Prenatal vitamins are an important part of preparing for pregnancy and ensuring the healthy growth of the fetus. They contain many necessary vitamins and minerals that can complement the mother’s diet and help both mother and baby stay healthy throughout the pregnancy. January 6-12 is Folic Acid Awareness Week, and since one of the primary nutrients found in prenatal vitamins is folic acid, here’s what you need to know about it and the other nutrients in prenatal vitamins.
What Folic Acid Does
Some of the primary ingredients of a good prenatal vitamin are folic acid, iron, calcium, iodine, zinc and Vitamin D. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects as a baby’s brain and spinal cord grow. Since a baby’s neural tube develops within the first 28 days of pregnancy, this development may occur before the mother even knows she’s pregnant. That’s why doctors recommend that any woman who could conceive or wants to conceive should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
Once she has conceived, a mother should continue taking it up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. If she has already had a child with a neural tube defect, this is especially important, as it will lower risk. However, if you’re planning to do this, it’s also a good idea to consult with your doctor first, as they may give you specific instructions for how much to take and how else to prepare for pregnancy. Additionally, it’s a good idea for a prospective mother to add foods rich in folic acid to her diet, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and citrus fruits.
Other Important Prenatal Nutrients
Iron is an important vitamin to take, as well, because it helps carry oxygen through the bloodstream and helps prevent anemia. Calcium and Vitamin D will help the baby’s bones grow strong. Iodine helps the mother’s thyroid stay healthy and properly manage her metabolism and hormones. Iodine deficiency in a child can result in birth defects, physical growth problems and, in severe circumstances, miscarriage or stillbirth. Zinc is a nutrient that supports a good immune system, makes proteins and helps with cellular growth and division.
One other vitamin that pregnant or hoping-to-be pregnant women can benefit from is Omega-3 fatty acids, which help give structure to cell membranes and foster brain development. These nutrients are often found in fish and fish products (fish oil pills are usually recommended as an Omega-3 supplement). Omega-3 fatty acids are not always found in prenatal vitamins, so if the vitamins you take do not have this, it’s a good idea to add this supplement to your diet.
Taking these supplements is advisable in part because when a woman is pregnant, her fetus will need nutrients to grow, and the mother may find that she is not feeling well or is lacking in proper nutrition. Therefore, taking these supplements and eating a healthy, balanced diet helps ensure that both mother and baby get their proper nutrition. Some doctors may even advise taking prenatal vitamins after a woman has given birth and is breastfeeding.
What to Look For In A Prenatal Vitamin
While prenatal vitamins can be fairly easily acquired over the counter in a pharmacy, it’s important to know, too, that different vitamins have different nutritional goals depending on diet and physical needs. Talk to your doctor about the kind of vitamins you should take. This will also help you keep from overdosing on a particular vitamin that you don’t actually need more of. In general, however, it’s good to look for prenatal vitamins that contain these or similar amounts of these nutrients:
- 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
- 200-300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 400 international units (IU) of Vitamin D
- 70 mg Vitamin C
- 6 mcg Vitamin B12
- 10 mg Vitamin E
- 15 mg zinc
- 17 mg iron
- 150 mcg iodine
- 20 mg niacin
- 3 mg thiamine
- 2 mg riboflavin
Consulting with a doctor may also result in them recommending a particular type of vitamin or writing a prescription for one.
Some women may find that taking prenatal vitamins makes them feel queasy or constipated. If prenatal vitamins make you feel queasy, try taking them right before bed or with a snack or meal. If they make you feel queasy, it could be the result of poor diet and lack of fiber, so try adjusting your diet to compensate. Physical activity is also good to add to your lifestyle if prenatal vitamins make you feel poorly, though it’s also a good idea for general wellness during pregnancy or while trying to conceive.
We care about the well-being of our community and want to see families grow strong. If you have any other questions about prenatal vitamins, pregnancy or any other wellness topic, contact us or stop by and see us today!