Anytime someone gets pregnant in the movies or on TV, the first thing they’re usually told is that they need to start taking prenatal multivitamins. In the 2007 Oscar-nominated film Juno, for example, as soon as Elliot Page’s character, Juno MacGuff, drops the bombshell that she’s pregnant, her stepmom – played by Allison Janney – leaps into action, announcing that the teen needs, you guessed it, prenatal multivitamins.
Okay, understood, prenatal multivitamins are important during pregnancy. Your physician may even recommend taking one while you’re still trying to conceive. But what exactly makes a “prenatal” different from your everyday multivitamin?
While prenatal multivitamins can vary, they ultimately contain additional key nutrients – such as choline – that support the baby’s neural tube development in utero. One prenatal multivitamin that contains choline, as part of its 12 key nutrients for pregnancy, is Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin, which was designed for both pregnant women and those TTC. In addition to their prenatal multivitamin, Ritual recently released a Choline dietary supplement for expectant and breastfeeding mothers called Natal Choline.*
Learn more about Ritual, and get 20% off your first month.
What is choline?
If you’ve never heard of choline, you’re not alone. But it’s definitely time for the two of you to get acquainted, especially if you’re pregnant or TTC. First of all, all plants and animals need Choline to help preserve the structural integrity of cells. Choline also serves as the precursor for acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in nervous system functions. For those who are pregnant or TTC, however, Choline plays an even more important role in the fetus’s health. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Choline helps with the fetus’s brain development and neural tube development.*
How can I best add choline to my diet?
The good news is that choline is likely part of your diet already: “Choline is naturally present in various types of foods like eggs, beef liver, salmon, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts,” says Mastaneh Sharafi, Ph.D., RD, VP, Scientific & Clinical Affairs at Ritual. But, it may not be enough to just start eating more eggs and veggies. “It can actually be difficult to get enough Choline from food alone when pregnant,” warns Dr. Sharafi. So much so that she says “More than 95% of pregnant women don’t get enough Choline [through food alone].”
This is why people who are pregnant or TTC may wish to consider including a prenatal multivitamin with Choline, as well as a dedicated Choline supplement, in their routine.
Why is it important to take a choline supplement during pregnancy?
As an essential nutrient, Choline works alongside the Omega-3 fatty acid DHA – another of the 12 key nutrients found in Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin – “to support neural tube development during pregnancy,” says Dr. Sharafi. The neural tube forms the early brain and spine, and if this isn’t properly developed, it can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida (a spinal cord defect) or anencephaly (a brain defect). Since the neural tube forms in the first 28 days of pregnancy – before many realize they’re even expecting – it’s a good idea to begin taking a prenatal multivitamin with a Choline supplement while in the TTC phase.*
Including a separate Choline supplement (in addition to a prenatal multivitamin) in your routine during pregnancy may help provide longer-lasting benefits following the birth as well. Dr. Sharafi says studies conducted by leading Choline researcher Dr. Marie Caudill at Cornell University have shown that Choline supplements when taken during pregnancy, “help improve the baby’s information processing speed in the first year of life, and promote sustained attention in early childhood.”*
How much choline should you take when pregnant? Is there a "magic" amount?
“450 mg of Choline per day during pregnancy is the recommended intake assumed to support nutritional adequacy,” says Dr. Sharafi. She goes on to say, however, that “930 mg of Choline through diet and supplementation is the clinically studied amount that has been shown to support long-term cognitive benefits for babies when taken during pregnancy.”*
Maintaining a Choline intake of 450 mg a day is possible through Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin – which contains 55 mg of Choline – and a healthy diet. However, achieving the 930 mg value without supplementation can be a challenge. As Dr. Caudill’s clinical studies have shown, supplementing 550 mg of Choline during pregnancy can help promote long-term cognitive benefits in baby, as well as support sustained attention in early childhood. So Ritual recommends pairing their Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin with their Natal Choline supplement – the latter offering 550 mg of Choline – as part of expectant mothers’ daily vitamin intake.*
While products like Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin, as well as their Natal Choline dietary supplement provide key nutrients, food intake should still play a key role. For example, just one hard-boiled egg and three ounces of roasted chicken breast equal 50% of the recommended daily value of Choline. Another 25% can be achieved through a large baked potato, a cup of cooked quinoa, and half a cup of boiled Brussels sprouts.
More about Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin and Natal Choline supplements
Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin includes 55 mg of Choline, as well as 11 other key nutrients for before and during pregnancy. They can be taken with or without food, and they are specially designed to be gentle on the stomach. But make sure to speak to your medical provider first before trying any new multivitamin.
Ritual’s Natal Choline supplement contains 550 mg of Choline. When paired with Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin – and a sensible diet – this supplement can help expectant mothers reach the Choline amount of 930 mg, the amount research shows to support infant brain health and sustained attention in early childhood. It can be taken with or without food and is specially designed to work alongside prenatal vitamins.*
For additional information about Ritual’s Essential for Women Prenatal Multivitamin and Natal Choline dietary supplement, as well as the benefits of Choline, visit Ritual.com, and get 20% off your first month using code RESCRIPTED20.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease
holds an M.S. in Professional Writing from NYU, and is a seasoned journalist, having written and reported on subjects ranging from TV and pop culture to health, wellness, and parenting over the course of her career. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Vulture, SheKnows, and numerous other outlets. A staunch mental health advocate, Sarene also hosts the podcast “Emotional Abuse Is Real.” Visit her website here, or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.