Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is always a good idea no matter what stage of life you are at. However, when you are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant, your doctor may prescribe a series of prenatal vitamins for your needs. These are meant to provide you with the nutrients and minerals you require for a healthy pregnancy. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a specific type of prenatal vitamin for you based on your individual needs.
When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Did you know that you should start taking prenatal vitamins even before you are pregnant? That’s right: it helps to start taking them at least a month before you actively try to get pregnant. Your body will need to produce healthy eggs in order to support a healthy pregnancy, and you will be sharing these nutrients with your baby once you do get pregnant.
Prenatal vitamins differ from normal multivitamins in that they contain a certain level of folic acid and iron needed to support the changes in your body. As you progress throughout your pregnancy, the first 12 weeks are critical to your baby’s development and you should continue taking prenatal vitamins during this time. If possible, you should also keep taking them throughout your pregnancy and if you intend to breastfeed, throughout the duration you are doing so.
Read on to find out some reasons taking prenatal vitamins is so important!
Reduce the Risk of Birth Defects
One of the terms you would have heard thrown around in conjunction with prenatal vitamins is folate, also known as folic acid. Folic acid is highly important as it helps to prevent and reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus’ brain. You should be getting a minimum of 400mg of folic acid a day, or even up to 800mg!
Taking prenatal vitamins can help to prevent birth defects including spina bifida, where the baby’s spine doesn’t form properly. Anencephaly, where the baby’s brain and skull aren’t properly formed, is another fatal birth defect that taking folic acid can help to prevent.
Pregnant Women Have Different Nutritional Needs
The average woman requires about 18mg of iron per day but in a pregnant woman, this goes up to 27mg. This is because your body will need to produce extra blood to support your changing body and the development of your baby.
While you can expect to obtain some iron from your diet, supplementing the rest through prenatal vitamins is a good idea. Because iron-deficiency anemia is common in early pregnancies, you will need to ensure you get a sufficient dose.
Support Fetal Development
To support the healthy development of your baby, prenatal vitamins can help. Below is a list of the different types of vitamins and minerals involved as well as their benefits:
- Vitamins A and D: help in promote healthy skin, bones, and eyesight, reducing the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester
- Calcium: assists in building strong bones and teeth. If you don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy, your body can take it from your bones to give to your baby, resulting in osteoporosis later on in life.
- Vitamin B12: is needed to produce healthy red blood cells and promote a healthy nervous system
- Vitamin C: helps the body to absorb iron, which your body needs more of during pregnancy, on top of promoting healthy teeth and gums
- Vitamin B6: Assists the body in using fat, carbohydrates, and proteins
- Zinc: reduces the chances of preterm birth
- DHA: an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with the development of your baby’s eyes and brain
- Iodine: helps your baby’s nervous system to develop
- … and more!
Depending on your dietary needs and any health or medical conditions you may have, your doctor may prescribe a specific type of vitamin for you to take throughout your pregnancy.
Possible Side Effects of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
In most women, taking prenatal vitamins will not result in any side effects. However, those who do are most likely to experience side effects caused by iron. This can include constipation, bloating, back pain, headaches, and more. While other vitamins are unlikely to cause unwanted side effects, you should take care not to exceed the stated dose.
Sometimes, you can be unsure whether the side effects you are experiencing are due to pregnancy or because of the prenatal vitamins you have consumed. You may wish to switch to a supplement that offers slow-releasing iron in this case. Some women may find it easier to take a chewable prenatal vitamin if swallowing pills is tough for them.
Best Practices for Taking and Choosing Prenatal Vitamins
Keep in mind that prenatal vitamins should be used to complement a healthy diet, not replace it. You cannot expect vitamins to provide 100% of the nutrients and minerals your body requires during pregnancy. Despite their benefits, you should not be taking prenatal vitamins in excess of the recommended daily dose as this can end up doing more harm than good.
In most cases, your doctor will leave the brand of prenatal vitamins up to you as many are available to purchase over-the-counter. However, in some cases, such as if you previously had a baby with a neural tube defect, your doctor may recommend a higher dose of a certain vitamin. You should also let your doctor know if you are taking any existing medications, such as high blood pressure pills and pain medications.
Prenatal Vitamins Can Ensure the Best Outcomes for Mother and Baby
Many factors can affect the development of your baby as well as that of your own health during pregnancy. This includes improper nutrition, a stressful and sedentary lifestyle, and much more. The prenatal vitamin supplement market is expected to grow as more awareness is generated about its link to delivering a healthy baby.
Coming in the form of capsules, gummies, and powder, there’s a wide range of products available for expectant mothers to choose from today, ensuring that you will find something that suits your needs and preferences!