Expecting mothers’ nutritional needs evolve as their babies develop.
Prenatal vitamins can help accommodate these needs, compensating for any deficiencies in the diet during pregnancy.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins formulated for mothers-to-be. They are designed to improve both the mother’s health and the health of the growing infant.
All people—and especially expecting mothers—should aim to eat a healthy diet. Pregnant women have to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients beyond what they might be used to. Given the fact that they’re growing a small human, a little extra support can go a long way.
Enter prenatal vitamins. While different prenatal blends may vary in their vitamin and mineral content, folic acid, iron, and calcium are particularly important. So is the omega-3 docosahexaeonic acid (DHA). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume at least 200 milligrams (mg) of DHA each day.
When to Take Prenatal Vitamins
If you are planning to get pregnant in the near future, aim to start taking prenatal vitamins before you conceive.
In fact, even if you aren’t planning to get pregnant just yet, many health practitioners recommend that all women of reproductive age look into taking prenatal vitamins.
A key reason for this—in addition to improving your own health—is that a baby’s neural tube (the foundation of the brain and spinal cord) develops in the very first month of pregnancy. Since the mother might not know she is expecting at this stage, it’s best to already be getting the nutrients required to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Not only that, but roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Consequently, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women take 400 micrograms (µg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid is found in leafy greens, nuts, beans, citrus, and fortified cereals, in addition to many supplements (including prenatal vitamins).
A quick sidebar: If you’re expecting but haven’t started supplementation just yet, there’s no need to worry. Talk to your doctor about the best prenatal blend for your needs, and get started right away.
What to Look for in a Prenatal Supplement
So you’re exploring your options in prenatal vitamins—which one should you choose?
Whatever you decide, be sure to look for the following nutrients:
• Folic acid, supports the healthy development of the brain and spine.
• Iron, which delivers oxygen to the placenta and fetus.
• Calcium, which promotes the development of the baby’s bones and teeth.
• Vitamin D, which helps the mother absorb the calcium mentioned above.
• Vitamin B6, helps with feelings nausea and vomiting.
Other nutrients of note include vitamins C, A, and E. Zinc and iodine are beneficial as well. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids—which are prevalent in fish and include DHA—can assist in the baby’s brain development and aren’t always found in prenatal vitamins. Choline, found in eggs and poultry, among other ingredients, encourages healthy brain growth as well.
Your doctor might recommend supplementing with both prenatal vitamins and, say, a separate DHA capsule depending on your chosen blend. Generally speaking, though, you’ll want to avoid dosing in excess of the daily recommended amount of the various nutrients you’re taking.
The truth is that high doses of nutrients like vitamin A could be harmful to you and your baby. Or, if you take vitamin D seasonally and your prenatal includes vitamin D, you’ll want to stop taking the initial supplement.
If you have any questions at all, simply contact your healthcare provider.
Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins
Ultimately, prenatal vitamins fill any nutritional gaps in the mother’s diet before, during, and after pregnancy. They promote healthy fetal growth and are an important part of the infant’s development. More specific benefits are as follows:
Prenatal vitamins support the infant’s nervous system development.
Prenatal vitamins elevate the mother’s immune health.
Of course you want to care for your baby-to-be—but caring for yourself is just as important. The right prenatal can elevate your immune and bone health. Vitamin D in particular is essential here.
Prenatal vitamins can prevent or reduce nausea.
In addition to supporting your child’s brain development, vitamin B6 will make you feel better during your pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins can lower the risk of anemia.
Most prenatal blends feature quite a bit of iron, which assists in delivering oxygen to the baby, this is a crucial benefit of your prenatal blend.
Prenatal vitamins encourage the baby’s overall development.
Prenatal vitamins promote the healthy development of the baby overall. From the infant’s skin and eyes, to their bones, teeth, and even lungs, prenatal supplementation can go a long way in ensuring the fetus grows as it should.
Prenatal vitamins are available in pharmacies and online from supplement brands like Balanced Health.
Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins Today
It’s important to remember that prenatal vitamins are not a substitute for a balanced diet. Expecting or breastfeeding mothers, as well as those who wish to conceive in the near future, should contact their doctor about the best way to blend a healthy food plan with prenatal supplementation.
Do you have questions about choosing the right prenatal vitamin? Balanced Health has answers.1 Our team offers a range of vegan-friendly, non-GMO supplements that are free from artificial flavors and ingredients. A unique blend of nutritious and delicious, we’ll be happy to guide you through your options. Please contact us for more information.
1 These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.