When should you start taking prenatal vitamins? – Cleveland Clinic

It’s always important to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need to stay healthy. This is especially essential when you are pregnant, as your developing fetus depends on you for all of these needs.

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Prenatal vitamins play an important role in helping you and your baby stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. But the ins and outs of adding them to your routine can raise a lot of questions. We turned to clinical pharmacy specialist Morgan King for answers.

Why it’s important to take prenatal vitamins

The main reason pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins is quite simple: you need to keep yourself and your baby healthy. “All the nutrients and vitamins that a pregnant woman takes in will go to the baby first,” King says. “The baby needs this nutrition to grow.”

But the mother also needs these vitamins. “While vitamins and nutrients are essential for baby’s development, the mother also needs essential vitamins for her and the baby,” King notes.

Some of them include:

  • Folic acid for your baby’s neurological development.
  • Iron because your blood volume will double and to provide oxygen to your baby.
  • Calcium and vitamin D for your baby’s bone development.
  • Vitamin A helps your baby’s eye development.

Most prenatal vitamins should contain these, especially iron and folic acid, which are both essential. Check with your health care provider just in case, because if your prenatal vitamins are missing certain nutrients, they might recommend a standalone dose.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

If you’re planning on getting pregnant, King says you should start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you start trying. “When an obstetrician/gynecologist considers dating a pregnancy, it usually begins with the patient’s last menstrual period. This means that when you find out you are pregnant, you could already be four to six weeks pregnant,” she says.

Not all pregnancies are planned, of course, and King says if you’re not taking prenatal vitamins the moment you find out you’re pregnant, you should start as soon as possible. “The major development happens in the first trimester, those first 12 weeks,” she says. “The spinal cord and the brain are developing so these vitamins help with that.”

Additionally, nursing mothers are encouraged to continue taking prenatal vitamins to continue supplying these nutrients through breast milk.

Can prenatal vitamins help you conceive?

No, prenatal vitamins won’t help you conceive, King says.

Can it be too late to start prenatal vitamins?

King adds that it’s never too late to start taking prenatal vitamins either. “While it’s certainly best to start taking them as soon as possible, the baby develops and grows throughout the pregnancy,” she says.

Should I stop taking my daily multivitamin when I start prenatal vitamins?

Once you start taking prenatal vitamins, you should stop taking your daily multivitamin. “You want to make sure you’re sticking to the recommended daily amount of each vitamin,” King says. “Although you’re usually okay if you go over 100% for some vitamins, others, like vitamin A, can cause some complications.”

If you are unsure of your intake, consult your health care provider who can help you plan what additional vitamins you may need, if any. “It’s possible that a mother may need extra folic acid if she’s had complications before, or extra iron if she’s anemic,” King adds.

Is there a particular time of day to take prenatal vitamins?

“No time of day is better than another to take prenatal vitamins,” King says.

Which form of prenatal vitamin is best?

There are a variety of types of prenatal vitamins you can choose from and it doesn’t matter which one you take. “If you look at an ingredient list comparing tablets, capsules, and even gummies, the components will be quite similar,” King says.

It’s also important to check the ingredients to make sure you’re getting everything you need. Most gummies don’t contain iron, King says, because young children may try to grab some, thinking they’re candy and that too much iron is dangerous for children.

When should you stop taking prenatal vitamins?

King says if you’re not breastfeeding your child, you can switch back to a daily multivitamin after birth.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to keep taking prenatal vitamins until you stop breastfeeding so you can continue to absorb nutrients that benefit you and your baby.

But, adds King, if you choose to go back to your daily multivitamin while breastfeeding, that’s okay too. “You want to make sure you’re optimizing your nutrition since you’re providing these nutrients to the baby. As long as you get the proper amount of these vitamins and nutrients, that’s what’s most important.

Patricia J. Callender