Prenatal vitamins consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals that help your baby get the nutrients that are essential for healthy development. During pregnancy, a woman’s daily intake requirements for certain nutrients, such as folic acid (folate), calcium, and iron will increase. Vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and folic acid are vital for proper fetal growth, development, and healthy adult living.
To help increase your chances of creating a healthy and nutritious environment in which your baby can develop, it is important that you establish a well-balanced diet and exercise routine before you get pregnant. If you choose to supplement your diet with prenatal vitamins, be sure to keep track of daily amounts that you take and let your health care provider know.
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Choose Your Prenatal Vitamins Wisely
Prenatal vitamin combinations can vary depending on the nutritional focus. For example, some manufacturers will create multivitamins that have a higher amount of iron than usual, targeting women who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia.
While certain prenatal multivitamins are only available by a doctor’s prescription, many of them are available over the counter. Keep in mind that it is possible to jeopardize your baby’s (or your own) health by taking inappropriate amounts of synthetic vitamins, so be sure your health care provider is aware of any supplements you are taking.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
Avoid taking several different supplements unless under a health care provider’s supervision; instead take one multivitamin that includes a variety of needed nutrients in one dose. Combining supplements (such as taking a folic acid supplement along with your multivitamin, etc.) can raise concerns because you run the risk of overdosing on a particular nutrient.
Taking more than 100% the RDA of any nutrient should be avoided during pregnancy unless under the direction of your health care provider. If your typical daily diet consists of unprocessed foods, fruits, a colorful variety of vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and plenty of water, then you will likely have sufficient vitamins and minerals already in your body.
As long as you are eating a well balanced diet, you need not fear overdosing on nutrients found naturally in foods (although some studies have shown symptoms of toxicity after large consumption of animal organs, like liver). However, supplements–synthetic vitamins and minerals–are a different story. They contain higher doses in concentrated form, which can be dangerous if taken in improper amounts.
Always let your health care provider know what prenatal vitamins you are taking. Consider taking your supplement bottles with you to your first prenatal visit. Prenatal vitamins can be helpful ways of including vital nutrients in your daily meals. Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy development of your baby, as well as your own physical health.
Be sure to speak with your health care provider about nutrition before you conceive if you are planning to get pregnant in the near future, or as soon as you know you are pregnant.
Last Updated: 07/2015
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Jellin, JM, Gregory, PJ, Batz, F, Hitchens, K, et al. Pharmacist’s Letter/Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. 4th ed. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty; 2002: pg 735, 1274, 1281, 1287 and 1379.
Natural Standard. Retrieved 10/06, from http://www.naturalstandard.com/.
Williams Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al Ch 8.