Prenatal vitamins: Give your baby the best start - Pregnancy Health

Prenatal vitamins: Give your baby the best start - Pregnancy Health

Prenatal vitamins: Give your baby the best start - Pregnancy Health

Home » Pregnancy Health » Prenatal vitamins: Give your baby the best start

Prenatal vitamins: Give your baby the best start

Are prenatal vitamins really necessary during pregnancy? You bet! Prenatal vitamins are an important part of pregnancy nutrition. Here’s why you need them, when to start taking them and more.

A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. But even if you eat healthfully every day, you may fall short on key nutrients. If you’re pregnant or hoping to conceive, prenatal vitamins can help fill any gaps.

How are prenatal vitamins different from other vitamins?

Most prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid, calcium and iron than do standard adult multivitamins. It’s still important to eat nutritious foods, but prenatal vitamins can help ensure you’re getting enough of these essential nutrients during pregnancy.

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects — serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid may also decrease the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight.

Calcium promotes strong bones and teeth for both mother and baby. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally.

Iron supports the development of blood and muscle cells for both mother and baby. Iron helps prevent anemia, a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Iron may also decrease the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight.

Prenatal vitamins have been claimed to promote thicker hair and stronger nails, but researchers haven’t yet proved whether prenatal vitamins truly have these effects.

Keep in mind that standard prenatal vitamins don’t include omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote a baby’s brain development. If you’re unable to eat fish or other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids or choose not to, your health care provider may recommend omega-3 fatty acid supplements in addition to prenatal vitamins.

Do prenatal vitamins require a prescription?

Prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter in nearly any pharmacy. Some prenatal vitamins require a prescription. Your health care provider may recommend a specific brand of prenatal vitamins or leave the choice up to you.

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

It’s best to start taking prenatal vitamins three months before conception. Why so early? The baby’s neural tube — which becomes the brain and spinal cord — develops during the first month of pregnancy, perhaps before you even know that you’re pregnant. Taking prenatal vitamins before conception is the best way to help prevent neural tube defects.

How long should I take prenatal vitamins?

It’s best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. Your health care provider may recommend taking prenatal vitamins while you’re breast-feeding, too.

Do prenatal vitamins have any side effects?

Some women feel queasy after taking prenatal vitamins. In other cases, the iron in prenatal vitamins contributes to constipation.

If prenatal vitamins seem to trigger nausea:

Take your prenatal vitamin at night

Take your prenatal vitamin with a snack

Chew gum or suck on hard candy after taking your prenatal vitamin

If you’re struggling with constipation:

Include more fiber in your diet

Include physical activity in your daily routine, as long as you have your health care provider’s OK

Ask your health care provider about using a stool softener

If these tips don’t seem to help, ask your health care provider about other options. He or she may recommend another type of prenatal vitamin or separate folic acid, calcium and iron supplements.

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