Why Registered Dietitians - Not Doctors - Should Formulate Supplements


Your doctor is a brilliant individual, but they are not necessarily specialists when it comes to nutrition.

Look. We know that doctors are [insert the most impressive adjective possible]! I challenge you to find an adult who didn't want to be one as a kid (or a parent who wouldn't encourage their child to strive toward such a noble profession). No one goes to school for a giant chunk of their lives to dedicate their entire career to a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding field like medicine unless they are indeed a cut above.

However, we field many questions about who is technically the most qualified to make perinatal supplements. 

So let's talk about it.

For most of us, nutrition is often an afterthought in the doctor's office. With limited discussion time, it can be hard to fit all your questions into an appointment.

Moreover, prenatal visits may start at the end of the first trimester, which means a significant amount of your pregnancy could've passed without anyone weighing in on how you're nourishing. 

Then, post-delivery, there is perhaps one postpartum visit six weeks after birth if everything is going smoothly. So, one-on-one time with your doctor is minimal overall if you have a handful of in-depth nutrition questions or issues you'd like to address. 

The average time a doctor spends with a patient in a pre or postnatal visit is 7-22 minutes (1)

Nine times out of ten, this is not your doctor's fault and certainly not their treatment preference. But you saw their waiting room! They are navigating through a time when the entire medical system has been under deep pressure nationwide for the last few years. Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have. Unfortunately, ample time is not one of those resources.

But generally, a doctor's lack of time to support you on nutrition isn't the primary issue. 

MDs - including OBGYNS - are not adequately trained in nutrition. 

Nothing will shake my deep respect for medical doctors as healthcare professionals. But nutrition is an entirely different field. The average nutrition education that medical schools provide is only 19.6 hours, according to a 2010 report published in Academic Medicine. 

A 2016 study showed that medical residency programs only offered another 2.8 hours of nutrition instruction, specifically covering obesity and physical activity counseling (2). So while your doctor is a brilliant human being with an awe-inspiring scope of knowledge, their understanding of nutrition is limited.

But here's the thing: This isn't a problem in theory.

Medical doctors have their areas of expertise and are the practitioners you want to see for acute medical issues. As we always say, and as anyone in the world of health and wellness will say, you should discuss any lifestyle changes you are thinking of making with your doctor first. That includes seeking help choosing your supplements when you feel you need guidance. Often, your doctor will refer you to a Registered Dietitian or pharmacist in the case of potential medication interactions. 

But in an ideal world, MDs and RDs work together.

Registered Dietitians and Certified Nutrition Consultants' scope of practice is solidly nutrition. As your doctor went to med school to live, eat, and breathe their area of focus, RDs and CNSs went through an equally rigorous educational system that included many thousands of hours of study, practice, internships, and board certifications. Ideally, your doctor defers to your RD for help in choosing the best prenatal supplement for you.

Medical doctors don't have to carry the world's weight on their shoulders and certainly don't have to know everything about everything. They do enough! A sign of a good doctor is a referral to another specialist. I know it's less convenient for you as a patient, but it is a true sign of a quality practitioner when they are so dedicated to your health that they wish to collaborate with others who might know more.

For example, say your doctor identifies an issue that’s symptoms can be alleviated through diet. Imagine common problems that pop up during pregnancy: think iron deficiency, gestational diabetes, healthy weight gain, etc. 

Do you feel safest with a few words of generalized wisdom?

"Eat some red meat to up your iron.""Make healthy choices to manage your gestational diabetes.""Get enough calories for healthy weight gain."

Or would you rather your doctor collaborate with a more knowledgeable practitioner to get a comprehensive plan with individualized strategies?

"Let's have a RD take a look at these iron labs. They might want to order additional testing because iron deficiency can be much more complicated than we'd like to think.""Gestational diabetes can be tricky and have lasting implications for you and baby. I'd love for you to work with a Registered Dietitian because some of the lifestyle changes you want to make now could be long-term.""I know that weight gain is a tough emotional topic for many women, even though they expect it during pregnancy. A RD will be able to guide you through the healthiest ways to nourish you and your growing baby."

When it comes to formulating prenatals, that is squarely best left to Registered Dietitians.

Think about it: Who would you want behind your prenatal multivitamins, fish oil supplements, etc.? A dietitian with thousands of hours of training and years of work in practice specializing in this area, or an MD with limited time, training, and experience with nutrition? 

The answer is obvious.

You won't come to me for fine-tuned treatment of medical conditions because that's not my area of expertise. But as a Registered Dietitian with over 15 years of working in functional medicine, I have seen firsthand the limitations of the direct advice and support people receive when they only rely on nutrition recommendations from OBGYN visits and google. 

I started FullWell because I saw a clear need for prenatal nutrition supplements to be formulated and produced by a Registered Dietitian. 

  • Not big pharma
  • Not venture capital-funded entrepreneurs looking at market research data
  • Not even medical doctors, since they do not hold nutrition within their scope of practice 

When you choose FullWell, you're not just selecting high-quality supplements. You're choosing to educate yourself. A massive part of FullWell's mission is to provide comprehensive, evidence-based education and content that you can easily access and trust. Everything we formulate is thoughtfully researched and meticulously manufactured, with your education around your fertility as our top priority. 

“The best possible scenario is to work one-on-one with a nutrition professional, but we know that, unfortunately, that's not always realistic for various reasons. That's why we are actively working on ways to make it easier to access practitioners here at FullWell. We're still getting ready to share significant specifics, but so much valuable content is coming your way and soon!”
* The information on this website is provided for educational purposes only and should not be treated as medical advice. FullWell makes no guarantees regarding the information provided or how products may work for any individual. If you suffer from a health condition, you should consult your health care practitioner for medical advice before introducing any new products into your health care regimen. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.