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December 29, 2020

The importance of taking prenatal vitamins

Women's Health Pregnancy

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Thinking about starting a family? There are a number of important steps to take that prepare a woman for having a child. One of those steps is starting a course of prenatal vitamins.

Isn’t a healthy diet enough?

A healthy diet is always the best way to get the nutrients your body needs. But if you’re trying to get pregnant, or already are, there are a few key nutrients your body might fall short on. These nutrients are so important that a prenatal vitamin is worth taking if you’re even thinking about pregnancy.

What specific nutrients should I look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Iron is one of the most essential; it supports the development of both the placenta and the fetus. Many people already take iron supplements, but another nutrient — folic acid — is also found in prenatal vitamins. Folic acid prevents defects of the fetal brain and spinal cord; if you can plan ahead, it’s worth starting to build up your body’s reserve three months in advance of getting pregnant.

Of all the nutrients contained in a prenatal vitamin, folic acid may be the most unfamiliar. It’s a B vitamin that can be found in dark, green vegetables, but you probably need supplements to get enough of it. It’s particularly important to take before you get pregnant, since most of the defects it helps prevent occur in the first 28 days of pregnancy. In addition to getting folic acid from supplements and green vegetables, you can also look for breakfast cereals that contain folic acid.

There are a lot of options at my local pharmacy—which is best?

Since prenatal vitamins are available over the counter, you have a lot of choice in which brand you choose. Ask your doctor if they have any recommendations, or try to choose one that also includes other vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, and iodine.

What important nutrients aren’t available in prenatal vitamins?

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, are important during pregnancy. They help promote the brain development of a baby, so vegetarians or other people that don’t eat much fish should plan to take a supplement to ensure they receive plenty of Omega-3.

Are there any pitfalls to prenatal vitamins?

As with any supplement, you want to be careful not to take more than the recommended daily dose of prenatal vitamins. They can also cause constipation, so make sure you stay hydrated, eat plenty of fiber, and stay physically active.

If you think you’re ready to start a family, taking prenatal vitamins is just one of the many ways to prepare for pregnancy. It’s also an opportune time to eliminate alcohol from your diet and talk to your doctor about blood screenings and other preparatory work. Taking these steps will help ensure your body is prepared for a healthy pregnancy journey.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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