Prenatal Vitamins Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Prenatal Vitamins for Pregnancy
Eating healthy during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for your baby, but how can you ensure that you're getting all of the important vitamins and minerals you need? By taking a prenatal vitamin, you can be sure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.
What Do Prenatal Vitamins Do?
Prenatal vitamins are designed specifically for the needs of pregnant women. They are full of only the essential vitamins and minerals needed to support the pregnancy and healthy growth of the baby without providing too much or too little of those vitamins and minerals, which can be harmful. They also contain specific vitamins, like the B vitamin folic acid, which help reduce the chances of birth defects.
Prenatal vitamins also support a healthy immune system in the mother whose immune defense is lowered due to the pregnancy. Along with that, they provide energy for the pregnant mother who may feel fatigued during much of the pregnancy.
Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy
It is perfectly safe to take prenatal vitamins before pregnancy. It's important for women who are trying to conceive to build up their stores of folic acid, iron, calcium, and other vital minerals and vitamins to prepare their bodies when they need to support a growing baby.
Some women take prenatal vitamins with the intention of growing stronger nails and thicker hair. These claims are unproven. In fact, it may not be safe for just any woman to take prenatal vitamins since they are specially formulated for supporting healthy pregnancies and may contain too much of the vitamins and minerals that the average woman may not need.
Taking Prenatal VitaminsClick thumbnail to view full-size
When to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Most doctors will recommend that women of childbearing age should take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid before conception to make sure that their bodies have enough of the vital nutrients necessary to support a healthy pregnancy. The folic acid aids in preventing neural tubal defects, which often occur in the first month of pregnancy when the neural tube is growing.
If you just found out you're pregnant, you can start taking the vitamins right away. If you are already taking a daily multi-vitamin, you can continue to take it. Other supplements may not be safe to take; discontinue use of those. Speak with your doctor about which kind of vitamin is right for you during pregnancy.
Cost of Prenatal Vitamins
Most prenatal vitamins come in over the counter forms and can range from $5.00-$30.00 for a monthly or bi-monthly supply. There are both brand name and generic, along with a variety of supplements made especially for pregnant women.
Some doctors may prescribe a prenatal vitamin with DHA, Omega-3s, and higher amounts of the usual vitamins and minerals. These vitamins tend to be a bit more expensive than the over the counter versions. If you can afford it (some insurance plans don't cover these) and they don't make you sick, they may be worth it. It is not necessary to have prescription, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, go for it.
Natural Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal Vitamin Ingredients
Not all prenatal vitamins are the same. Many come in capsule form while others are liquid or gummy vitamins. Some are natural while others contain man made ingredients.
The most important thing to consider when choosing which kind of prenatal vitamin to take is the ingredients in the vitamin. If the vitamin doesn't have the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals (see chart below), it may not be doing the job necessary to help you maintain a healthy pregnancy or to help the baby grow as best as he or she can.
Below is information about why the ingredients are vital during pregnancy.
Prenatal Vitamin Ingredients
Vitamin or Mineral
Vitafusion Daily Vitamin
Good Prenatal Vitamin
Prenatal Vitamins with DHA
Did you take prenatal vitamins with DHA during pregnancy?
Prenatal Vitamins During Pregnancy
It is important to take prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. Each of the vitamins and minerals helps to support the nutritional needs of the baby and the mother. Here is what each vitamin and mineral in a prenatal vitamin does:
- Folic Acid. Helps to reduce the risk of neural tubal defects, especially in early pregnancy.
- Iron. Supports the increase of blood volume in the mother and supports healthy growth of the baby and placenta.
- Calcium. Helps to promote strong bones, healthy heart, nerves, and muscles.
- Vitamin D. Helps to maintain levels of calcium in the body.
- Vitamin C. Supports the immune system and helps to heal and repair tissues and cells.
- Thiamine. Works to change carbohydrates into energy.
- Vitamin E. Works as an antioxidant.
- Riboflavin. Helps with bone, nerve, and muscle development.
- Niacin. Works to change calories into energy.
- Zinc. Supports a healthy immune system and helps with the rapid cell growth.
Of course, all of these vitamins and minerals must be taken in proper amounts. Too much of any of them is not safe nor good for the baby. Too little of them can cause problems as well. By taking a prenatal vitamin that has the recommended amounts of all of them, you can be sure you're getting the amounts that are just right for your pregnant body.
Prenatal Vitamins with DHA
Many vitamins are now accompanied with a DHA supplement. DHA is important for the brain, eyes, and central nervous system and their development. It may also help with postnatal depression for mothers. Ask your doctor if it is right for you.
Chewable Prenatal Vitamins
Taking a chewable vitamin may be easier than swallowing a pill or capsule for some women. On the other hand, some chewables have a very strong taste that may upset morning sickness. If you don't like the strong taste, try a gummy vitamin, but beware: some of the gummy vitamins don't contain all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Liquid Prenatal Vitamins
Like the chewable vitamins, liquid prenatal vitamins are often better for those who cannot swallow a pill or capsule. These vitamins are fast acting as they don't need to break down as much as a solid vitamin.
Organic Prenatal Vitamins
Organic vitamins are available for those who do not want to ingest man-made ingredients. Often-times, these vitamins are labelled as 'natural'. Read the labels carefully and make sure they still have the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Prenatal Vitamins Side Effects
Find a vitamin that doesn't have a strong taste and is easy to swallow
Constipation (from Iron)
Increase your intake of fiber and water
Gas or cramps
Increase water intake and take with a meal
Discoloration of urine
Increase water intake
Immediately contact your doctor
Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamins
The side effect from prenatal vitamins that most plagues pregnant women is nausea. Sometimes, the taste or smell of them can make you sick; other times the vitamins irritate your stomach. If the vitamins you're taking bother you, ask if you can switch brands or take a children's chewable vitamin.
Another side effect from the vitamins is constipation, which is caused by iron. To combat this, drink plenty of water and increase your fiber intake.
Some women may have an allergic reaction to prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, contact your doctor immediately and refrain from taking the vitamins.
Prenatal Vitamins After Pregnancy
You can continue to take prenatal vitamins after your pregnancy. After giving birth, your body needs help restoring tissues and cells, and prenatal vitamins help with just that. They also support your weakened immune system, help with the massive blood loss, and help with breastfeeding by providing enough calcium and iron.
Your doctor may recommend a separate iron supplement to boost your levels of iron. If that is the case, you will also want to increase your fiber intake or take a stool softener as iron can cause constipation.
Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Just like everything else you put into your body, you need to be careful about what prenatal vitamins you take and when you take them. Be informed and know what is right for you. Taking prenatal vitamins before, during, and after pregnancy helps to ensure that you and your baby are getting all of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to support healthy growth and birth.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.