A Comprehensive Guide to Prenatal Vitamins

By October 3, 2018Obstetrics

While preparing for pregnancy, or during your pregnancy, it is extremely important that you consider nutrition. Consuming a healthy diet and ensuring you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need for growth and development should be on top of your to-do list when planning for pregnancy, or when you find out you are pregnant.

Even if you are super healthy already, the strain that pregnancy puts on your body may mean you require a little assistance getting all the nutrients you need. In this case, a prenatal vitamin is the best option.
prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are an important part of your prenatal experience. There are lots of things to consider so be sure to discuss with your obstetrician before taking anything.

Prenatal vitamins are specially-formulated supplements that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that your body requires during pregnancy. There are lots of options to choose from – over-the-counter varieties, prescription varieties, and standalone types with countless different combinations of vitamins.

It can be very confusing choosing what is best for you, so it’s best that you discuss your options with your obstetrician. Here are the basics so you can make an informed decision when the time comes.

When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

Ideally, you should start taking prenatal vitamins when you are trying to get pregnant as they will help your body prepare for what’s to come, and they can help with fertility. Of course, this is not always possible, and it is completely fine to start taking vitamins as soon as you find out you are pregnant.

You should continue taking them throughout all three trimesters, and while you are breastfeeding. Be sure to talk to your obstetrician about your options for vitamins while breastfeeding, as some prenatals may not be suitable.

What Should I Look For When Choosing Prenatal Vitamins?

All prenatal vitamins are different, and trying to choose the right one for you may make your head spin. However, there are some nutrients that your vitamin should contain:

Folic Acid – Folic acid is an essential vitamin in the pre-pregnancy stage (around one month before conception) and the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folate is a B vitamin that is found in some foods and folic acid is a synthetic version of the vitamin that can be taken as a supplement. It is important for the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. It also reduces the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida. The recommended daily dose is 0.4mg. Or if there an existing risk of a NTD, a higher dose may be recommended.

Iron – Iron is essential for carrying oxygen around the body, and is a important building block for cells. Your body needs even more than usual during pregnancy, so it’s important that you are getting enough each day. Extra iron supplementation is generally recommended for women who are at risk of an iron deficiency (such as vegetarians and women with a multiple pregnancy). If this is the case, you may need to be getting around 60 mg of iron a day.

Calcium – Another important nutrient for your baby’s growth, calcium is a vital component of prenatal vitamins. As you know, calcium is needed for bone development. When pregnant, you need more than the usual daily average. Women aged 14 – 18 require 1300 mg a day, while women aged 19 – 50 require 1000 mg. Most prenatals contain around 200 – 300 mg of calcium, so it’s important that you’re getting the rest from your diet, or from further supplementation.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D and calcium go hand-in-hand during pregnancy. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, so it is important that it’s in your prenatal too. It also supports your immune system, bones, nerves, and muscles.

Iodine – Iodine intake requirements increase during pregnancy as it aids with brain development and foetal growth. It is difficult to get enough from diet alone, so ensuring your prenatal vitamin has around 150 micrograms is important.

Other nutrients you may want to look for in a prenatal vitamin include zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12 and B6, and vitamins A, C, E. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about your personal requirements!

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What If My Prenatal Vitamin Makes Me Feel Nauseous?

Morning sickness and nausea is extremely common during pregnancy and may make it hard to swallow or keep down your prenatal vitamin and other supplements. In this case, there are a few options. Talk to your obstetrician about the best for you.

• Try a different prenatal, such as one with a different coating, chewable or liquid varieties

• Try taking your prenatal with meals or a snack

• Try taking it just before you go to bed

Does Taking a Prenatal Vitamins Mean I Don’t Have To Eat Well?

Definitely not! Prenatal vitamins are supplements, not an alternative to a healthy, balanced diet. You still need to be getting other nutrients from what you eat and drink, and as you may have noticed, most prenatals only contain a portion of your RDI of each nutrient. Make sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and milk or soy products.

Will I Need To Take Any Additional Vitamins?

While prenatal vitamins are an excellent way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need, there is a chance that they will not cover all of your personal nutritional bases. This is particularly pertinent if you have specific dietary requirements, such as if you are vegan, vegetarian, or lactose intolerant.

For example, while most prenatal supplements contain around 200 – 300 milligrams of calcium, the RDI for pregnant women is 1,000 mg – 1,300 mg per day (depending on your age). While in most cases this extra 1000-odd mg is easily made up by consuming milk, dairy and other common animal sources, vegans or lactose intolerant women may not be reaching their RDI and an additional calcium supplement may be suitable.

The same goes for omega-3 fatty acids or iron – talk to your obstetrician or healthcare provider about your lifestyle and make sure you’re covering all the required nutritional bases.

If you have any questions about preparing for pregnancy, or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

We will be more than happy to help and offer compassionate care in every way possible. You can read more about vitamin and mineral supplementation during pregnancy here.