Why Take Them Before Youre Even Pregnant
Heres the deal: Pregnancy takes a lot of you. Your cute little fetus is actually a major drain on your bodys natural resources, which is why you spend so much time in those 9 months feeling nauseated, exhausted, achy, crampy, moody, weepy, and forgetful.
Your baby gets all the nutrients it needs directly from you, so its easy to become deficient in important vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Making sure your body has what it needs to nourish both of you is much easier if you get started before baby is in the picture.
Think of it like building up a reserve: If you have more than enough of the vitamins and nutrients you need to thrive, then you can afford to share those vitamins and nutrients with your baby as they grow.
How Long To Take Prenatal Vitamins
Congrats! Youre expecting a bundle of joy in a few months. Now that youre pregnant, do you have to take prenatal vitamins the whole nine months? Because your baby continues to grow and develop throughout the entire nine months in utero, its important to continue to take a prenatal multivitamin during your entire pregnancy.
Remember, your baby relies on you for all its nutrients. As the saying goes, youre eating for two! If you dont maintain an adequate supply of essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, your baby may not be able to get the nutrients it needs to grow. And research shows that taking a vitamin supplement before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of having severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.3
A good prenatal multivitamin includes just the right combination of nutrients to meet the increased nutritional demands of a pregnant woman and her developing baby. For example, a prenatal should include adequate amounts of the following:
- Iron, vital for red blood cell formation and to deliver oxygen to cells throughout the body
- DHA , which may help support fetal brain and eye development
- Calcium and vitamin D, which help build and support strong bones
- Iodine, an important mineral for fetal brain development
When Should You Stop Taking Prenatal Vitamins
King says if youre not breastfeeding your child, its okay to switch back to a daily multivitamin after birth.
If youre breastfeeding, its encouraged to continue taking prenatal vitamins until you stop breastfeeding to keep taking in nutrients that provide benefits for both you and your baby.
But, King adds, if you choose to switch back to your daily multivitamin while breastfeeding, thats okay, too. You want to make sure youre optimizing your nutrition since youre providing those nutrients to the baby. As long as youre getting the appropriate amount of those vitamins and nutrients, thats whats most important.
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When Should I Start Prenatal Vitamins
Everyone knows how important getting the right prenatal vitamins and minerals is during pregnancy. Most women have to take a daily supplement, although some do okay with diet changes. I recommend using both methods combined. Baby takes a LOT out of mum, so its best to be as healthy as possible from the get-go.
But when is the best time to start taking prenatal vitamins? Most women I have talked to said that they didnt start until they found out they were pregnant. However, research indicates that the optimal time to start taking supplements is actually 3 months BEFORE you conceive!
It takes time for your body to reach the optimal nutritional status that supports a healthy pregnancy that means starting a prenatal even before you stop birth control methods.
According to OBGYN Dr Jason Rothbart, most women dont find out they are pregnant until around 4-7 weeks pregnant, which is past the first 28 days. In the first 28 days, the organs are rapidly forming. The neural tube is almost completely formed and closed by the end of 28 days. The essential nutrient Folate from prenatal vitamins helps promote the healthy development of neural tubes.
Are Prenatal Vitamins The Secret To Better Hair And Skineven If Youre Not Pregnant
Some women claim that taking prenatal vitamins when theyre not pregnant improves hair growth and gives them shinier, healthier strands. But is it safe to take these nutrient-packed pills when youre not expecting? We asked experts to weigh in.
Its no secret that prenatal vitamins are packed with a slew of essential nutrients like folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and others that help support babys development and protect against or birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord, called neural tube defects. But could they also deliver an admittedly less important but still appealing perk for non-pregnant womenlonger, faster-growing hair and smoother skin?
Recently, it seems like everyone I talk to is taking prenatal vitamins for the beauty benefits. The trend appears to have gotten Hollywoods stamp of approval, too. A quick Google search confirms that LeAnn Rimes, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mindy Kaling all swear by prenatals for red carpet-ready strands. will not only scare your boyfriend, will make your hair grow faster, thicker, and keep your skin glow-y and smooth, Kaling said a few years ago.
But other experts we spoke to warned against taking these pills when youre not trying to conceive.
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Boosts Nutrition During Breastfeeding
Even after the baby is born, the diet of a breastfeeding mother remains incredibly important. Nutrient needs actually increase during breastfeeding, when compared to pregnancy. Breastfeeding moms need more iron, calcium, and vitamin C than pregnant women. They also need to drink more water and eat more calories to help produce enough milk for a growing baby.
A new mother may not have an ideal diet between caring for baby and themselves, so prenatal vitamins can help fill in some of the nutrient gaps that may exist, particularly for important vitamins such as iron, vitamin D, and some B-vitamins. Prenatal vitamins therefore remain critically important during breastfeeding to prevent deficiencies and provide enough nutrition in the breast milk to support the mother and the baby.
When To Start Taking Prenatal Multivitamins
Pregnancy can be hard to predict. Its impossible to know whether it will take a month or a year to get pregnantand, oftentimes, someone may not know they’re actually pregnant until a few weeks later.
Because so much of a babys development happens during the early weeks of pregnancy, its important to start taking prenatal multivitamins before trying to get pregnantthree months is a good rule of thumb.
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Possible Prenatal Vitamins Side Effects
The iron in prenatals can cause constipation, and you may also have low appetite, stomach cramps, dark stools, and diarrhea. You can ease your symptoms by:
- Drinking a lot of fluids.
- Eating more food rich in fiber.
- Getting more physical activity.
Other prenatal vitamins side effects that can appear include:
- Back pain.
- Teeth staining.
Let your doctor know if you are taking pain relievers, heart medications, high blood pressure pills, sulfamethoxazole, or diuretics, as these can have negative interactions with prenate pills. Your healthcare provider can advise you on when to start taking prenatal vitamins.
Now, we can move on to the next section: Do prenatals help you get pregnant? where we will address the following question: Do prenatal vitamins make you fertile? and also discuss when to start taking prenatals.
What Happens If You Dont Take Prenatal Vitamins
Taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy can help prevent miscarriages, defects, and preterm labor. If youre not taking prenatal vitamins, neural tube defects can appear:
- Anencephaly: This occurs when the babys skull and brain doesnt form correctly. Babies that are born with anencephaly dont survive.
- Spina bifida: This occurs when the spine does not form correctly and the baby may have physical disabilities.
Now that we have addressed one of the most asked questions, What happens if you dont take prenatal vitamins?, we can move on to the next section: When to take prenatal vitamins.
Possible Side Effects Of Prenatal Vitamins
In general, the nutrients and vitamins, which are included in prenatal, will not cause any serious side effects. But, if they cause detrimental side effects, then pregnant moms should not be encouraged to take them.
Your iron needs might increase from 18 mg to 27 mg during the pregnancy. When you take prenatal vitamins, this increased intake of iron might cause side effects like constipation and nausea, and over time this excess of nutrients might become more problematic.
Its Not Just About Timing
Lets talk about a few key examples:
Folate.Folate is a B Vitamin that helps support neural tube development during the early stages of pregnancy and is typically found in vegetables , eggs, and legumes. Folate comes in various forms, including folic acid and 5-MTHF.*
Iron.Iron needs increase during pregnancy.*
Omega-3 fatty acids.Omega-3 fatty acids help support brain and vision health and are typically found in foods like salmon, tuna, and shellfish.*
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Tips For Choosing The Best Prenatal Vitamin
There are plenty of prenatal vitamin supplements on the market so how do you pick the best one? Your individual needs may differ, so its best to work directly with your doctor when deciding on the right prenatal vitamin for you.
In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you choose the best prenatal vitamin:
Tips For Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Suspicious that your prenatals are upsetting your stomach? There are ways you can minimize some of the more unpleasant effects.
- Ask your doctor about switching to another brand. Sometimes, a prenatal is formulated in a way that just doesnt sit right with you.
- Try a different method. Prenatals are often available as capsules, beverages, gummies, and even protein shakes and ingesting them differently can aid the digestive process. Try switching from one large capsule to three gummies per day or splitting up two doses 12 hours apart.
- Drink lots of water before and after. If youre having constipation, make sure you keep your GI system flushed out. You can also add a fiber supplement if youre really feeling backed up .
- Experiment with food. If your vitamins are making you nauseated, try taking them with or without food. For some people, taking vitamins on an empty stomach is irritating others find that they can only take them on an empty stomach.
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If You Are Actively Trying To Conceive It Would Be Smart To Start Taking A Good Solid Prenatal Vitamin Now
New research suggests that the earlier you start taking a prenatal, the better. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is advisable to start taking prenatal vitamins even before conception. Their recommendation goes so far as to suggest prenatal vitamins should be taken by any woman who is of child-bearing age.
Ps Don’t Forget About Protein
A prenatal multivitamin can help support micronutrient needs, but it’s important to consider macronutrients as well. Exhibit A: Women need more protein during pregnancy and lactation to help support the increased nutrient demands that occur during these life stages. We formulated our Essential Protein Pregnancy & Postpartum with these demands in mindand even added choline, too.*
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Not Having The Right Levels Of Vitamins And Minerals During Pregnancy Can Really Cause Major Issues
Not only could it lead to a harder pregnancy for mum, but it can also cause congenital disabilities on the extreme side and the mild side it can set your baby up for a lifetime of depleted levels themselves.
Prenatal vitamins typically contain more folic acid and iron than do standard adult multivitamins. Heres why:
- Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. These defects are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.
- Iron supports the babys growth and development. Iron also helps prevent anemia, a condition in which blood has a low number of healthy red blood cells.
Not all prenatal vitamins include omega-3 fatty acids, which might help promote a babys brain development. If you dont eat fish or other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, your health care provider might recommend omega-3 fatty acid supplements in addition to prenatal vitamins.
Prenatal Vitamins Calcium and vitamin D are important as well especially during the third trimester when your babys bones are rapidly growing and strengthening.
It also might be beneficial to look for a prenatal vitamin that contains vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, iodine and copper.
The Ideal Time To Start A Prenatal Is One To Three Months Before Trying To Conceive
The main reason for this is due to the large number of unintended pregnancies. A study published in 2016 revealed that a staggering 45% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned. The window during which folate supplementation is most important is in the first 21 to 28 days after conception, which is way before many of these pregnancies are unrecognized. Its no wonder this recommendation was made as a precaution of sorts.
I will pause a moment here to say that if you are a reproductive age woman who is not trying to get pregnant and is on reliable birth control , then this recommendation isnt necessarily applicable.
Why are those first three to four weeks of pregnancy so important? The neural tube is the precursor structure that will eventually become the brain, spine, and spinal cord in the fetus later on in the pregnancy. Neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly occur when the neural tube doesnt close when it is supposed to. Neural tube closure is usually complete by the 28th day after conceptionwhich, if the pregnancy wasnt planned, is likely well before a woman knows that shes pregnant. As the most common major malformation of the central nervous system, this is an important risk to consider and try to prevent.
The other nutrients in prenatal vitamins arent quite as time-sensitive, so I wont delve into them here, but you can check out this article to learn more.
Which Vitamins And Minerals Are Most Important And Why
“The three most important nutrients, based on very good research, are folic acid, iron and calcium,” says Kukreja. Folic acid helps prevent neural-tube defects iron is important for the delivery of oxygen to the baby and prevents anemia in the mom and calcium helps build your baby’s bones and prevents bone loss in the mother.
Meet Beli Prenatal Multivitamin
Beli for Women prenatal vitamins are vegan capsules that provide both mom and baby all the nutritional value they need to stay healthy from preconception to delivery. Gentle on the stomach, gluten-, allergen-, and dairy-free, this prenatal vitamin helps boost fertility and improve egg quality, making it ideal for the pre-conception window. During pregnancy, its chelated form of iron and other minerals are easy to absorb in the stomach to help reduce morning sickness.
It also contains choline, an important nutrient during all five stages of pregnancy, from preconception through all three trimesters and after delivery. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends that women planning to conceive consume 450mg of choline daily, but most prenatal vitamins come up well short of that amount.
“It’s shocking that most prenatal formulas don’t contain choline, or have it in such low amounts, considering how critical it is for baby’s brain development. Ninety-two percent of pregnant women don’t get the recommended amount of choline in their diets that helps build the baby’s brain, protect placenta function, and support normal fetal neural pathway growth,” said Dr. Taylor Wallace, America’s favorite food scientist and expert on choline research.
“Beli’s new modern prenatal is one of the first to include 400mg of a highly absorbable form of choline that gives women the nutrients they need to support a growing baby in pregnancy and post-pregnancy.”
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Folate Helps Prevent Birth Defects
One of the most important nutrients in prenatal vitamins is called folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9. Folate helps the body make DNA, enhances brain function, and plays a role in cell growth. For pregnant women, it can help reduce the risk of birth defects related to the brain and spinal cord.
Early in the development of the fetus, there is an opening at the bottom of the spinal cord that requires folate to close properly. How folate helps with the closure is unclear, but may be related to the role it plays in cell growth. For this reason, taking a folate supplement during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the risk of these types of birth defects . This particular birth defect occurs early in pregnancy before a woman even knows she is pregnant, therefore doctors and dietitians recommend starting a prenatal vitamin before trying to conceive.
This vitamin is commonly found in green leafy vegetables and fortified breads and cereals, but many women are deficient in folate prior to getting pregnant. As Ive seen in my practice as a dietitian, most of us dont eat nearly enough green leafy vegetables. Birth control pills and being overweight can also increase risk for folate deficiency, making it even more important to improve levels before trying to conceive.
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