Do I need to take prenatal vitamins when I am not pregnant?

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There is quite an appeal and a multitude of old wives’ tales connected with prenatal vitamins. Many women have come to believe that taking them, pregnant or not, will help their hair and nails grow faster, and even give them an extra dose of healthy and needed nutrients. But the truth is much more complicated. Women’s Day spoke with medical experts to learn more about the pros and cons of taking prenatal vitamins when you aren’t expecting them.

So what exactly are prenatal vitamins? “The dosages of vitamins and minerals in prenatal vitamins are the same as you can find in regular multivitamins, but the dosages are higher because the body needs more during pregnancy.” Dr Lucky Sekhon, a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Reproductive Medicine Associates of NY, tells Woman’s Day. “They aim to optimize the growth and development of the fetus. The main difference is that you get a folic acid supplement, usually around 400mcg per day. Prenatal vitamins should ideally be taken three months before you become pregnant, but even taking them just a month before can significantly reduce your chances of neural tube defects and spinal cord problems, such as spina bifida. ”

As always, it is important that you consult a health care provider or family doctor before taking over-the-counter medications or starting a vitamin regimen. After all, what works for one body doesn’t work for everyone. But if you have lingering questions about taking prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant, here’s what you need to know:

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Pro: Your skin and nails might improve.

Prenatal vitamins can help your skin and nails, but chances are that any type of vitamin that contains the same nutrients would be just as beneficial.

“It is true that prenatal vitamins, like vitamin B and biotin, are good for the skin and nails. But that’s not necessarily the main reason for hair and nail growth, ”says Sekhon. “It’s a misconception that people always talk about the benefits of prenatal vitamins. People associate a lot with prenatal vitamins, such as “pregnancy glow” and hair that gets thicker. Instead of vitamins, this is largely due to hormonal changes in the pregnancy itself.


Pro: You can prepare your body for pregnancy.

“If you plan to have children anytime in the future, even the next 5-10 years, there is a benefit to taking prenatal vitamins,” Ryann Kipping, RDN, CLEC and owner / founder of The prenatal nutritionist, recounts Women’s Day. “You are giving your body the nutrients it needs to prepare itself. Ideally, a woman’s childbearing years are when she works to achieve optimal health. It is best to start a pregnancy without any nutrient deficiency. . ”

Kipping says that more than 90 percent of women do not meet their choline needs, and 50 percent have a critical vitamin D deficiency. Since the fetal organs begin to develop in the first two months of the pregnancy. pregnancy, often before some women even realize they are pregnant, it’s important to give your body the nutrition it needs ahead of time.


Benefits: It can help breastfeeding.

“The recommendation is to keep taking prenatal vitamins after you have had a baby, especially during the first year and if you are breastfeeding,” says Sekhon. Your energy needs are incredibly high when feeding a newborn baby (and often not getting enough sleep), so it’s important to get all the nutrients you can, when you can.


Disadvantage: Your hair will not get thicker.

If you take prenatal vitamins to stimulate hair growth, you will likely be disappointed. “Although prenatal vitamins have a lot of credit for a woman’s thick hair during pregnancy, these changes are actually due to hormonal differences that cause hair and nails to grow faster and make the hair less likely to fall out. “, Megan Casper, MS, RDN, owner of Megan Casper Nutrition and writer for Nourished bite, recounts Women’s Day. “This is also why, once the hormones start to return to normal, women tend to lose their glorious pregnancy mane a few months after having their baby, even though many women continue to take prenatal care during pregnancy. ‘feeding with milk.”


Cons: If you have vitamin B12 deficiency, it can lead to complications.

It is important to consider the amount of vitamins during the prenatal period and whether your body really needs them. Because if it doesn’t, the extra doses of nutrients might actually do more harm than good.

“The relationship between vitamin B12 and vitamin B9, folate, is interesting,” says Kipping. “If your B12 levels are adequate, folate supplementation is a good thing. However, if you have a B12 deficiency, supplementing with folate while leaving your B12 levels intact can actually cause a type of anemia known as the name of megaloblastic anemia.

Note that the chances of this happening are relatively rare, and it would only affect a person who is B12 deficient and taking a prenatal vitamin without B12 but with large amounts of folate.


Cons: You may experience stomach problems.

Some prenatal vitamins are very bulky and some people may have difficulty swallowing them, says Sekhon. “This is excessive discomfort because they could probably just take a smaller normal multivitamin,” she adds. “Some people also complain of constipation due to higher iron levels than what is needed.”


The bottom line:

If you are breastfeeding or currently trying to get pregnant, taking a prenatal vitamin is a good idea. Otherwise, there aren’t many additional benefits to justify changing your vitamin regimen. They won’t prep your hair for a Pantene Pro-V commercial, and outside of pregnancy the nutrient doses are higher than what is needed and your body is able to use.


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Patricia J. Callender

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