5 benefits of prenatal vitamins and when to start taking them

If you’re pregnant (congratulations!) But before we get down to some fun baby stuff, there’s one more thing you should cross off your mom-to-be shopping checklist: prenatal vitamins.

The benefits of prenatal vitamins extend to you and your baby. They work by helping you meet the nutritional needs of a pregnant body. Now that you are sharing nutrients with a growing fetus, your diet alone may not be enough to give you the recommended daily intake of certain nutrients.

Getting enough nutrients also lowers the risk that your baby will have birth defects or that you will have a preterm birth. They are very important! But with so many vitamin options to choose from, figuring out what’s right for you can be a bit overwhelming.

To get you started, here’s a crash course on the benefits of prenatal vitamins and how to choose the right ones for you.

What are the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins fill all the nutritional gaps your body needs to support a growing baby, especially when diet alone is not enough to meet the body’s nutritional needs. “Prenatal vitamins are important before and during pregnancy to help your body meet the demands of pregnancy and your baby’s development,” says Cordelia Nwankwo, MD, a gynecologist in Washington, DC Remember, now that you are pregnant , the nutrients you consume go to you and the growing fetus.

Here are some specific ways that prenatal vitamins can support your pregnancy.

1. They contribute to the development of the nervous system of the baby.

On the list of very important nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy, folic acid is at the top of the list. It is important for the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. “Folic acid will help the development of the neural tube and may help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida,” says Dr. Nwankwo.

Spina bifida is a condition in which the neural tube fails to grow or close properly. This may later cause your child to have symptoms such as learning difficulties, or may sometimes require surgery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is important for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid per day.

2. They can help prevent anemia.

Prenatal mixes usually contain a lot of iron, since you’ll need more of it when you’re pregnant, and this can help prevent anemia, says Dr. Nwankwo. If you are anemic, there is a risk that your baby will not get all the oxygen she needs. “Severe anemia can affect the delivery of oxygen to the baby via red blood cells,” says Dr Nwankwo. Severe anemia can also put you at risk of having a premature labor or having a low birth weight baby. by a study in the journal Anemia.

3. They can also support your immune system.

Vitamin D can specifically boost your immune system and bone health, says Dr. Nwankwo, and it can also reduce the risk of preterm labor, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes, according to the journal. Borders in EndocrinoIogie. Fortunately, you can get vitamin D from your diet, prenatal vitamins, and sunlight.

4. They can help the development of your baby’s skin, eyes, bones and lungs.

For that benefit, look for vitamin A, says Dr. Nwankwo, which you can probably get in abundance from a combination of dietary and prenatal vitamins.

But be careful not to take too much, which can happen if you do something that isn’t recommended like doubling your prenatal vitamins. Getting more than 10,000 IU of vitamin A per day may increase the risk of disrupting the development of your fetus, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.

5. They can prevent nausea.

Another nutrient that can support your baby’s brain and nervous system development is vitamin B6, and Dr. Nwankwo says the vitamin can ease some of the nausea associated with pregnancy. It works by helping the body process certain amino acids that can otherwise cause nausea, and is best taken before you even get pregnant.

“It works best when it started one to three months before conception,” advises Dr. Nwankwo. Besides getting it from your prenatal vitamins, you can also find it in foods like bananas and salmon.

But prenatal vitamins are no substitute for a balanced diet, right?

No, says Dr Nwankwo. “Your balanced diet should be the basis of your nutritional vitamins. Your body is able to absorb more from your food than from supplements,” she explains. But making sure you take your antenatal leave will increase the chances that your body is receiving enough nutrients to keep you healthy and supporting a growing baby (because, let’s be honest, even if you eat really healthy foods, it can. be difficult to get all the nutrients you need every day!).

If you suffer from other health problems or are taking certain medications, it is also a good idea to consult your doctor about his recommendations for your vitamin intake. For example, women who take certain anti-epileptic drugs should receive 4,000 mcg of folic acid per day, instead of the recommended 400 mcg, says Dr. Nwankwo. She also recommends that women with certain gastrointestinal issues or a history of weight loss surgery seek the help of a nutritionist to make sure they are getting the right dose of vitamins.

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

Dr Nwankwo suggests starting prenatal vitamins as soon as you plan to conceive, but ideally three months before conception. The CDC also specifically recommends make sure you have enough folic acid a month before you become pregnant to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine. If you are planning to get pregnant, it is best to work out your prenatal schedule with your doctor, who can help you find the best approach to your vitamin intake.

You’ll also want to keep taking your vitamins if you’re breastfeeding, says Dr. Nwankwo. “Postnatal vitamins should be continued while breastfeeding for about six months at least.” It is always important to fill the nutritional gaps because your baby also gets nutrients from your breast milk.

What is the difference between over the counter and prescription prenatal vitamins?

To be honest, there isn’t much of a difference between the two, says Dr Nwankwo. Both can help you meet your nutritional needs, but some prescriptions can be made with specific blends that help alleviate another problem.

For example, some prescription prenatals are made with a stool softener to relieve constipation, or they may contain additional iron, if your doctor thinks you need it.

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Are there any side effects from taking prenatal vitamins?

“For the most part, prenatal pregnancies are well tolerated,” says Dr. Nwankwo, but you may experience mild side effects, such as constipation, if you consume too much iron. In some women, prenatal vitamins can also make nausea worse in early pregnancy.

If this worries you, Dr. Nwankwo suggests taking gummy vitamins instead, which may be a bit easier to swallow than big pills when you’re feeling nauseous.

What should I look for in a prenatal vitamin?

When looking for a prenatal vitamin, you need to make sure that it contains the essential nutrients that you need:

  • At least 400 milligrams of folic acid to support baby’s brain and spine development
  • 27 milligrams of iron to support healthy blood circulation
  • 600 international units of vitamin D to reduce the risk of preterm birth and support growth
  • At least 1000 milligrams of calcium to support the development of baby’s bones and teeth
  • 200 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids to support healthy eye and baby brain development

    Once you’ve checked the boxes for all of these vitamins, you can also look for other vitamins, like B6 or choline, that support your baby’s growth in different ways. Here, you can check out the 13 best prenatal vitamins on the market, according to experts.

    The bottom line: Prenatal vitamins have many benefits for you and your baby and are a staple for healthy pregnancies. Whether you are newly pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding, prenatal vitamins are a useful supplement.

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      Patricia J. Callender

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