Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Important?
And Can They Actually Make A Difference In Your Health?
If you are pregnant or thinking about having a baby, it’s only natural that you have a lot of questions about prenatal vitamins. Are prenatal vitamins really important? Aren’t there enough vitamins and minerals in your food? How do you choose a good prenatal vitamin and what’s the best way to take them? Every expectant mother wants to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, so let’s dive into these questions one at a time so you can make informed decisions.
Are prenatal vitamins really important?
Absolutely! Prenatal vitamins are formulated with the unique needs of pregnancy in mind. They contain the essential nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development. Creating a new life is hard work, and your body’s requirements for certain nutrients also increase significantly when you’re pregnant. Of course, prenatal vitamins can’t take the place of eating healthy meals, but they are essential for ensuring that you are meeting the nutritional needs of both yourself and your baby.
Can you get enough vitamins and minerals simply by eating healthy foods?
When you are pregnant, your needs for folate, iron, calcium and other nutrients are much greater than they during other stages of life. These nutrients are crucial for your baby’s growth and development. Even if you do your best to eat a healthy diet, it can be very difficult to meet your increased nutritional needs every single day, especially if you’re experiencing pregnancy-related nausea, cravings, and aversions to certain foods.
Those who have restricted diets, such as vegans or those with food sensitivities, will find it even more challenging to get enough key nutrients to support a healthy pregnancy. Certain health conditions and multiples pregnancy can also lead to an increased need for certain vitamins and minerals. Taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin every day ensures that you’re getting enough of the most important nutrients.
When is the best time to start taking a prenatal vitamin?
If possible, you should start taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin supplement about three months before you begin trying to conceive. Folic acid and iron are extremely important for baby’s development in the earliest stages of pregnancy, and most of us don’t get enough of these nutrients in our daily diet.
Taking folic acid before you conceive and throughout early pregnancy is crucial for preventing birth defects in your developing baby. Folic acid is also important for the expectant mother, too, because it lowers the risk of developing preeclampsia, a condition related to high blood pressure during pregnancy.
In general, women have an increased need for iron at certain times of the month anyway, but your needs are even greater when you're pregnant. Choosing a daily prenatal vitamin that contains iron is essential for preventing iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth weight.
So, is it ever too late to start taking a prenatal vitamin? Definitely not! Even if you didn’t plan ahead, you can start taking them as soon as you realize you’re pregnant. Your healthcare professional may even recommend that you continue taking them while you’re breastfeeding, too.
What other nutrients should you look for in your prenatal vitamin?
Of course, prenatal vitamins aren’t all created the same. You’ll want to read labels carefully and talk to your healthcare provider about your specific needs. In addition to iron and folic acid, here are some other key nutrients to look for:
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you and your baby need for strong teeth and bones and a healthy immune system. Your body also needs it for maintaining optimum calcium levels. If you are deficient in vitamin D during your pregnancy, it may result in developmental delays and abnormal bone growth for your baby. You could also be at greater risk of developing preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.
Calcium: We all know that calcium is important for strong teeth bones, and that goes for your growing baby, too. It’s also crucial for healthy nerves and muscles, and your needs are greatly increased during pregnancy.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: EPA and DHA are two crucial omega-3 fatty acids to look for in your prenatal supplement. They are necessary for the proper development of your baby’s brain, eyes, and nerves. If you don’t include fatty fish or flaxseeds in your diet regularly, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough of these nutrients.
What’s the best way to take your prenatal vitamin?
In general, it’s best to take your prenatal vitamin first thing in the morning along with your healthy breakfast. But sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re dealing with nausea or have difficulty swallowing pills.
When you’re nauseous or can’t swallow pills:
One of the worst things about traditional prenatal vitamins is that they tend to be really big. Many women find them hard to swallow, and if you’re experiencing morning sickness, it’s even worse. If this is an obstacle for you, you will love prenatal gummy vitamins for pregnancy like these! Not only do they taste and smell delicious, but you can chew them up instead of swallowing them.
When your vitamins make you feel nauseous:
Most women experience nausea during pregnancy, especially in the first two or three months. Sometimes, prenatal vitamins can make nausea worse. Usually, it’s the iron in the supplement that’s causing the problem. One way to get around this is to split up your vitamins and take them in smaller doses throughout the day with food to reduce that queasy feeling. If that doesn’t seem to help, your doctor may allow you to switch to a prenatal vitamin without iron until your morning sickness subsides.
Eating a variety of healthy foods and getting lots of sunshine and fresh air will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy baby and pregnancy. Rest and gentle exercise are also important. Taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin every day is like taking out an insurance policy to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet.