- Ovulation & Fertility Slideshow Pictures
- Early Pregnancy Symptoms Quiz
- Stages of Pregnancy Slideshow Pictures
- What are prenatal vitamins?
- What are the side effects of prenatal vitamins?
- Should all pregnant women take prenatal vitamins?
- When should you start taking prenatal vitamins? How long should you take them?
- What are the different types of prenatal vitamins?
- How and when should I take prenatal vitamins?
- Who else should take prenatal vitamins?
- Where can I buy prenatal vitamins?
What are prenatal vitamins?
If you are pregnant, as part of your prenatal care, your doctor, OB/GYN, or midwife may recommend taking prenatal vitamins to supplement nutrient requirements needed for fetal development. Prenatal vitamins (also termed Prenatal Multivitamins) are a combination of vitamins and minerals that a woman needs before, during, and after her pregnancy for her health the development of her baby. These vitamins and minerals include folic acid (folate), calcium, iron, vitamin D, and iodine in various amounts. Prenatal vitamins also contain vitamins A, E, C, B, zinc, magnesium, and thiamine. All of these are important nutrient components needed for good dietary health
What are the side effects of prenatal vitamins?
Most women who take prenatal vitamins as directed by their doctor or midwife experience little or no side effects from prenatal vitamins. The iron in prenatal vitamins may cause constipation, and some women complain of nausea. You also may have diarrhea, dark stools, low appetite, and stomach upset or cramps. Talk with your OB/GYN or midwife about any side effects you have from taking prenatal vitamins.
Should all pregnant women take prenatal vitamins?
Proper nutrition is important for your baby’s health, and your baby depends on you for all of his or her nutritional needs, which includes important vitamins, supplements, and minerals that are necessary for embryonic and fetal development. Ideally, if you eat a healthy diet (adequate food sources) it should provide all of your growing baby’s nutritional needs (with the exception of vitamin D and folic acid); however, doctors recommend taking prenatal vitamins if you are planning to conceive or are already pregnant, for your baby’s health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends multivitamin supplements for pregnant women who do not consume an adequate diet. However, your doctor or midwife may still recommend taking them unless your doctor refers you to a nutritionist for a nutritional assessment.
When should you start taking prenatal vitamins? How long should you take them?
Doctors, midwives, and other health care professionals recommend that women begin taking prenatal vitamins before they become pregnant. The brain and spinal cord of the embryo begin to develop within 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy, when you may not even know that you are pregnant. The CDC recommends that all women of childbearing age consume folic acid daily to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly. These serious birth defects affect the baby’s developing brain and spinal cord. Your doctor or midwife may recommend that you continue to take prenatal vitamins after you have your baby, especially if you are breastfeeding. If you are planning to conceive, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss any pregnancy planning concerns.
What are the different types of prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins typically contain folic acid (folate or folate supplements), calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, and vitamins A, E, and C. The ingredients in prenatal vitamins vary depending on the product. Your doctor will recommend the right type of prenatal vitamin or prenatal supplement based on your specific needs.
- Iron: Iron is an important nutrient for the development of the placenta and fetus. Iron also is important for increasing the number of red blood cells in the mother. Pregnant women should take about 30 mg/day of iron during pregnancy to prevent iron deficiency anemia.
- Calcium and vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D are used for developing your baby’s skeleton. The recommended amount of calcium is 1000 to 1300 mg (milligrams) per day for pregnant or lactating women.
- Folic acid: Folic acid is used in the development of your baby’s spinal cord (helps prevent neural tube defects) and brain. The CDC recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 0.4 mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid daily.
- Zinc: Zinc helps your baby develop normally and it may increase birth weight. Zinc deficiency may cause slow growth.
- Iodine: Iodine is needed for proper development and functioning of the thyroid gland. Iron deficiency can cause hypothyroidism in the mother or baby. Women who pregnant or breastfeeding should take of 220 to 290 mcg of iodine daily.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is needed for proper eye development. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. Pregnant women should take 770 mcg per day of vitamin A.
Other vitamins and supplements for if you are planning to conceive or are pregnant
Other vitamins and/or prenatal supplements may contain vitamin B 12, omega-3 fatty acids, and docosahexaenoic acid (prenatal DHA) and other compounds; your OB/GYN should specify what vitamin preparation is best for you.
Prenatal vitamins may be available in many forms; tablets, capsules, chewable and soft gels. Some, for example, Rainbow Light, claim to be certified as organic. Some are available over-the-counter while others are prescribed (for example, Citra natal Harmony). Many are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) because they are seen as dietary supplements.
How and when should I take prenatal vitamins?
Taking prenatal vitamins with a light snack or after meals and at bedtime may help reduce nausea. You can prevent constipation by drinking more fluids, eating foods that contain fiber, and increasing physical activity. Your health-care professional may recommend stool softeners if natural remedies do not help.
Do not take more prenatal vitamins than recommended. Do not combine prenatal vitamins with other vitamin supplements unless your doctor or midwife tells you to because excessive amounts of vitamins can cause harm to you and your developing baby.
Who else should take prenatal vitamins?
If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions then you have an increased risk of malnutrition, and your doctor will recommend that you take prenatal supplements in addition to consultation with a dietitian.
- Are you pregnant with more than one baby?
- Are you a teenager?
- Are you a Vegan?
- Have you had surgery for weight loss (bariatric surgery)?
- Do you have Crohn’s disease or other conditions that affect absorption of nutrients?
- Do you have lactase deficiency?
- Are you a heavy smoker?
- Do you use or abuse illicit drugs?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you drink?
Where can I buy prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter (OTC) or by prescription. Your doctor or midwife will recommend a prenatal vitamin based on your health needs. For example, he or she may recommend that you take a prenatal vitamin high in iron if you have iron deficiency anemia. Follow the advice of your health care professional or pharmacist when selecting an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin.
Latest Pregnancy News
Daily Health News
Prenatal vitamins are recommended by most doctors prior to getting pregnant, throughout your pregnancy, and after you have your baby. The developing embryo and fetus need extra vitamins for healthy development. Prenatal vitamins contain iron, calcium and vitamin D, folic acid (to prevent birth defects), zinc, iodine, and vitamin A. Some prenatal multivitamins also contain other minerals and supplements like vitamin B 12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
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Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
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Having cramps but no period can occur because of conditions other than your monthly menstrual cycle. They may feel like period cramps of the lower abdomen when you are not due for your period and produce no blood. These 12 diseases and conditions are examples of what can cause abdominal cramping when not on period.
Obesity and Overweight
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Pregnancy (Week by Week, Trimesters)
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Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, primarily involving the small and large intestine, but which can affect other parts of the digestive system as well. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss are common symptoms.
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Pregnancy Planning (Tips)
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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
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Crohn's Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
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IBS vs. IBD: Differences and Similarities
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Vitamins and Calcium Supplements
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Stillbirth (Stillborn Baby)
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Pregnancy Changes and Body Discomforts
Pregnancy can bring challenges like weight gain, stretch marks, varicose veins, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, problems sleeping, and wondering if it is safe to have sex while pregnant. Learn how to manage and move through these challenges during pregnancy.
Disease Prevention for Teens
Teenagers recognize that they are developmentally between child and adult. Teen health prevention includes maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, preventing injuries and screening annually for potential health conditions that could adversely affect teenage health.
What Is the Best Vitamin Supplement to Take?
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Smoking During Pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, premature birth and more. Secondhand smoke also increases your baby's risk of developing lung cancer, heart diseases, emphysema, asthma, allergies and SIDS.
Treatment & Diagnosis
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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Top Tips for Eating Right During Pregnancy." Updated Nov 2016.
CDC. "Planning for pregnancy." Updated: Feb 13, 2017.
CCD. "Preconception Health and Health Care." Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017.
Hylton, J, DO. "Prenatal Nutrition." Medscape. Updated: May 03, 2017.
Russell, P. "Multivitamins in Pregnancy 'Are a Waste of Money." Medscape. July 12, 2016.