When Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins
Always talk with your doctor before starting to take prenatal vitamins. If youre trying to conceive or are pregnant, your doctor will likely recommend that you take them.
While you can buy prenatal vitamins over the counter, doctors can prescribe them too. Women who are carrying multiples, pregnant teenagers, and pregnant women with a history of substance abuse have a higher risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Prenatal vitamins are particularly important for these women.
Doctors often recommend that women who are breastfeeding also continue taking prenatal vitamins after delivery. Prenatal vitamins can serve as a further supplement to lactating women who need plenty of nutrients to make breast milk.
Even if you arent trying to get pregnant, you still might want to take a folic acid supplement. Thats because half of the pregnancies in the United States arent planned. Because the brain and spinal cord are already forming at the early stages of pregnancy, folic acid is vital. Women of childbearing age could also eat more folate-rich foods as an alternative to taking a supplement.
A Regulatory Gray Area
Pregnancy tends to sap the bodys nutritional stores while also increasing its demands. So health providers in the United States usually advise expectant mothers to round out their diets with prenatal multivitamins. Ideally, these vitamins should contain key ingredients like folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, iodine for brain development and iron for blood supply. And ideally, they would provide these nutrients in the appropriate amounts not too little or too much.
Theres definitely a Goldilocks area for each, Dr. Schmidt said.
In reality, though, not all prenatal vitamins contain all of the recommended nutrients. Some omit iodine, for example, and most gummies lack iron. Ingredient amounts can also vary by an order of magnitude. The amount of vitamin B12 in the brands I considered ranged from 100 to 3,500 percent of the recommended daily value.
Theyre all over the place, said Dr. Tod Cooperman, the president and founder of ConsumerLab.com, which conducts independent tests of supplements and other products. And thats just whats on the label independent analyses show that some prenatal vitamins often contain much more or much less of certain nutrients than they claim.
Prenatal Vitamin And Mineral Sources
If your diet consists of unprocessed foods, fruits, a colorful variety of vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and plenty of water, then you likely have sufficient vitamins and minerals already in your body. As long as you are eating a well-balanced diet, you need not fear to overdose on nutrients found naturally in foods.However, some studies have shown symptoms of toxicity after a large consumption of animal organs, such as liver.Supplements are a different story. They contain higher doses of nutrients in a concentrated form, which can be detrimental if taken in improper amounts. Always let your health care provider know what nutritional supplements you are taking.
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Let’s Back Up: What Are Prenatal Vitamins And Why Are They So Important
In an ideal world, it would be easy to get all the nutrients you need to prepare your body to support fetal development just from what you eat especially since food also brings with it antioxidants, fibers, and other important components for optimal health.*
But many essential nutrients aren’t readily available from food , the quantities they’re needed in for pregnancy are higher than the average way of eating can supply, and many of us have food restrictions that make it even more difficult to get certain nutrients from what we eat. Whatever the reason for it, people with ovaries in the US are routinely not getting enough folate, choline, and iron from food.
That’s why prenatal vitamins are key. They help you fill in any nutritional gaps in what you’re getting from food so you can build up the nutrient levels recommended before, during, and after pregnancy. As Anna Bohnengel, MS, RD, LD explains it, taking prenatal vitamins “can relieve some of the stress of trying to do it all perfectly, giving you what we like to think of as a nutritional insurance policy.”
What Should Be In Prenatal Vitamins And How Often Do You Have To Take Them
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How Do I Choose A Prenatal Vitamin
First, look at whats in it. Ideally, choose a prenatal vitamin that contains micronutrients that are important to promote fetal development and maternal health, says Dr. Samuel. The most famously important of these is folic acid, which reduces the risk of neural tube defects . A 2018 meta-analysis in Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that taking folate or folic acid supplements during pregnancy might also lower the risk of preeclampsia, a condition of abnormally high blood pressure which can be risky for the parent and fetus.
The food-based version of folic acid is folate, but supplementation is key during pregnancy because it can be difficult to get enough folate through food. Luckily, youd be hard-pressed to find a prenatal that isnt rich in this nutrient.
Prenatal vitamins with iron are also super important, as iron promotes the health and development of the placenta. You also want ones that are easy on the GI system and affordable, says Dr. Samuel, since youll be taking these every day for at least nine months.
Beyond that? I look specifically for prenatals that contain vitamins A, B, C, D, E, zinc, and iodine, says Dr. Samuel. Get one that contains those, folate, and DHA , and youll be in great shape for your reproductive life.
Best Dha: Nordic Naturals Prenatal Dha
Docosahexaenoic acid is one of the three main essential omega 3 fatty acids, the others being alpha-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid . DHA is found primarily in seafood.
During pregnancy, DHA is especially important for a babys healthy cognitive and visual function and overall brain development. A reference intake for the amount of DHA that should be consumed per day hasn’t been set yet, but health experts agree that pregnant and lactating women should consume at least 200 milligrams of DHA per day. Others believe that pregnant women should up their intake to 300 milligrams of DHA per day.
Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA provides 480 milligrams of DHA and 205 milligrams of EPA per serving and is the official omega-3 supplement of the American Pregnancy Association. All of Nordic Naturals products are non-GMO, use wild-caught fish, and are third-party tested, surpassing the strictest international standards for purity and freshness. Note that this is not a complete prenatal multivitamin, but rather an additional supplement for your routine.
SmartyPants Organics Prenatal Formula gummy vitamins are free of artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and the top eight allergens. Smarty Pants does not use synthetic colors or artificial flavors in their gummies, and each batch is third-party tested for purity.
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Can I Mix My Vitamin C Serum With My Moisturizer
Well, the quick answer is yes, you can mix serums with moisturisers. However, it might be best to apply the serum onto your clean face then wait a couple of minutes before layering the moisturiser onto the serum. This will allow the serums potent solution to absorb into your skin in the correct concentration.
Do Know The Purpose Of Prenatal Vitamins Before Taking Them
Before taking vitamins, whether a specific vitamin or a multivitamin, it is important to understand the purpose of vitamins in the first place. Vitamins are nutrients that the body cannot make but still needs to function. This means we need to get vitamins from outside sources, either from our food or from a dietary supplement.
If you already eat a nutritious and varied diet, you are likely getting enough vitamins. However, if youre allergic or intolerant of certain foods, are vegan or vegetarian, or lactose-intolerant, then you might be running low on certain vitamins and a supplement could help.
During pregnancy, the body requires higher levels of vitamins to support fetal growth. It may be difficult for women trying to conceive or who are already pregnant to meet the increased vitamin requirements from diet alone, especially if they are struggling with morning sickness or dietary restrictions. For this reason, it is recommended that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive take a prenatal vitamin supplement to ensure they meet their vitamin requirements.
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Why Does My Prenatal Vitamin Make Me Vomit
Without food to keep them busy, your stomach acids start to chew on you, a process that, not surprisingly, produces nausea. Ask your doctor for recommendations. If your prenatal vitamin is still making you sick, your practitioner may be able to prescribe a brand that wont be so tough on your tummy.
Promoting The Use Of Folic Acid Supplementation
According to Canadian survey data, 58% of women said they took a multivitamin containing folic acid or a folic acid supplement in the three months before becoming pregnant . It has been shown that the use of supplements is influenced by economic status and educational background . For instance, the use of folic acid supplements before pregnancy in Canada was lowest among women in lower-income households, among women with less than high school graduation, and among immigrant mothers . Women with unplanned pregnancies, mothers under the age of 25 and single mothers are also less likely to supplement with folic acid .
Although the majority of Canadian women take folic acid supplements in the three months before pregnancy, continued public health efforts are needed to promote awareness of the importance of folic acid supplementation for all women of childbearing age. To avoid increasing socio-economic inequalities in folic acid use, interventions should provide practical support to vulnerable groups .
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Additional Nutrients In Prenatal Vitamins
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a necessary vitamin in fetal development and is especially important in eye development, says Dr. Purdie. However, there is a risk of birth defects in the fetus if too much vitamin is consumed in the first 60 days of development, Liskov suggests looking to your prenatal vitamin and your food sources to provide no more than 770 micrograms each day.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin boosts immune health and helps protect your bodys cells from things like pollution, cigarette smoke and ultraviolet sun rays. Although you can consume this vitamin in foods like citrus and bell peppers, consider a prenatal vitamin with 85 micrograms of vitamin C.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These aid in healthy fetal brain development. Often found in fish and nuts, she says many prenatal vitamins include a daily dose of 200 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid .
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The Right Picks To Take You Through Your Pregnancy Journey
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about womens health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the bestproducts, and articles are reviewed by healthcare professionals for medical accuracy. Youcan learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Verywell / Sabrina Jiang
Nutrient needs are increased during pregnancy to support the growth and development of the fetus while also supporting the health of the mother. But with so many prenatal vitamins out there, how do you make the right choice? It is important to make sure prenatal supplements have been tested by third-party labs and offer maximum transparency to consumers.
A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin that is designed with pregnancy and breastfeeding in mind. The number of vitamins and minerals in these supplements are safe and appropriate when trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and postpartum while you are breastfeeding. Some specialized prenatal vitamins may also have other pregnancy-related additives, including DHA .
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Prenatal Vitamins During Pregnancy
It is important to take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. Each of the vitamins and minerals helps to support the nutritional needs of the baby and the mother. Here is what each vitamin and mineral in a prenatal vitamin does:
- Folic Acid. Helps to reduce the risk of neural tubal defects, especially in early pregnancy.
- Iron. Supports the increase of blood volume in the mother and supports healthy growth of the baby and placenta.
- Calcium. Helps to promote strong bones, healthy heart, nerves, and muscles.
- Vitamin D. Helps to maintain levels of calcium in the body.
- Vitamin C. Supports the immune system and helps to heal and repair tissues and cells.
- Thiamine. Works to change carbohydrates into energy.
- Vitamin E. Works as an antioxidant.
- Riboflavin. Helps with bone, nerve, and muscle development.
- Niacin. Works to change calories into energy.
- Zinc. Supports a healthy immune system and helps with the rapid cell growth.
Of course, all of these vitamins and minerals must be taken in proper amounts. Too much of any of them is not safe nor good for the baby. Too little of them can cause problems as well. By taking a prenatal vitamin that has the recommended amounts of all of them, you can be sure you’re getting the amounts that are just right for your pregnant body.
Does It Matter What Prenatal Vitamin You Take
While many prenatal vitamin options do have a good number of the nutrients recommended for pregnancy, what sets them apart is exactly what nutrients are inside, what forms the nutrients are in, how high the nutrient levels are, and even the form the prenatal itself comes in.
Here’s why some prenatal options out there don’t pass the sniff test:
- They may have nutrient levels that are well over the recommended daily intake .
- They may contain not-so-digestible forms of each nutrient.
- They may have a bunch of filler nutrients you don’t really need .
- They may come in gummy form and as delicious as gummy vitamins can be, they’re more likely than other vitamin forms to not have an accurate representation of what’s inside on the label.
- While virtually all prenatals will have some form of folate, many don’t include choline. Much like folate, choline is an essential ingredient for the development of the spinal column .*
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Do Include Folate But Know The Difference Between Folate And Folic Acid
One of the most important prenatal vitamins is folate it is involved in closing the fetal neural tube, which eventually develops into the brain and spinal cord. When folate levels are low, the neural tube cannot close correctly which increases risk for birth defects like spina bifida and can even be fatal. For this reason, women are encouraged to increase their folate intake early in pregnancy or even before they become pregnant. In addition to neural tube defects, low folate levels are related to increased risk for depression and anemia.
It is important to keep in mind that folate and folic acid are slightly but significantly different. Folate can be found in leafy greens and legumes. Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate. Many countries add folic acid to grains and cereals. Prenatal vitamins usually include folic acid.
For these reasons, keep in mind that while a folic acid supplement is beneficial, eating more folate-rich foods is also necessary to improve folate levels. Alternatively, dietary folate supplements are available which can increase folate levels equally as well as folic acid. Unfortunately, due to ethical restrictions surrounding developmental research, there is no clinical evidence that dietary folate supplements have the same preventative effect as folic acid on neural tube defects.
Centrum Prenatal + Dha
If you find you’re vitamin D deficient, you may want to seek vitamins that include a little extra or make sure you’re getting enough from other sources like fatty fishes. These Centrum prenatal vitamins fit the bill and include 600 IU of vitamin D.
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Why Its Important To Take Prenatal Vitamins
The big reason why people who are pregnant should take prenatal vitamins is pretty simple: you need to keep both you and your baby healthy. All of the nutrients and vitamins a pregnant woman takes in will go to the baby first, says King. The baby needs that nutrition to grow.
But the mother also needs those vitamins. While the vitamins and nutrients are essential for the babys development, the mother also needs key vitamins for both her and the baby, King notes.
Some of those include:
- Folic acid for your babys neurological development.
- Iron because your blood volume will double and to provide oxygen for your baby.
- Calcium and vitamin D for your babys bone development.
- Vitamin A helps your babys eye development.
Most prenatal vitamins should contain these, particularly iron and folic acid, both of which are essential. Check with your healthcare provider just in case, though, because if your prenatal vitamins dont contain certain nutrients, they might recommend a stand-alone dose.