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Prenatal Vitamins: The Ultimate Guide

Prenatal Vitamins: The Ultimate Guide

Prenatal vitamins have become an essential part of pregnancy today as they are chosen with particular nutrients in mind. Given the significance of some nutrients like iron and folic acid, it’s essential to know how they function to keep you and the baby healthy. For this reason, this post will be sharing various benefits of taking prenatal vitamins and outline specific nutrients you require while you are expectant and even after delivery. Be sure to read through to make informed decisions if you are already pregnant or want to conceive.

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Benefits of taking prenatal vitamins

While getting minerals and vitamins from food is one of the best and most effective ways to give the body the nutrients it requires, there are instances when you may need to supplement. During pregnancy, a lot is happening, so the nutrients found in some kinds of prenatal vitamins can help protect your health and that of your developing baby. 

Prenatal vitamins & Folic acid benefits

Folic acid is an essential nutrient in prenatal vitamins. Every pregnant woman is expected to get enough folic acid to ensure the baby doesn’t develop neural tube defects while growing in the womb.  The neural tube that grows into the spinal cord and brain requires folic acid to close properly. If it does not close properly, problems like spina bifida can occur. Spina bifida is a condition where the vertebrae or spinal cord does not get the chance to develop fully.  The growing baby could also develop a condition known as Anencephaly, whereby the major brain parts fail to develop. Both conditions occur due to neural tube defects and can cause serious complications which lead to permanent disability or death. Therefore, a pregnant woman needs to ensure they get enough of this vitamin.

Getting adequate folic acid can also protect the pregnant mother from complications like preeclampsia during pregnancy. The serious condition is usually marked by hypertension (high blood pressure) and other potentially fatal complications like placental abruption preterm birth. Outside of pregnancy, the vitamin would protect expectant women against blood vessel and heart diseases, dementia, and other kinds of cancer.

Prenatal vitamins & Iron benefits

Another vital nutrient you require is iron. Iron offers many benefits, including protecting you from anemia, a health condition where your blood will have low levels of functional red blood cells. Since your blood volume is bound to increase once you conceive, you must ensure you get enough iron by taking an iron-rich diet and prenatal vitamins.

The iron in food happens to be easy for the body to absorb, but do not hesitate to take iron supplements if your doctor recommends it. Usually, women are required to take iron supplements if they are at a high risk of having low iron or cannot get enough nutrients from their food.

NB: Calcium in dairy products, egg yolks, coffee, tea, soybeans, and fibre tends to block the body from absorbing the iron intake. Therefore, you should try to avoid these foods whenever you are eating iron-rich meals.

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Side effects of prenatal vitamins

By now, you already know that taking prenatal vitamins will help you have a healthy pregnancy by filling in different nutritional gaps you might have. But, this does not mean that you will not experience any side effects when you take prenatal vitamins. Some people experience constipation or queasiness, while others find the pills somewhat difficult to swallow.

Do not be surprised if you feel nauseous after taking prenatal vitamins before eating. Luckily, you can prevent this problem by taking supplements once you eat. Another option to consider if the side effects are severe is to try a different brand.

Sometimes people experience constipation after taking prenatal vitamins containing iron. If you are one of them, then you should consider taking lots of liquids, particularly water, all day long to ease constipation. Consuming meals that contain lots of fibre and also help with constipation.  Fresh fruit, nuts and beans are excellent sources of fibre during pregnancy. Fibre supplements will also prove helpful at relieving constipation. Your doctor may recommend that you incorporate daily exercise into your routine.

If prenatal vitamins are extremely large to swallow, you can take prenatal gummies that are chewable. Just make sure you check if they contain calcium and iron, and if they don’t, you may need to supplement the nutrients separately. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider what time of the day is suitable for taking them. You may also take prenatal vitamin drinks or shakes regularly.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

If you’re trying to conceive, it is advisable to start taking prenatal vitamins in advance, probably a month before becoming pregnant. Experts say that women who are in their reproductive age should take prenatal vitamins regularly. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend checking folic acid at least one month before trying to conceive.

Because the child’s brain and spinal cord will start developing from the first month after conception, increasing the folic acid levels beforehand is better. At the very least, start taking 400mg of folic acid each day when you start trying to conceive.

What are the most critical prenatal nutrients?

Other than getting the fundamental iron and folic acid, your doctor might recommend you take prenatal vitamins with the following nutrients:

  • Zinc
  • Calcium 
  • Copper

Eating a healthy diet that contains whole foods will also provide the best protection against nutrient deficiency. Your doctor will recommend you eat plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and healthy sources of fish and meat so you can provide the essential vitamins and minerals your baby requires to grow.

If you are trying to conceive, expectant or breastfeeding, it is also good to keep taking prenatal vitamins. This will help cover the potential gaps you might have in your nutrition. But it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider before you start taking any supplements. You can also ask your doctor if they have specific brands they can recommend particularly and you have health concerns or certain complications during pregnancy. In such cases, it is advisable to get a prenatal vitamin prescription from your doctor instead of buying the over-the-counter brands by yourself. However, if you don’t have any complications, you can always purchase the supplements on your own.

The prenatal vitamins you get may include omega-3 fatty acids like DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids have always been essential for the human body at any stage of life, but they are more critical during pregnancy. Once you conceive, Omega-3 fatty acids support the growth of the baby, particularly the eyes and brain. Overall they support a healthy brain, heart, joint probability, eyes, immune system, skin, hair, and cognitive function.

Getting adequate Omega-3 fatty acids from food is quite hard, especially during pregnancy. You should consider taking supplements to make sure you and your baby get enough nutrients.  Also, the baby’s brain will go through a complex and rapid development during the initial stages of pregnancy, so taking a prenatal vitamin that contains DHA is fundamental.

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What other nutrients should you get during pregnancy?

There are additional nutrients your doctor may recommend as you try to conceive or while pregnant. They include:

Zinc – although a severe zinc deficiency isn’t common during pregnancy, the additional nutritional requirements make this mineral essential. Zinc will enhance the functionality of your metabolism and immune system.

Copper – is another mineral that’s required to form red blood cells. Because the blood supply needs to increase during pregnancy, it’s vital to ensure you get prenatal supplements with copper.

Calcium – This mineral will assist your baby’s bones, heart, muscles, nerves and teeth to develop.  You are expected to take 1,000 mg of calcium every day during pregnancy. If you fail to take enough calcium, your body will start taking it from your bones and supply it to the growing baby. This can easily cause health conditions like osteoporosis later in life.

Some excellent sources of calcium include yoghurt, cheese, milk, kale, broccoli, and orange juice. Since it’s nearly impossible to get enough calcium from food, you can take your prenatal vitamin too.

Summary of Prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins, especially iron and folic acid, are essential for a healthy pregnancy and birth. For this reason, it is recommended that you take adequate amounts of folic acid and iron every day to ensure both you and the baby get the nutrients you require. Omega 3 fatty acids, copper, calcium, and zinc are also important. If you do not know much about prenatal vitamins or the best prenatal vitamins to buy, you should talk to your doctor to make an informed decision.