Pregnancy means that the foods you eat and the vitamins you choose are working for two, but how do you know what vitamins might be best for you and your baby? Before you go and buy prenatal vitamins in bulk there are three things you need to do:
- Talk with your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to help you determine if there are any specific health concerns for your or your baby.
- Eat a healthy diet. The best way for most women to absorb quality vitamins and minerals is through healthy food choices, most often fresh fruits, vegetables, and sources of protein.
- Compare standard vitamins to prenatal vitamins. Pregnancy takes an extra toll on certain body systems, and developing babies need specific vitamins and minerals for optimal development. Understanding these needs will help you and your healthcare provider to make informed and healthy decisions.
When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Even though many women consider prenatal vitamins to be important once they learn that they are pregnant. The extra vitamins and minerals prenatal vitamins can provide are beneficial to your baby when taken before pregnancy. Supplements of folic acid taken before conception (generally at least for one month) can reduce the chances that you will carry a baby with neural-tube defects or other birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend getting 400 mcg daily. Also discuss with your healthcare provider vitamin A, as too much of the vitamin in your supplement can cause certain birth defects.
Women who are breastfeeding should continue to take prenatal vitamins unless directed otherwise by their healthcare provider. A breastfeeding body has many nutritional expectations placed on it and the vitamins help to maintain the quality of breast milk and the health of the mother.
What Are The Differences Between Prenatal and Standard Vitamins?
There are two main differences between typical multivitamins and prenatal vitamins – the amounts of folic acid and iron. Folic acid is necessary to help prevent neural tube defects which affect the brain and spinal cord of the baby. Iron is necessary to support healthy growth and development of the baby, prevent anemia, and maintain healthy birth weights.
Do I Need A Prescription?
There are many prenatal vitamins that are available without a prescription, but you should verify with your healthcare provider which option is best for you. Make sure to look for vitamins with adequate folic acid, calcium, iron, Zinc, Copper, and vitamins C, B-6, and D.
Are There Any Side Effects from Prenatal Vitamins?
Perhaps the most common complaint from women is that prenatal vitamins can cause constipation or stomach upset. In order to prevent this as much as possible, the vitamins should be taken with plenty of water and with a small amount of mild food. Consuming enough fiber and getting regular exercise can also help alleviate these symptoms. Prenatal vitamins also tend to be large, but you can get an inexpensive pill cutter and cut the vitamins in half to make swallowing easier.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Prenatal vitamins are not a substitute for a healthy diet. In fact, most prenatal vitamins don’t contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids which have been reported to have positive effects on the brain development of babies. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to include this in your diet or discuss whether or not a supplement might be right for you.