Can you take prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant?
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Taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant is a regimen some women swear by for health and beauty benefits, but it’s unclear if the technique is a safe thing to do.
Prenatal vitamins typically contain folic acid, a derivative of the B vitamin, which helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in babies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all women of childbearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, but the health agency does not say the daily serving should come from a prenatal supplement.
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Jeff Gladd of Fort Wayne, Indiana, chief medical officer and integrative medicine physician in private practice at Fullscript, an online supplement dispensary, told Fox News Digital that women who aren’t pregnant generally benefit from taking vitamins. prenatal as multivitamins.
“There are some caveats they need to be aware of that can make prenatals an advantage for some who aren’t pregnant while being a disadvantage for others,” Gladd said. “Knowing one’s nutritional needs in greater depth through regular blood tests is often the differentiating factor.”
Prenatal vitamins tend to go “beyond a general multivitamin” because “pregnant women often need extra support” for their babies, according to Gladd.
Vitamins formulated for pregnant women are rich in iron, folic acid (usually in the form of methylfolate), and omega-3 fatty acids.
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“[These vitamins and minerals] are important for both women and men to consider supplementing, so it’s generally not a reason to avoid a prenatal,” Gladd said.
Advantages and disadvantages of iron
Pregnant women generally need more iron, and prenatal vitamins often offer support in this area, Gladd said.
“A woman who isn’t pregnant doesn’t always need iron, and it’s one of those nutrients that you definitely don’t want excessive amounts of,” he continued.
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At the same time, the iron in prenatal vitamins could provide a variety of benefits to non-pregnant women who are deficient in the minerals, according to Gladd.
Gladd noted that iron deficiencies can be caused by regular blood loss during menstruation, diets low in red meat, or common antacid medications that can potentially decrease iron absorption.
“This fine balance between not wanting too much or too little iron is why I so often measure my patients’ iron and ferritin levels – a stored form of iron – with blood tests to determine their daily needs. iron and whether or not a prenatal vitamin is appropriate for them,” Gladd said.
Advantages and disadvantages of folic acid
Gladd told Fox News Digital that folic acid and vitamin B9 help prevent spinal cord neural tube defects in developing fetuses, and pregnant women are usually recommended a minimum dose of 400 micrograms daily. .
“This level of folic acid is quite common in non-prenatal multivitamins, so it’s often not an issue. [for nonpregnant women to take]“, said Gladd.
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Folic acid can be taken if a person has a B vitamin deficiency that causes certain types of anemia, according to MedlinePlus, an online medical information service produced by the US National Library of Medicine.
“Take folic acid exactly as directed,” MedlinePlus wrote in a folic acid guide. “Do not take more or less or more often than prescribed by your doctor.”
The FDA warns that high intakes of folic acid could pose potential health risks, although the risks are largely unknown as it requires more research.
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“The FDA itself has limited the folic acid content of fortified foods, formulas, and non-prescription vitamin supplements to no more than 1 mg, because it was known that more than 5 mg per day can mask vitamin B12 deficiency” , wrote the FDA in a report on folic acid fortification: facts and follies.
Benefits and harms of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient for everyone, but women can benefit from taking these polyunsaturated fats whether they plan to get pregnant or not.
“Prenatal omega-3 fatty acid intake is becoming increasingly important thanks to research,” Gladd told Fox News Digital. “It’s best for any woman of childbearing age to get this extra folate support when pregnant, because the need for the baby is there so early.”
Gladd said prenatal vitamins containing omega-3 fatty acids could help non-pregnant women who are nutrient lacking, especially if their diet lacks optimal intake.
Omega-3 deficiencies can cause rough, scaly skin and dermatitis, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH): Office of Dietary Supplements.
The NIH recommends that teenage girls and women consume 1.1 grams of omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. Teenage girls and pregnant women should consume 1.4 grams.
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Ingesting too many omega-3 fatty acids could pose a potential risk to people who have been prescribed blood thinners, reports the NIH.
The FDA recommends consulting a physician before taking any dietary supplement.