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Prenatal vitamins: What’s best for you?

While eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need, you may still not get enough. That’s where multivitamins and other supplements can help.

If you’re planning to get pregnant (or if you already are), your daily requirements for certain nutrients, such as folic acid, calcium and iron, increase. Enter prenatal vitamins.  

What are prenatal vitamins? 

Prenatal vitamins are specifically formulated for pregnant women and contain a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients needed to help keep you and baby healthy.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

Ideally, you would start taking prenatal vitamins about three months before you get pregnant, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. If you aren’t already taking one, it’s a good idea to start as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test.

It’s also best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. If you’re planning to breastfeed, your doctor may even suggest you continue taking them after your baby is born. 

Make sure you tell your doctor or midwife about any prenatal vitamins or supplements you’re taking.

What are the benefits of prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid and iron than your typical multivitamin. Folic acid helps prevent serious abnormalities in your baby’s brain and spinal cord and iron help support his or her growth and development.

Not to mention, prenatal vitamins can also help you fill in any nutritional gaps if you’re struggling with morning sickness or food aversions.

Which prenatal vitamin is best?

Your doctor or midwife may suggest a specific prenatal vitamin or leave the choice up to you – either way, you can find them over-the-counter at most drugstores. Look for a prenatal vitamin that includes:

  • Folic acid – about 400 micrograms (mcg). It helps prevent neural tube birth defects, which can affect baby’s brain and spinal cord.
  • Calcium – 200 to 300 milligrams (mg). Prevents you from losing bone density as your baby uses your calcium for his or her bone growth.
  • Iron – about 17 milligrams (mg). It helps the blood carry oxygen for both of you.
  • Iodine – about 150 microgram (mcg). It aids healthy thyroid functioning during pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D – about 400 IU. Supports bone strength - for you and baby – and helps the body absorb calcium.

 

It’s important to talk to your doctor or midwife about your unique needs. He or she may suggest taking higher doses of specific nutrients depending on your circumstances. For instance, if you don’t eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, they may suggest taking a supplement.

What are the side effects of prenatal vitamins?

Some pregnant women feel nauseous after taking prenatal vitamins. If you experience this, try taking your vitamin with food or before bedtime.

The iron in prenatal vitamins may contribute to the constipation you may already be experiencing from pregnancy hormones. To help prevent constipation, remember to:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day
  • Try to stay active

 

If you’re struggling with side effects from prenatal vitamins, talk to your doctor or midwife. They can help you find what works best for you.

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