Prenatal vitamins are supplements that constitute of daily minerals and vitamins that expecting mothers may require during pregnancy. They contain certain nutrients including calcium, folic acid and iron that are essential for proper fetal growth.
Using supplements also makes it easier for moms to get proper nutrition. A lot of women experience nausea and morning sickness during their pregnancy which might cause them to avoid certain foods.
Prenatal vitamins bridges nutritional gaps in your diet to create a healthy environment for your baby. If you’re an expecting mother or are trying to conceive, this detailed guide will walk you through everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.
Ensuring you get proper nutrition is important for a successful pregnancy and taking prenatal vitamins is essential for the nutrition of your unborn baby. Your baby depends on you for all of their nutritional needs which is why you should include enough vitamins, minerals, and supplements in your diet.
These vitamins are crucial for fetal and embryonic development. Eating a healthy diet may provide your baby with ample nutrition, but they will still not be getting enough folic acid and vitamin D. This is why doctors recommend moms to start taking prenatal vitamins once they have decided to conceive or are already pregnant.
These vitamins are essential for women who do not consume an adequate diet or are suffering from a nutritional deficiency.
Are Prenatal Vitamins Necessary
Yes. Prenatal vitamins are essential nutrients that are important for you and your baby. You should consume these vitamin tablets even if you eat a variety of foods including dairy products, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Women who are trying to conceive can also benefit from these supplements as they ensure that you have the right amount of nutrients to get through your pregnancy.
More importantly, women with dietary restrictions, pregnancy complications, and health issues should seriously consider adding prenatal vitamins to their diet. The following women are likely to benefit from supplements:
- Vegans or vegetarians
- Lactose intolerant or suffer from other food intolerances
- Smoke or use other substances
- Suffer from a chronic disease
- Have an eating disorder
- Have a blood disorder
- Are expecting twins or higher multiples
Benefits Of Prenatal Vitamins
Some benefits of including prenatal vitamins in your diet include:
Provides Mothers Peace Of Mind
First-time expecting moms go through a lot of stress and anxiety, worrying about their baby’s health. Taking prenatal vitamins provides mothers peace of mind, ensuring they meet their baby’s nutritional needs. ,
Aside from consuming prenatal vitamins, women are advised to include all types of food groups in their diet including meat, fruits, legumes, grains, and vegetables. This formula will result in a smooth and healthy pregnancy that will be beneficial for you and your child.
Reduces Baby’s Risk Of Developing Neural Tube Defects
Consuming enough folic acid during the early days of your pregnancy or a month before conceiving can significantly reduce the baby’s risk of developing neural tube defects including cleft spine and anencephaly.
Taking folic acid at the beginning of your pregnancy or before can reduce the risks of your baby being born with these defects by up to 70%.
ReducesThe Risk Of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by fluid retention, excess protein in the urine and high blood pressure. Taking sufficient amount of folic acid during the early days of your pregnancy can lower the risks of mothers developing preeclampsia.
In some severe cases of preeclampsia, the blood pressure can shoot up extremely high, resulting in the need for emergency C-section.
Women need plenty of iron during their pregnancy – almost twice as much as before conception. The human body needs ‘iron’ to produce hemoglobin for both the baby and you during pregnancy.
Iron is necessary for moving oxygen from your lungs to the baby’s body. Taking sufficient amounts of iron in your diet can reduce the risks of iron-deficiency anemia. The condition also results in extreme fatigue along with other symptoms.
Boosts Calcium Development In The Baby’s Body
Taking prenatal vitamins provides enough calcium for your baby’s development. Women of 19 years of age and older approximately 1,000 mg of calcium intake during, after and before pregnancy. Your baby requires sufficient calcium to develop strong bones and teeth, healthy muscles, nerves and much more.
Protects You From The Effects Of Calcium Deficiency
Taking prenatal vitamins can prevent you from suffering the effects of calcium deficiency. Getting the right amount of calcium in your diet can reduce the risks of hypertension and preeclampsia.
If the body does not have enough calcium stores, the developing fetus will draw it from your bones which can have a damaging effect on your health in the future. Using prenatal vitamins will supply you with enough calcium to meet your daily requirements.
Reduces Your Baby’s Chances Of Developing Rickets
A vitamin D deficiency causes rickets. The condition involves the softening of bones which can lead to fractures and deformities later on in life. It doesn’t matter if you are consuming enough calcium; the body will not be able to absorb the nutrient without enough vitamin D.
If you don’t get enough vitamin D during your pregnancy, the baby would be at risk for rickets, delayed development and abnormal bone growth. Using prenatal vitamins can put an end to this problem.
Reduces The Risk Of Premature Delivery
Taking prenatal, natal vitamins during the early days of pregnancy reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight, and pre-term delivery. Taking your supplements will ensure your baby develops good health.
Also, consuming iron supplement reduces the risk of iron-deficiency anemia which in turn reduces the chances of low birth weight, infant mortality, and premature birth.
Prenatal Vitamins Side Effects
The truth is, you’re likely to experience plenty of body changes when you’re pregnant because of hormonal fluctuations. These changes might make it difficult for moms to distinguish pregnancy symptoms and prenatal vitamins. Women may find that some prenatal vitamin side effects have similar outcomes as hormone level shifts.
In some cases, the side effects may vary from person to person. However, most women agree that the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins outweigh its disadvantages. Some common side effects of consuming prenatal vitamins include:
- Nausea: Women consuming prenatal vitamins may experience nausea. To avoid this, take your vitamins after a meal and never on an empty. Taking the supplements at night is also a good solution to avoiding nausea.
- Change in Urine Odor and Color: Using folic acid, in particular, can contribute to such changes, though they are completely harmless. Also, iron supplements may cause stools to turn black. However, this effect is completely and harmless so don’t freak out!
- Constipation: Moms may suffer from constipation because of the iron content.
- Diarrhea and Upset Stomach: These two side effects are usually temporary and disappear once the body has adjusted to the medication. However, if the side effects continue to persist, we recommend you visit your doctor.
Though it is incredibly rare, seek immediate medical attention if you experience a serious allergic reaction, itching, swelling, trouble breathing or severe dizziness. The mentioned symptoms are a clear sign of an allergic reaction.
If your doctor has prescribed the prenatal vitamins, he/she has probably judged that its benefits significantly outweigh the risk of side effects. However, if you experience any serious side effects, consult your doctor immediately, and they will prescribe you with prenatal vitamins that you might feel more comfortable using.
Prenatal Vitamins Ingredients
Prenatal vitamins are beneficial for pregnant women and the developing fetus. Here are some of the most popular prenatal vitamin ingredients you should know about:
Women are recommended to take folic acid a month before to conceive as it is known to fuel woman’s fertility. Most doctors advise women to continue taking folic acid throughout their entire first trimester.
The ingredient acts as a protective guard for both the expecting mother and the baby. Women are advised to take about 800mcg of folic acid during pregnancy. Some benefits of the folic acid include:
- Improves fertility
- Supports brain function of the baby
- Reduces the risks of congenital abnormalities
Calcium is among the most important prenatal vitamin ingredients. Calcium is vital for expecting mothers as it is a requirement for strong muscles and bones. It is also crucial for the bone formation of the developing fetus.
Pregnant women are recommended about 1200 mg of calcium per day to keep up with their daily calcium requirements. Some benefits of this mineral include:
- Prevents preeclampsia in expecting mothers
- Sustains normal heartbeat
- Strengthens the bones and muscles of the mother and baby
The body starts to function differently after you have conceived which means you will require more minerals and vitamins than before. Iron is a critical prenatal vitamin ingredient commonly found in most prenatal supplements.
This supplement supports effective nutrient transport mechanism for the baby and the mother. Pregnant women are recommended to take about 30mg of iron every day once they have conceived. Some benefits of taking iron supplements include:
- Reduces the risk of anemia
- Iron aids in the synthesize of hemoglobin
- Helps maintain a healthy immune system
Omega 3-DHA is another popular ingredient found in most prenatal supplements. The ingredient is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain and thus plays an essential role in the development of the fetus.
DHA is essential for the health of both moms and babies and plays a significant role in enhancing the baby’s nerves, brain, and vision through the placenta. Pregnant women are required to take about 200mg of DHA in a day during pregnancy and the lactation phase. Some benefits of the Omega 3-DHA include:
- Enhances the baby’s vision
- Supports a healthy nervous system
- Improves brain and cognitive development of the developing fetus
Consume these vitamins through your pregnancy to ensure good health. Consuming the right prenatal vitamins also helps in the development of a healthy fetus, reducing the number of complications in the long run.
What’s In A Prenatal Supplements That I Can’t Get From Food
There are some nutrients that you simply can’t get enough off from food. These nutrients include iron and folic acid.
Folic acid is a Vitamin B type that can reduce the baby’s risk of developing neural tube defects. Women are advised to start consuming folic acid a month before trying to conceive or during the early days of their pregnancy to avoid these risks.
Consuming sufficient folic acid can also reduce the risk of defects, such as cleft palate, certain heart defects, and cleft lip. Consuming folic acid may also lower your risk of preeclampsia.
Best of all, the body does a better job in absorbing the synthetic version of folic acid compared to the one found in food. This reason is why you need supplements even if you eat a balanced diet.
Most expecting mothers are not able to get enough of Iron in their diet to meet their body’s needs and requirements during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this can lead to an iron-deficiency called anemia.
Anemia during pregnancy can increase the risks of preterm delivery and low birth weight. Pregnant women are thus advised to take iron supplements for their baby’s health.
What’s Best Time To Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Doctors and other healthcare professionals recommend women to start taking prenatal vitamins before becoming pregnant.The spinal cord and the brain of the embryo start to undergo development during the first 3 to 4 weeks of the pregnancy (most women may not be aware that they are pregnant at this point).
Health experts recommend women to start consuming folic acid daily to prevent anencephaly and Spina Bifida. These dangerous congenital disabilities can affect the baby’s developing spinal cord and brain.
Midwives and doctors may recommend you to continue taking prenatal vitamins after your baby is born, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. If you have any questions, it is essential you contact your doctor and discuss any pregnancy planning concerns. Your doctor will prescribe the supplements according to your dietary needs.
How To Take Prenatal Vitamins
Similar to other supplements, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind before using prenatal vitamins. For instance, we recommend you take the supplements after a light meal or after eating a light snack. Doctors have also explained how consuming these vitamins before bedtime may reduce nausea.
Additionally, drink loads of fluids and include fiber-rich foods in your diet to prevent constipation. If you are still experiencing constipation, your health care professional asks you to use stool softeners to solve the problem.
Additionally, do not use more prenatal vitamins than the recommended amount and do not use the supplements with other tablets. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you are on medication or are already using supplements. Consuming extra can be harmful to the baby.
Important Considerations To Keep In Mind
Too much of anything can’t be good for you. Here are a few important considerations you should keep in mind while using prenatal vitamins:
Know When You’re Overdoing It
Talk to your doctor if you’re a health-freak and are constantly munching on snacks that have added vitamins and minerals as your health professional will then recommend prenatal vitamins accordingly. Many smoothie and juice brands have also started to boost vitamin and mineral content of their products to boost sales.
It is important to keep tabs on such added nutrients or any herbal supplement that you are taking. Too much of anything can’t be good for you so consuming too many vitamins can result in an overdose.
While excess water-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin C and folate, secrete through urine, you can still overdose on fat-soluble vitamins. Consuming excess Vitamin A can affect your health, resulting in birth or bone defects.
Consuming too much calcium can also be bad for your kidneys so always communicate your needs and requirement while providing an accurate description of your lifestyle to your health provider.
This information will help your doctor make a more suitable recommendation based on your diet and the supplements you are already taking.
Not All Pregnant Ladies Are The Same
Another important consideration to keep in mind is that not all pregnant women are the same.
While the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that all pregnant women require about 27 milligrams of iron and 600 micrograms of folic acid, the need for other supplements depends on natural body chemistry, health history, and diet. So, it’s important to realize that all pregnant women are different.
Many prenatal vitamins contain vitamins A, D, C, B6 and B12 and calcium. For increased benefits, ask your doctor to conduct a blood test to determine what supplement you need and how much of It you require. For instance, some women may have a vitamin-D deficiency.
However, even women who are getting ample amount of nutrients should use prenatal vitamins to bridge the gaps in their diet. Using prenatal vitamins is like buying insurance – you might need someday, anyway.
Prenatal Vitamins Are A ‘Supplement’ – Not ‘Substitute’
While healthcare professionals testify to the use of prenatal vitamins, it’s important to keep in mind that these vitamins are merely supplements and thus do not constitute as a substitute. In short, you can’t use prenatal vitamins to replace an unhealthy diet. Include healthy foods in your diet that will boost your health.
Pregnant women will benefit from a diet rich in beans, salmon, citrus fruits, whole grains, and milk to meet all nutritional requirements. While we still recommend you use supplements, eating healthy is also a must.
‘Pre’Natal May Be A Misnomer
Don’t fall for the word ‘pre’ as these vitamins can also be considered pre-prenatal. For instance, most doctors recommend you start taking folic acid one month prior your pregnancy as this vital ingredient plays an essential role in preventing diseases even before you know you’re pregnant.
Women are recommended to take a 400 microgram daily dose of folic acid every day to avoid complications.
Folic acid is an incredibly important ingredient since it is present inside every cell in the human body, – our heart, nails, brain, hair, you get the point. Once you have conceived, the body will require more folic acid for the formation of the fetus. This reason is why doctors recommend you start using this supplement earlier on.
Additionally, prenatal vitamins can also be regarded as postnatal vitamins since the added vitamins and minerals can boost breast milk production while improving its nutritional content. In some cases, using supplements can also ward off postpartum mood issues.
Not to mention, most new moms are too anxious or tired to eat properly once the baby is born so using supplements makes it easier for mommies to stay healthy. However, we do recommend you get plenty of rest and eat a nutritional diet.
Availability Of Prenatal Vitamins
You can get prenatal vitamins off the counter at any pharmacy store. However, your doctor may recommend a specific brand based on your personal needs and requirements.
In short, prenatal vitamins are an important investment to make for all moms. For more information, check out our buyer’s guide to learn how to purchase the best prenatal vitamins. Good luck!