Folic Acid Before And During Pregnancy
Its important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day before you’re pregnant and until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
If you did not take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Try to eat green leafy vegetables which contain folate and breakfast cereals and fat spreads with folic acid added to them.
It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone, which is why it’s important to take a folic acid supplement.
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Casey Seiden is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist based in New York City. Casey works at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates, the premier maternal-fetal medicine practice in Manhattan, where she provides nutrition therapy and counseling to women with high-risk pregnancies. She is also the founder of Casey Seiden Nutrition, a virtual private practice specializing in a non-diet approach to diabetes care and womens health.
When Will I Start To Feel Better
Most people will start to feel the benefit of an iron supplement within a few days.
According to the U.K.s National Health Service , it takes about 1 week to feel better after starting a ferrous fumarate supplement.
However, it takes much longer to build up your iron reserves. Thats why many doctors recommend keeping up your iron supplementation for as long as 3 to 6 months if you have iron deficiency anemia, according to Australias National Blood Authority.
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Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
When you don’t get enough iron, your stores become depleted over time. And if you no longer have enough iron to make the hemoglobin you need, you become anemic.
Iron-deficiency anemia can sap your energy and cause many other symptoms, especially if you have a severe case. It can also make it harder for your body to fight infection.
It may even impact your pregnancy: Iron-deficiency anemia â especially in early or mid-pregnancy â has been linked to a greater risk of preterm birth, having a low-birth-weight baby, and other serious complications.
If you’re anemic when you give birth, you’re more likely to need a transfusion and have other problems if you lose a lot of blood at delivery. And some research suggests an association between maternal iron deficiency and postpartum depression.
Are Prenatal Vitamins Beneficial
Those that are trying to conceive: The CDC recommends that all women of reproductive age take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to prevent neural birth defects in case you become pregnant.
Those that are pregnant: Pregnancy is a time of increased nutrient needs. According to USDA data, many pregnant and lactating people are not meeting recommendations for certain food groups and specific nutrients, so it is generally recommended for these populations to take a daily prenatal vitamin. Both the CDC and American College of Obstretricians and Gynecologists recommend taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid during pregnancy.
Those that are breastfeeding: It may be beneficial to continue a prenatal vitamin postpartum while breastfeeding however the RDAs for lactating women differ slightly from the needs of pregnant women. For example, prenatal vitamins may exceed postpartum needs for both iron and folic acid, and may be too low in iodine and choline.
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Do You Need Iron Supplements During Pregnancy
You may. Many women start their pregnancy without enough iron to meet their body’s increased demands and are unable to bring their levels up through diet alone. But you won’t need to take additional supplements unless your provider advises you to. The iron in your prenatal vitamin will likely be all you need, unless you have anemia.
If your provider recommends iron supplements:
- Take them one hour before or two hours after meals because iron is absorbed most easily on an empty stomach. However, you may want to take the supplement with orange juice â which is high in iron-enhancing vitamin C â to boost absorption. Don’ttake your iron pill with milk, coffee, or tea because these can interfere with iron absorption.
- If your provider has recommended you take both an iron and a calcium supplement , ask for advice on how to space them out during the day. Calcium also hinders iron absorption.
- Be aware that iron supplements can upset your gastrointestinal tract. The most common complaint is constipation, which is already a problem for many pregnant women. Try drinking prune juice if you’re constipated. It can help you stay regular â and it’s a good source of iron.
When taking an iron supplement, you may also have nausea or diarrhea. If your supplement or prenatal vitamin makes you feel queasy, try taking it with a small snack or at bedtime.
Finally, don’t worry if your stools look darker when you start taking iron. That’s a normal and harmless side effect.
Good Sources Of Heme Iron:
- 3 ounces lean beef, chuck: 2.2 mg
- 3 ounces lean beef, tenderloin: 2.0 mg
- 3 ounces roast turkey, dark meat: 2.0 mg
- 3 ounces roast turkey, breast meat: 1.4 mg
- 3 ounces roast chicken, dark meat: 1.1 mg
- 3 ounces roast chicken, breast meat: 1.1 mg
- 3 ounces light tuna, canned: 1.3 mg
- 3 ounces pork, loin chop: 1.2 mg
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When To Start And Stop Taking Prenatal Vitamins
You should start using a multivitamin that contains folic acid whenever you think you might conceive. Because the kind of birth defects that arise from a lack of folic acid start to form before many women even realize they are pregnant, its important to supplement this nutrient even before conception.
Other nutrient demands increase only after pregnancy starts, so it doesnt have to be a prenatal vitamin until after the pregnancy test is positive. If youre unable to tolerate the vitamin because you feel sick in the first trimester, its OK to start once youre feeling better.
You should continue to take a prenatal vitamin for the duration of breastfeeding, however long that may be. This is because lactation also increases nutritional demands, especially of calcium and iron.
How Much Supplemental Iron Do Pregnant Women Need
A daily supplement containing 16 to 20 mg of iron is recommended during pregnancy. Based on the results of the modelling process, it was concluded that a supplement of 16 mg per day throughout pregnancy would be effective and safe for pregnant women who are in good health. When added to the iron they get from a mixed dietFootnote 4, these women would have all the iron they need for pregnancy . Additionally, supplementing well nourished pregnant women with 20 mg of iron per day has been shown to be effective in reducing the prevalence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia at the time of delivery .
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What Other Practices Should You Consider Alongside A Prenatal Vitamin
First, it must be repeated that diet should be the primary source of nutrients and prioritized as such. Healthy whole foods like vegetables and fruit contain much more than just the common vitamins and minerals we all know about, explains Marlowe. They also contain powerful antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals that work synergistically to support our health, as well as fiber which aids digestion. Additionally, keeping blood sugar stable is especially important during pregnancy. Nausea can be caused by low blood sugar, so protein, whether organic animal protein or plant-based, is important, says Marlowe. Make sure you have enough, especially at night, to help balance blood sugar.
Is It Ok To Take Prenatal Vitamins If You Are Not Pregnant
Yes, its OK to take prenatal supplements if youre not pregnant. In fact, experts recommend taking prenatal supplements for at least 3 months before becoming pregnant.
They also recommend continuing to take a prenatal supplement after youve given birth, though there are several products on the market specifically designed for the postnatal period.
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When Should I Start Taking A Prenatal Vitamin
The best time to begin taking prenatal vitamins is before you conceive. The folate in a prenatal vitamin taken before conception significantly reduces the chances of neural tube irregularities like spina bifida.
A babys neural tube, which will develop into both the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy. That could happen before you even realize youre pregnant.
If you arent already taking a daily prenatal vitamin, start taking one as soon as you find out youre expecting. Youll continue taking your prenatal vitamin every day during your pregnancy.
Your doctor might also recommend you continue to take prenatal vitamins after delivery, especially if you decide to breastfeed.
If you have pregnancy complications or other health concerns, your doctor might recommend a prescription prenatal supplement. Otherwise, over-the-counter vitamins are available at the pharmacy or online.
While there are many brands available, youll want to choose a prenatal vitamin that includes:
Most pregnant people dont get enough choline, so its important to include choline-rich foods like egg yolks in your diet or take a supplement that contains this vital nutrient.
Choline is important for your health and is essential for fetal brain development and placental function.
Some supplements also contain DHA, which is important for your babys brain tissue growth and function especially during the third trimester.
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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 stay within that recommended daily amount of each vitamin, King says. While youll generally be okay if you go over 100% for some vitamins, others, like Vitamin A, can lead to certain complications.
If youre not sure about your intake, check with your healthcare provider who can help you plan out what, if any, extra vitamins you may need. Its not out of the question that a mother may need extra folic acid if theyve had previous complications or extra iron if theyre anemic, King adds.
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Can I Take Prenatal Vitamins If I Dont Want To Get Pregnant
Prenatal vitamins are specific to the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women. Theyre geared to make up the common nutritional deficiencies a pregnant woman could have. But they arent really intended for women who arent expecting or lactating.
Taking too much folic acid each day can have the adverse side effect of masking a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Excess iron can be a problem, too. Getting too much iron is associated with health problems like constipation, nausea, and diarrhea.
Excess amounts of nutrients like vitamin A taken from synthetic vitamins could be toxic to a persons liver.
Again, its better if you get these nutrients through your diet instead of a pill. For these reasons, most women should skip prenatal vitamins unless their doctors tell them otherwise.
Folic Acid Calcium Iodine And Iron
If getting pregnant is a possibility for you, you should take folic acid. It can prevent birth defects that affect the babys brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects develop early in pregnancy, before many women know theyre pregnant half of all pregnancies are unplanned. This is why doctors recommend that any woman who could get pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting before conception and continuing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
If youve had a baby with a neural tube defect you should talk with your health care provider about folic acid. Studies have shown that taking a larger dose at least one month before and during the first trimester may help if youve had a baby with this defect. But talk to your doctor about whats right for you.
Foods that have folic acid include:
Iron helps your body make more blood red cells. These blood cells carry oxygen to the baby that it needs to develop.
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Ways To Get Enough Iron In Pregnancy
Here are some tips for getting as much iron as possible from your diet:
- Cook in a cast iron pan. Moist, acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, are especially good at soaking up iron this way.
- Include a source ofvitamin C with every meal, especially when eating vegetarian sources of iron, like beans. Vitamin C can help you absorb up to six times more iron from your food.
- Watch out for “iron inhibitors,” which are naturally occurring substances in many healthy foods that can interfere with iron absorption. Examples of iron inhibitors include phytates in whole grains and legumes, polyphenols in coffee and tea, oxalates in soy foods and spinach, and calcium in dairy products.
If you have low iron or iron-deficiency anemia, some experts believe you shouldn’t eat iron-inhibiting foods at the same time as iron-rich foods. Others believe it’s okay to eat these foods together as long as your overall diet includes plenty of iron-rich and vitamin C-rich foods. Your provider or a dietitian can work with you to create a prenatal nutrition plan that supports healthy iron levels.
The Differences Between Fat
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body. If you ingest more than your body needs, excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver and body fat. This can lead to toxic side-effects that wreak havoc on you and your baby.
Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in your body but are dissolved in water and excreted by urine on a regular basis.
If you ingest an overdose of a water-soluble vitamin, the exceeded quantities will be flushed from your body. However, overdose can still be dangerous because of potentially irritating effects the vitamins can have on your digestive system.
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Iron Levels Beyond Birth
Even if you develop an iron deficiency during pregnancy, the good news is that your stats will likely return to normal after you give birth. “By six weeks after delivery most women’s iron levels will be back to normal,” Dr. Goist says. But if your levels were low, continuing to beef up your dietary iron intake will help rebuild your body’s iron stores so you’ll have all the energy you need to keep up with your new bundle of joy.
Excess Prenatal Vitamin Toxicity
Vitamin A: According to the Institute of Medicine, the tolerable upper intake level during pregnancy for preformed Vitamin A is 3,000 mcg. Excessive vitamin A from the retinol form can cause birth defects and weaken bones. If you and a healthcare provider determine that you would like to include prenatal that contains vitamin A, we recommend choosing one with the beta-carotene form of vitamin A instead, as the only side effect of taking excessive beta-carotene is a yellowing of the skin.
Folate: The tolerable upper intake level for folate is listed as 1,000 mcg for pregnancy. One study showed that intakes over 1,000 mcg in the period immediately before and after getting pregnant resulted in poor cognitive development in 4-year-olds. It has also been shown that high levels of unmetabolized folic acid, which can result from the body’s inability to convert folic acid to the acid methyl form , could weaken the immune response and even increase the risk of neonatal jaundice, and infant asthma. It can also lead to developmental delays like autism.
Vitamin D: Intakes over 4,000 IU are considered to exceed the tolerable upper intake level, and excessive vitamin D can result in dangerously high calcium levels. However, this amount often does not take into consideration whether a person is deficient going into pregnancy. If a pregnant person is deficient, they may benefit from slightly higher therapeutic doses for the health of themself and the baby.
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Iron Is A Crucial Mineral Needed During Pregnancy Here’s Why And How To Get Enough For You And Your Developing Baby
There are few times you hear more about the importance of iron than during pregnancy. But have you ever wondered why this mineral is so crucial and how you can be sure you’re getting enough? Us, too. That’s why we spoke with experts to find out more about iron’s role when you’ve got a bun in the oven.
Low Iron During Pregnancy
Iron-deficiency anemia can occur while you are pregnant if you do not get enough iron in your daily diet or from a prenatal vitamin. Many women have low iron before they become pregnant, which can also lead to anemia, Baby Center reports. Developing anemia may cause a lack of energy and may make it harder for your body to fight off infections. Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy can also increase your risk of preterm delivery, having a low birth weight baby and fetal or infant death. Baby Center notes that a low iron count may also increase your risk of postpartum depression after your baby is born.
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Do Prenatal Vitamins Help You Get Pregnant
Research shows that prenatal supplements have a beneficial impact on fertility, including increasing the chance of becoming pregnant and decreasing the time it takes to become pregnant .
Whats more, nutrient deficiencies can impact your ability to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.
For example, deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B12, and folate can impact your ability to become pregnant .
Additionally, supplementing with a well-rounded prenatal that includes methylated folate and B12 may improve the effectiveness of assisted reproductive technology treatment .