone, which is why supplementation can be a good idea.* (1)

Vitamin C. While most of us consume enough vitamin C during other stages of life, lactating women have higher needs. This nutrient also helps support normal immune function.* (2)

Vitamin E. As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps support against free radicals. The caveat: Up to 85% of women and 70% of lactating women are not getting enough vitamin E from their diets. (1) Just remember that form matters when it comes to meeting nutrient needs. We recommend looking for a vitamin E that’s sourced from mixed tocopherols, which mirrors the spectrum we’d ideally get from our diets.*

Folate. You may already know that folate is a crucial member of our prenatal vitamin lineup. That doesn’t change after birth—women need this nutrient to help support DNA methylation, as well as red blood cell formation. Here’s where things get tricky, though: While a lot of supplements include folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, up to one-third of women have a genetic variation that makes it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid. The workaround? Look for a postnatal multivitamin that contains methylated folate, which is a more bioavailable form of folate.*

Vitamin B12. We all need B12, which helps support normal DNA synthesis and energy-yielding metabolism. But since this nutrient is overwhelmingly found in animal products like red meat and seafood, our vegetarian and vegan friends can be particularly vulnerable to gaps. That’s where a vegan-friendly B12-containing multivitamin can come in handy.*

Magnesium. Did you know that up to 50% of women aren’t getting enough magnesium from their diets? (1) This nutrient works with vitamin D3 to help support normal muscle function and also supports bone health and heart health.*

Zinc. Zinc is yet another member of the postnatal roster that helps support normal immune function. But it can also be another tricky one for vegans and vegetarians, who may be prone to shortfalls of this nutrient.*

Biotin. As with pregnancy, women need more biotin during the postpartum period—even more so while lactating. This nutrient contributes to energy-yielding metabolism. (1,3)

Choline. Talk about an unsung hero. While Choline lends support to brain health, about 86% of lactating women are not getting enough choline from their diet. Choline has been prioritized by a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel as a nutrient to be increased for women who are lactating or postpartum.* (1)

Iodine. While many women can meet their iodine needs through diet alone, pregnant and lactating women simply have higher requirements. To get specific, lactating women need almost twice as much iodine as non-pregnant women, and about 30% more than pregnant women.* (4)

Iron. During pregnancy, iron needs are increased significantly. After giving birth, women’s iron demands lower—but it’s still essential, and vegans might be particularly prone to gaps.*

Boron. This calcium-helper nutrient is an important player in supporting bone health.*

Omega-3 DHA. Fact: Less than 5% of US pregnant and lactating women consume the recommended amount of Omega-3 DHA daily†. Our pro tip? Look for a vegan-friendly omega-3 sourced from microalgae.*

†There is no established Daily Value but experts suggest at least 200 mg per day of DHA.

Vitamin K2. Another nutrient that supports bone health, vitamin K2 can be tricky to consume enough of through diet alone.*

Skip the extras.

Our POV? GMOs, major allergens, animal products, and artificial colors don’t have a place in your multivitamin. Instead, look for a formula that contains key nutrients needed for this life stage, without the BS. Bonus points if it’s housed in a minty, delayed-release capsule.*

The bottom line

Women have enough to think about during those crucial first weeks (and months!) to worry about getting nutrient support from a multivitamin. The right postnatal should help eliminate some of that guesswork—so you can focus on being a new mom.*

References:

  1. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC.
  2. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C Fact Sheet For Health Professionals. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  3. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Biotin Fact Sheet For Health Professionals. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health
  4. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Iodine Fact Sheet For Health Professionals. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health

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Meet Our Science Team

What happens when a Harvard trained physiologist, a biochemist, and a registered dietician walk into a lab? The answer: Ritual multivitamins.

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Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, Senior Director, Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

Science Thumb — Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, PhD, RD, Senior Director, Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a Registered Dietitian. She received her training from Penn State University and University of Connecticut where she researched dietary patterns, chemosensory perception and community nutrition. Her dietetic work is focused on promoting healthy eating habits by translating the science of nutrition into practical information for the public.

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Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.

Science Thumb — Nima

Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.

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Arianne Vance, MPH, Research Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.

Science Thumb — Arianne

Arianne Vance, MPH, Research Scientist

Arianne Vance is a Research Scientist at Ritual. She earned her MPH in Epidemiology from UCLA. Her graduate research focused on maternal and child health, with an emphasis on breastfeeding and maternal mental health. She is passionate about sharing her love of science by presenting cutting-edge research in an accessible and engaging way.