Prenatal Vitamins during Pregnancy: 7 Things You Need to Know

As soon as you find out that you’re pregnant your doctor will recommend taking prenatal vitamins. While it’s tempting to shrug off the suggestion, these vitamins may very well mean the difference between a healthy pregnancy and complications down the road – or worse, the loss of the baby.

Prenatal vitamins are the foundation of a healthy pregnancy.

Even if you eat a healthy diet you may not be getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Vitamins can help fill that nutrition gap.

Whether you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant or you’re planning to conceive, you should know these 7 things about prenatal vitamins:

1.   Prenatal Vitamins are Different from Multi-Vitamins

Can’t you just take a regular multivitamin to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Prenatal vitamins are formulated especially for pregnant women or women hoping to conceive. They have higher amounts of the vitamins and minerals needed to support a pregnancy such as folic acid and iron.

  • Iron is crucial for the development and growth of your baby. This essential mineral will also help prevent anemia, which occurs when the blood is lacking in healthy red blood cells.
  • Folic acid is your first line of defense against neural tube defects, which cause serious abnormalities in the spinal cord and brain.

Some prenatal vitamins also contain omega-3 fatty acids, but many do not. If you don’t eat foods high in omega-3s, your doctor may recommend supplementation. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your baby’s brain development, and they have many benefits for mom as well, including:

  • Improves depression symptoms
  • Reduces inflammation
  • May reduce ADHD symptoms
  • Can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

While omega-3 fatty acids are great for your health and the health of your baby, it’s important to avoid eating fish, an excellent source of these fatty acids, when you’re pregnant as they may contain high levels of mercury.

3.   Your Doctor May Suggest Prenatal Vitamins with Vitamin D and Calcium

Your doctor may recommend a certain type of prenatal vitamin that also contains calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is especially important during the third trimester when your baby’s bones are growing rapidly, but it’s also needed to help your body absorb vitamin D.

4.   Prenatal Vitamins Are Not a Substitute for a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is the best way to make sure that you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Do not assume that taking a prenatal vitamin permits you to binge on junk food, pizza and other unhealthy foods – it doesn’t.

While indulgence is okay in moderation, it’s important to ensure that you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet the vast majority of the time.
Here are some tips for healthy eating during pregnancy:

  • Eat the colors of the rainbow: Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will help ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients you need. Grains may be eaten if you can tolerate them, but be sure to soak, sprout, and/or ferment them first.
  • Aim for high fiber foods: Fiber is important, especially during pregnancy, because it can alleviate constipation, gas, and other digestive issues. Opt for foods that are high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils.
  • Dairy is a great source of calcium if you can tolerate it. Yogurt is an excellent choice and can also provide you with gut-friendly probiotics.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C. Food sources of this essential vitamin include: broccoli, honeydew, strawberries, cauliflower, papaya, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, green pepper, and mustard greens. Citrus is another great source of vitamin C, but can cause heartburn.

Eating a variety of fresh foods and avoiding processed, packaged foods as much as possible will help ensure that you get all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

5.   Make Sure the Prenatal Vitamin Has Everything You Need

Just like any other supplement, some prenatal vitamins are better than others. When comparing different products, check to make sure that they contain the appropriate vitamins and minerals at the appropriate dosage amounts.

  • Iron: 27mg
  • Folic acid: 600 mcg
  • Calcium: 150 mg
  • Iodine: 150 mcg
  • Vitamin B6: 1.9 mcg

Vitamin B6 can help reduce nausea and may even prevent morning sickness. Prescription-level morning sickness medications contain a mixture of vitamin B6 and an antihistamine.

Iodine is also important as it aids in the development of your baby’s brain and thyroid.

Other nutrients to consider supplementing (with the permission of your doctor) include:

  • Vitamin D: 600 IU
  • Vitamin A: 10,000 IU
  • Copper: 0.9 mg
  • Zinc: 11 mg
  • Vitamin C: 85 mg
  • Thiamine: 3 mg
  • Niacin: 20 mg
  • Riboflavin: 2 mg
  • Vitamin E: 10 mg
  • Vitamin B12: 6 mcg

Please note that going over the recommended daily dosage of many of these vitamins and minerals can have a harmful effect on you and/or your baby. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations on daily dosage amounts.

6.   Look for Vitamins Approved by Independent Groups

Naturally, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best possible prenatal vitamin you can buy. And some supplements are better than others.

One of the best ways to verify that your supplement is high quality is to look for ones that are approved by independent groups that are known for having rigorous criteria. Some of the most reputable groups include:

  • NSF International
  • United States Pharmacopeia
  • Consumer Lab

It’s important to remember that getting approval from one of these groups is voluntary. If the prenatal vitamin you’re considering isn’t approved, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not a quality product.

If you’re unsure of whether the prenatal vitamin is a good choice, ask your doctor. In the very least, he/she will be able to offer recommendations on vitamins that are known for their quality.

7.   Pills Aren’t the Only Option

Some people have difficulty swallowing pills, especially those that contain calcium. Calcium takes up a lot of space, and pills that have this essential mineral tend to be much larger.

The good news is that you do have other options. You can choose a chewable vitamin or a liquid vitamin. Some women prefer liquid vitamins because they’re easier to take, and many experts say that they’re easier for the body to absorb.

Prenatal vitamins support a healthy pregnancy and may even help you avoid morning sickness. Talk to your doctor about which supplement may be right for you, and don’t forget to add a healthy diet into the mix.