Prenatal Vitamins: FAQ

You may have a lot of questions about prenatal vitamins. Do you need to take one? Are they necessary? Do prenatal vitamins come with any side effects? The answers to all your questions are here in this FAQ, so read on to find out more about prenatal vitamins, how you should take them, and more.

What Are Prenatal Vitamins?

When you're pregnant, the amount and type of vitamins and minerals your body needs changes. This is why prenatal vitamins are different from adult multivitamins. Prenatal vitamins will contain more folic acid and iron, which are both important for expecting moms. They sometimes include more omega-3 fatty acids, and they can also contain an extra boost of calcium and vitamin D.

Do I Need Prenatal Vitamins?

Although a healthy pregnancy diet can help keep you well nourished, sometimes you need a little extra help. During pregnancy, your body needs more folic acid and iron than it needs when you're not pregnant. Getting enough of these two nutrients can be difficult on diet alone, which is where prenatal vitamins come in to help fill the gap. Also, according to some research, taking prenatal vitamins can also decrease the risk of having a baby born with low birth weight.

However, just because you're taking a prenatal vitamin doesn't mean eating healthily and getting a wide range of nutrients isn't important.

What Are the Best Prenatal Vitamins?

You can get prenatal vitamins over the counter in the pharmacy, but you can also ask your healthcare provider to recommend the best brand for you. Prenatal vitamins typically contain

  • Folic acid. This helps prevent neural tube defects, which are serious abnormalities of the spinal cord and the brain.

  • Iron. This helps support the development and growth of your baby, and it can also help prevent anemia, which is a low number of healthy red blood cells.

  • Calcium. Calcium helps your baby build strong teeth and bones. You can read more about the important role iron and calcium play in your pregnancy here.

  • Vitamin D. This vitamin works together with calcium to help your baby develop her bones and teeth, but it's also important for you, too, as vitamin D deficiency is common among pregnant women.

You may benefit from a prenatal vitamin that also contains

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin E

  • Zinc

  • Iodine

  • Copper.

You may wish to choose a prenatal vitamin with DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids that can help promote your baby's brain development, especially if you don't eat fish or other foods rich in this substance.

Discuss taking prenatal vitamins with your healthcare provider, and always check with your doctor before taking any new kind of supplement.

When Do I Need to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

If you're trying to conceive, it's a good idea to take prenatal vitamins to make sure you're getting enough folic acid. Your baby's neural tube, which will become the spinal cord and the brain, develops during your first month of pregnancy, when you may not even know you're pregnant. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

How Long Do I Need to Take Prenatal Vitamins?

It's a good idea to take prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy; however, your doctor might advise that you continue taking them even after your baby is born. Prenatal vitamins can be especially beneficial if you're breastfeeding.

Are There Any Side Effects to Prenatal Vitamins?

Some pregnant women may feel a little nauseated after taking prenatal vitamins. You can help avoid this by taking your vitamins with a snack or just before you go to bed.

Sometimes iron can cause constipation. Here are a few ways to prevent this:

  • Get plenty of fluids.

  • Add more fiber to your diet.

  • Get some exercise, as long as your healthcare provider has given the OK.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about other options, like taking a stool softener.

If you are still struggling with side effects, talk your doctor about alternatives. She might recommend a different brand, or give you separate supplements with folic acid, iron, or calcium with vitamin D.

What If I Have Trouble Swallowing the Pills?

Sometimes you might find prenatal vitamins too large to swallow. An alternative option is to try chewable or gummy prenatal vitamins.

Getting all the nutrients you need is important for your health and the health of your baby. Maintaining a healthy diet is a good way to naturally get the vitamins and minerals you need, but prenatal vitamins can give you a helping hand to give your baby the best possible start in life.

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