Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins enhance the nutrients that your body requires to safeguard you and your baby from preventable disorders that may occur during pregnancy.

Supplements insure that you are getting sufficient nutrients. By starting a prenatal vitamin regimen prior to conception, you are fortifying your body with essential vitamins and minerals needed to prevent major birth defects that develop in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Read on to learn why and how you should take prenatal vitamins.

Importance of Taking Prenatal Vitamins

For women with diet restrictions, medical issues and previous complications during pregnancy it is especially important to take prenatal vitamins. Doctors recommend supplements for women who:

  • Are Epileptic or have Type 2 Diabetes
  • Take medicine for Lupus, Asthma or Psoriasis
  • Have kidney or liver disease
  • Are prone to sickle cell anemia or celiac disease
  • Have food allergies or intolerances
  • Are Lactose intolerant
  • Are vegetarians or vegans
  • Had gastric bypass surgery
  • Are pregnant with multiples – twins, triplets, ect

What Do Prenatal Vitamins Give Me that Eating Doesn’t?

During pregnancy, the need for higher levels of folic acid and iron are crucial. Eating a well-balanced diet cannot supply the levels needed, which calls for the supplement of prenatal vitamins.

1. Folic Acid

Folic Acid prevents or reduces the risks of birth defects such as

  • Spina bifida – a defect where the spinal column fails to protect the spinal cord causing lifelong disabilities
  • Anencephaly – a defect where the brain fails to develop completely resulting in death either before or soon following birth
  • Cleft palate – a defect where the unborn’s mouth or lip does not form properly
  • Heart defects – there is research suggesting that inadequate amounts of folic acid may be the cause of some heart problems

Folic Acid diminishes the risk of

  • Anemia – a lack of red blood cells leading to complications during pregnancy including premature delivery. Folic Acid works with iron to distribute the nutrients needed.
  • Preeclampsia – a condition where the mother develops high blood pressure affecting the health of the baby and mother

2. Iron

Iron is the nutrient that allows the body to make healthy cells including red blood cells that are necessary to provide oxygen to unborn infants for brain, hair, skin and proper organ development. Because Iron that is not absorbed is stored by the body, taking too much iron can be as damaging as too little. Prenatal vitamins monitored by your physician will help prevent an over load of iron build up.

What Nutrients Do I Need that Are Not in Prenatal Vitamins?

1. Calcium

Most prescriptive prenatal supplements include calcium at levels far below those needed during pregnancy. Calcium is needed by the baby for production of teeth, bones, muscles and nerves. You can make up for the lack of calcium by eating foods rich in this nutrient such as dairy products.

2. Essential Fatty Acids

These are the Omega-3 nutrients that play a critical role in brain and nerve development. The two elements of fatty acids that are essential are called DHA and EPA. Both of these nutrients are found in

  • Sardines
  • Tuna Steaks – not canned tuna
  • Oysters
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Trout

Note: Salmon has been listed as very high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Wild salmon may contain Mercury while farm raised salmon may be contaminated by the waste products of pharmaceutical drugs.

3. Vitamin D

As with many vitamins and minerals, Vitamin D works hand-in-hand with other nutrients to be effective. Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium and phosphates preventing the risk of soft or weakened bone. The body generates its own Vitamin D when the skin is exposed directly to the sun. For those who get insufficient sun, supplementing Vitamin D is necessary.

A blood test is required to determine if the levels of Vitamin D are where they should be. Dangerously low levels of this vitamin can add to risk of preeclampsia and the need for a caesarean section.

How to Select Prenatal Vitamins

The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] does not control or provide standards for the ingredients in vitamin or mineral supplements. Before taking any supplement, discuss it with your physician.

A preconception health checkup is the first place to ask your doctor to help you choose the right supplements for you while you try to become pregnant. The second best option is to discuss vitamin enhancements is during your first prenatal visit. Take only what your healthcare provider recommends or prescribes.

There are many prenatal vitamins sold over-the-counter. Ask your doctor if there is a particular brand that is more suitable for you.

1. If your provider leaves the option to you, read the labels carefully looking for the following ingredients and levels:

  • Folic Acid – 400 – 800 micrograms [mcg]
  • Iron – 30 milligrams [mg]
  • Calcium – 250 milligrams [mg]
  • Vitamin D – 200 international units [IU]
  • Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid – 50 milligrams [mg]
  • Vitamin B6 – 2 milligrams [mg]
  • Zinc – 15 milligrams [mg]
  • Copper – 2 milligrams [mg]

2. Look for the USP symbol on the bottle. This is the United States Pharmacopeia seal of approval indicating that the pill will dissolves quickly on ingestion. Many supplements made outside the U.S. do not meet this standard and can sit in your stomach without releasing the nutrients promised.

3. Test if it dissolves. If you purchase a vitamin online that does not have a USP symbol, test it by putting one pill or capsule into a ½ cup of white vinegar. Stir it gently every 5 – 10 minutes. It should dissolve completely in 30 – 45 minutes maximum.

4. If you choose a supplement without Calcium, be certain that you are getting this mineral in other ways.

5. Some supplements may cause constipation or excess gas. Ask your doctor about an alternative if experiencing these side effects.

Important Note: A well-balanced diet is critical to good health during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are needed to enhance the nutrients you need – not replace them. There are no supplements that will meet 100% of your particular requirements. Discuss the levels of vitamins and minerals for your circumstances. Previous pregnancy complications may result in your healthcare provider increasing or decreasing one or more vitamin or mineral.

 
 
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