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If you’re trying to get pregnant or you’ve just found out that you’re expecting, one of the first pieces of advice you will likely hear is to start taking prenatal vitamins right away. Health care professionals often recommend taking them before you conceive, throughout your entire pregnancy, and while you’re breastfeeding.
It’s natural to have questions when you’re expecting, and you may be wondering if prenatal vitamins are essential. Doesn’t a healthy diet provide all the nutrition you and your baby need? Here’s a look at how prenatal vitamins can make a difference in your pregnancy so you can make an informed decision.
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are specialized multivitamins that include a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the optimal amounts needed for a healthy pregnancy. They’re a fantastic accompaniment to a healthy pregnancy diet because they provide vital nutrients that you may be missing in your diet.
While every mom-to-be should do her best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats every day, it can be tough to meet your increased nutritional needs through diet alone.
And, that’s where taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin comes in.
Although prenatal vitamins don’t replace a healthy diet, they support the nutritional needs of you and your baby before and during pregnancy. After birth, they also help replenish depleted vitamins and minerals, boost energy, and support your baby’s nutritional needs through breastmilk.
When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
Most experts recommend starting daily prenatal vitamins about one or two months before you begin trying to conceive. Taking them before you become pregnant allows your body to build up stores of crucial nutrients like folic acid, which helps to prevent birth defects.
These vitamins are different from regular multivitamins because they contain higher amounts of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and folate.
In most cases, over the counter vitamins are all you need, but it’s best to consult with your doctor just to make sure.
Key Nutrients to Look for in Your Prenatal Vitamin Formula
Here are the most important nutrients to look for in your prenatal vitamin formula:
- Folic Acid (Folate): This B vitamin reduces the risk of birth defects like spina bifida.
- Iron: Prevents iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy and improves oxygenation of the blood, which is essential for baby’s development.
- Calcium: Essential for baby’s healthy bones, teeth, vascular, and muscle function.
- Vitamin A: Crucial for the baby’s eye and vision development.
- B vitamins: For healthy metabolism and cell function, plus energy.
- Vitamin C: Supports the immune system and prevents oxidative stress.
- Vitamin D: Improves calcium absorption and immune function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA are two essential fatty acids that your baby needs for brain development. Omega-3s also fight inflammation and may reduce the risk of preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.
Prenatal Vitamins Offer Several Perks for Mom, Too
As mentioned above, prenatal vitamins support the development of your growing baby. But that’s not the only reason to take them.
These vitamins offer several perks for momma as well, and they may reduce or prevent the following pregnancy symptoms:
- Brain fog
- Low appetite
- Postpartum depression
- Muscle and leg cramps
- Low immunity
- Skin irritation
Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?
Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, mainly caused by hormonal fluctuations and the weight gain of growing a healthy baby.
It may be hard to tell the difference between pregnancy symptoms and possible side effects of your vitamins. Many of the symptoms are quite similar.
Here’s what to look for and how you may be able to prevent or reduce potential issues:
- Nausea: Some women experience nausea after taking prenatal vitamins. To reduce this issue, try taking your vitamins with a meal. If that doesn’t work, try taking them right before bed so that you’re asleep and won’t feel nauseous.
- Constipation: The iron in prenatal vitamins can sometimes cause constipation. If this becomes an issue for you, talk to your doctor to see if you can take an iron-free formula.
- Changes in urine odor or color: B vitamins may contribute to changes in urine odor or color, but this side effect is usually harmless.
At a time when proper nutrition is so important, including a prenatal vitamin in your daily routine is an easy way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you and your baby need. It’s kind of like taking out an insurance policy to ensure that all of your bases are covered.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.