As any expecting mother will tell you, there is a lot to think about during pregnancy. From morning sickness and cravings to prenatal care and delivery, expectant mothers have their hands full (literally). However, one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are essential for both pregnant women and their unborn babies. They help ensure that the developing baby gets the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. Prenatal vitamins also help reduce the risk of birth defects and other complications. Despite their importance, many pregnant women do not take prenatal vitamins regularly. In fact, a recent study found that only 60% of pregnant women in the United States take them daily. This is concerning because even minor deficiencies can have serious consequences for both mother and child. There are many different types of prenatal vitamins available on the market today. Some are specifically formulated for pregnant women, while others are designed for all adults. While all brands are not created equal, most contain similar levels of critical nutrients like folic acid, iron, and calcium. Choosing the right prenatal vitamin can be overwhelming for some expectant mothers. However, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any type of supplement during pregnancy. They can help you determine which brand and formulation are best for you based on your individual needs.
Since many different prenatal vitamins are on the market, it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is, therefore, best to start with some of the most essential vitamins; folic acid, iron, and calcium.
Folic acid is vital for proper development of the neural tube of the baby. It can help prevent spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord does not develop properly. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.
Iron is an essential mineral for pregnant women. It is important for a lot of reasons that are beneficial for both mother and baby. Iron is necessary to form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood, and myoglobin, which helps muscles store oxygen. Low iron levels can lead to anemia, which can cause fatigue and other symptoms. Anemia during pregnancy can also lead to low birth weight and preterm delivery. In severe cases, it can cause maternal mortality.
Iron is also very important to aid in the development of the placenta and fetus. The body needs iron to make new cells, including red blood cells. During pregnancy, the volume of blood in a woman's body increases by about 50 percent. This increase means that more iron is needed to maintain adequate hemoglobin levels. Pregnant women need about 27 milligrams of iron a day—more than double the required amount for non-pregnant women.
Calcium is essential for pregnant women because it helps form the baby's bones and teeth. It also helps with muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve function. A lack of calcium can lead to pre-eclampsia, which can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby.
Some other vitamins that are part of a healthy prenatal routine include:
- Vitamin A is important for developing the baby's organs, bones, and skin. It also helps the mother's body to recover from childbirth.
- Vitamin B6 is important for the baby's brain development and nervous system function. It also helps to prevent morning sickness in pregnant women.
- Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that can help to protect the developing baby from damage by free radicals. It also aids in the absorption of iron from food sources.
- Vitamin D is essential for pregnant women because it aids in calcium absorption, necessary for the proper fetal development of bones and teeth. Pregnant women should aim to get at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day through diet and/or supplementation.
As important as vitamins are, a few specific risks are associated with taking prenatal vitamins. The first is that they can increase the risk of nausea and vomiting, especially in the first trimester. Another is that they can cause constipation and diarrhea. Finally, some studies have shown that taking prenatal vitamins can slightly increase the risk of preterm labor.
Prenatal vitamins help reduce the risk of birth defects and improve the health of both mother and child. They provide essential nutrients during pregnancy that can help to prevent miscarriages. Most important, taking prenatal vitamins can help to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy outcome with fewer complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet, prenatal vitamins are too crucial to overlook.
Prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter or by prescription from a healthcare provider. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about which type of vitamin is best for you and how much you should take.