If you are trying to conceive or are already pregnant it is important that you include prenatal vitamins into your daily healthcare routine. While prenatal vitamins are very beneficial for both your overall health as well as your babies health, growth and development they are NOT a substitute for proper nutrition. Prenatal vitamins are important to take before you conceive and especially starting in the early stages of pregnancy because that is when the babies spine and brain begin their development. In fact, the neural tube forms within the first month of pregnancy which will then become the spine and brain as development continues. Prenatal vitamins support the healthy progressive growth of this neural tube.
Why are prenatal vitamins different from regular multi vitamins? Prenatal vitamins have a lot more folic acid and iron in them than your standard multivitamin. These two nutrients play key roles in the growth and development of your baby. While some prenatal vitamins also have omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and calcium, a lot do not. These are also considered key nutrients in the growth and development of your unborn baby and should be taken in addition to your normal prenatal vitamins should they be lacking in these nutrients. However, it is always best to speak with your physician before adding any extra supplements into your diet.
Nutrients That Support Fetal Growth
Folic Acid- helps to prevent abnormal development of the brain & spine cord as well as the neural tube.
Iron- supports the overall health and development of your baby while supporting the formation and number of healthy red blood cells
Omega-3 Fatty Acids- these are essential in fetal brain and retina growth and development. These fatty acids have also been proven to have multiple other benefits when ingested during pregnancy, such as a lower risk of allergies to the baby once born as well as positive effects on childhood growth and development.
Calcium- Not only can calcium help to lower a pregnant woman’s risk of preeclampsia & high blood pressure it also has multiple benefits to the growing fetus. The benefits to the baby include promoting strong bones & teeth, a healthy heart and heart rhythm, healthy nerve and muscle development.
Vitamin D- this vitamin is important because it helps support healthy fetal development. It also helps with immune system function, healthy bones and healthy division of cells. Most prenatal vitamins have about 400 IU’s of vitamin D, which is a start but most doctors recommend pregnant women take up to 4,000 IU’s a day for best results.
Many women ask how they should go about choosing their prenatal vitamin with so many on the market today. It is suggested you look for a vitamin containing the above nutrients and one that is a “whole food” vitamin as to get the most from your vitamin.
With the amount of nutrients and vitamins in prenatal vitamins many women also worry if they will suffer from any side effects and want to know exactly how long they should take these vitamins.
Possible Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamins
- Nauseous/Queasy- sometimes these vitamins can make you feel a bit queasy or nauseous especially when coupled with morning sickness. If this should happen try taking them before bed or eating a small snack before hand.
- Constipation- the iron in the vitamins can sometimes cause constipation. Id this should happen it is important that you drink plenty of fluids, make sure you are consuming enough fiber in your diet and try to get in some form of physical activity.
How Long Should I Take My Prenatal Vitamins?
It is suggested that you try to start taking them while you are trying to conceive. They are also t be taken throughout your entire pregnancy and many doctors will also recommend that you continue taking them after your baby is born if you are breastfeeding especially.