A lot of expectant moms wonder whether taking a prenatal vitamin is necessary during pregnancy. While eating a well-balanced diet is strongly recommended, would-be-moms are still encouraged to take prenatal vitamins as they provide all the essential nutrients that mothers might not have in their regular diets.
What are Prenatal Vitamins?
A prenatal vitamin is a vitamin supplement that women are encouraged to take before, during and after pregnancy, especially if the new mom is planning to breastfeed her newborn baby. Prenatal vitamins are very similar to regular multivitamins but are specially formulated with amounts of nutrients specifically catered to the expectant mother. For example, essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron and calcium may be included in more concentrated amounts while other vitamins such as vitamin A, might be contained in lesser quantity as vitamin A may cause adverse effects to the growing fetus. To add, women who are pregnant require double the amount of folic acid and about 50% more iron than they usually do. Having enough calcium during pregnancy is also important as it is needed to maintain strong and healthy bones for both the mother and baby.
What Benefits Can a Prenatal Vitamin Offer?
Women who are trying to get pregnant, expectant mothers and those who have recently given birth need prenatal vitamins to:
- Reduce the risk of delivering a child with serious neural tube defects
- Prevent the loss of bone density
- Help carry oxygen in the blood for both mother and child
- Receive other nutrients that mothers may not be getting from their normal diets
- Help with normal DNA formation in the growing fetus
Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy
As mentioned, it may be difficult for most women to have all the vitamins they need from their regular diet, especially for women who may be suffering from morning sickness during their pregnancy. With that said, the following are recommendations of vitamin intake for women:
Folic Acid: Folic acid is perhaps one of the most important vitamins to take before and during pregnancy. Not only is folic acid important to normal DNA synthesis and cell replication, but it can also dramatically reduce the risk of delivering a baby with serious neural tube defects such as spine bifida or anencephaly.
Iron: Iron is needed to build hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed to help the body carry oxygen in the blood for both mother and baby. Having enough iron is especially important during the last trimester as the fetus draws on the mother’s iron stores; therefore, it is especially important for the mother to have enough iron for both herself and the baby. Having adequate iron during pregnancy also reduces the risk of premature birth.
Calcium: It’s a well-known fact that calcium is needed to maintain strong and healthy bones. It’s important to have plenty of iron in order for the expectant mom to maintain her bone density especially since she is carrying extra weight during the second and third trimesters. Moreover, calcium is integral to the development of the fetus’ healthy tissues and bones.
While even the best prenatal vitamins cannot replace a healthy diet, most expectant mothers should still take prenatal vitamin supplements to ensure they are getting enough essential nutrients.
What are the best prenatal vitamins?
While not all prenatal vitamins are the same, the following are approximations of what the best prenatal vitamins should include in their formulas:
- 400 – 600 mcg Folic Acid
- 17 mg Iron
- 200 – 300 mg Calcium
- 3 mg Thiamin (Vitamin B-1)
- 2 mg Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2)
- 20 mg Niacin
- 6 mcg Vitamin B 12
- 400 IU Vitamin D
- 15 mg Zinc
- 70 mg Vitamin C
- 10 mg Vitamin E
Some of today’s best prenatal vitamins may also contain prenatal DHA. DHA is a particular chain of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat (good fat), that the body needs but cannot produce on its own and so must be obtained from other sources. Nowadays we’ve been hearing a lot about Omega 3 fatty acids as they offer tremendous overall health benefits. As a matter of fact, numerous scientific studies indicate that DHA has been proven highly beneficial in the development of the fetus’ brain. Moreover, research suggests that Omega 3 fatty acids can also reduce the risk of post-partum depression in women.
All in all, prenatal vitamins should be included as a regular part of a woman’s daily regimen before, during and after pregnancy. In the past, prenatal vitamins mostly came in tablet form. While tablets are still fairly common, most doctors will now recommend other forms since tablets could be difficult to swallow and absorb. Luckily, today’s supplements come in a variety of forms such as capsules, softgels, liquid or chewable prenatal vitamins.
Should you choose a prenatal vitamin, it’s always best to talk to your doctor as well as do your own research to find a supplement that would suit your needs.
So if you’re trying to conceive, now is as good a time as any to start doing some research if you’re thinking about taking a prenatal vitamin.