There are many, many things in your daily life that will have to shift slightly when you’re pregnant. Some of these shifts can be big like constructing a nursery, and some are small like giving yourself more time to rest. One small shift that makes a big difference is taking prenatal vitamins. Your OBGYN will help you decide which prenatal supplements will benefit you and your baby the most. Prenatal vitamins are proven to reduce the risk of health problems in developing fetuses. They take only a few seconds to take per day, but they can have a life-long impact on your new baby. Let’s dive a bit deeper.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Put simply, prenatal vitamins are supplements that are taken daily by expectant mothers to provide them and their growing baby with the vitamins needed for a safe and healthy pregnancy. There are many variations of prenatal supplements, so turn to your doctor or OBGYN for help determining which is best for you. Prenatal vitamins were created to fill in dietary gaps. Getting all of the vitamins needed during pregnancy from food alone is a very tall order. Some of the vitamins found to help developing fetuses the most are not common in foods that we eat. Luckily for expectant mothers, prenatal supplements can fill in the gaps so you don’t need to worry about whether the baby is getting what he or she needs to be healthy during development.
How are Prenatal Vitamins Different Than Normal Supplements?
Some of the ingredients in prenatal vitamins are also found in your regular daily supplement. However, these vitamins are found in higher concentrations compared to typical supplement options. As we’ve mentioned, there can be quite a bit of variation in what prenatal supplements contain. It’s widely understood that the most crucial ingredients are:
- Folic Acid: Can reduce the risk of neural tube (spinal cord, brain, etc.) defects including spina bifida and anencephaly.
- Iron: Increases the production of blood. This is needed so that the body has enough red blood cells to supply oxygen in adequate amounts to both the mother and the fetus.
- Calcium: Calcium is needed to prevent the mother from losing bone density as the baby uses calcium to grow. You need enough for two as they say.
- Vitamin D: There’s never a bad time to increase your Vitamin D intake, but pregnancy is a time where the mother is more susceptible to health issues. Vitamin D promotes bone growth and density, boosts the immune system, and ensures healthy cell division.
OBGYNs also tend to look for a few additional ingredients when recommending prenatal vitamins. Many of them are just good vitamins to have in general including Vitamins C, A, E, and B12, as well as zinc, iodine, and copper. It’s important to speak to your gynecologist before taking vitamins. They may recommend more or less of one vitamin based on your personal health history.
When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
This is a pretty hotly-debated topic in the pregnancy community. When is the right time to start taking prenatal supplements? The answer may shock you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all women between the ages of 15 and 45 should take prenatal vitamins daily. More specifically, the CDC and ACOG recommend taking vitamins containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily (the usual amount found in prenatal supplements). Folic acid is needed to promote healthy neural tube formation in fetuses, something that occurs in the very early stages of pregnancy. If you wait to start prenatal vitamins until you find out that you’re pregnant, the neural tube will already be mostly formed. Because a huge amount of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, all women of reproductive age should regularly consume folic acid. If this seems a bit extreme for you, another common recommendation is to start several months before you’re hoping to conceive. This is much shorter prep time, but it will still give your body the folic acid it needs to create a healthy baby.
Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Important?
To sum up, what we’ve discussed and put in perspective just why prenatal supplements are so important, we’ve created this helpful list:
- Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid that can reduce the risk of neural tube defects
- Prenatal vitamins contain Vitamin D and Calcium to promote strong bones for both mother and child
- Prenatal vitamins contain iron to prevent anemia and supply enough oxygen to the developing fetus
- They can greatly reduce health risks for fetuses that can be long-lasting or life-lasting after birth
What Can Be Prevented by Taking Prenatal Supplements?
= Spina bifida = Cleft Lip = Congenital Heart Disease
= Anemia = Hypothyroidism = Neurological Diseases
In conclusion, prenatal vitamins are crucial for pregnancies. They provide mother and baby with the critical vitamins needed to be healthy during the nine months of pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins contain larger amounts of each vitamin compared to other daily supplements, but they rarely cover 100% of your needs. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins even when taking prenatal supplements. Always speak to a doctor before starting on a supplement. They can guide you in the right direction in terms of which prenatal vitamin will be best for you.
For more information about pregnancy and all of the things that go with it, check out the Twin Doctor’s book “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy But Were Too Embarrassed to Ask”.