Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Necessary?
Healthy nutrition is important throughout life, and especially during pregnancy. Even with a wide variety of whole foods, a mother and baby may require nutrients above and beyond what is contained in food. Think of prenatal vitamins as insurance to make sure you are getting all of the essential nutrients during pregnancy.
Whether currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant, women can benefit from taking prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements as early as possible. It is particularly important if you meet any of the following criteria:
- Follow a vegetarian or vegan diet
- Are lactose intolerant or have other food intolerance
- Smoke or abuse other substances
- Have a blood disorder
- Have an eating disorder
- Experience chronic disease
- Have had gastric bypass surgery
- Are having twins or higher multiples
Even if you do not fall into these categories, ensuring you get all of your nutrient requirements daily will help give you optimal strength and energy levels. It will also give your baby the best head start possible during all of the important stages of development in the womb.
Important Vitamins and Minerals Before and During Pregnancy
You may be wondering which nutrients are especially important when pregnant, and how to choose the best supplement. Consult with your health provider to discuss your individual needs and which prenatal vitamins you should take before, during and after pregnancy.
- Many pregnant women do not get enough of this mineral from their diet to meet the body’s increased need. This can lead to a deficiency called anemia, in which the blood has a low number of healthy red blood cells. Iron supports the baby’s growth and development and can cut your risk for preterm delivery, low birth weight and even infant mortality.
- Folic Acid. This B vitamin is important to take even if you are in the planning stages of conceiving. The body absorbs the synthetic version of folic acid better than the natural one typically found in food, so even with a balanced diet, a folic acid supplement is recommended. It can reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube, heart, and other defects.
- Iodine is important for healthy thyroid function during pregnancy. It can also lower the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and stunted fetal growth and development.
- Calcium helps your baby grow a healthy heart, strong bones, and teeth, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm. It can also reduce your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia. This mineral is important even after you give birth and if you are breastfeeding.
- Vitamin D. This vitamin is necessary for the absorption and metabolism of Calcium and Phosphorus. It is beneficial for immune function, healthy cell division and bone health in both mother and baby.
You may be wondering if you should be concerned about other nutrients. Not all prenatal vitamins include omega-3 fatty acids which may help promote your baby’s brain development. Your health care provider may recommend this or other supplements, particularly if you do not eat fish or other omega-3 rich foods.
Which Prenatal Vitamin Should I Take?
There are many prenatal vitamins available in pharmacies to purchase over-the-counter. Consult with your health care provider if you are unsure which specific brand best meets your needs. He or she may recommend a prenatal vitamin that has the proper doses of nutrients for your particular circumstance.
If you still have questions or concerns about prenatal vitamins, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our physicians at Northside Hospital Cherokee provide nutritional counseling and can quickly get you on the right path to the proper allotment of vitamins and supplements for you and your little one on the way.
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