05 Jul Why are prenatals so important? What to look for, side effects, and how to choose the best prenatal vitamin
Prenatals, or prenatal vitamins, are vitamins that doctors and pregnancy dietitian nutritionists recommend women who are trying to conceive, or women who are pregnant, take. During pregnancy, a woman’s body has unique needs that a balanced diet might not meet. Likewise, before pregnancy, while trying to conceive, these vitamins can ensure a woman and her developing baby are getting all they need.
Prenatal vitamins are available in tablets capsules, gummies, powders, and softgels. The best form of prenatal vitamins depends on personal preferences, nutrient needs, and any specific medical conditions.
Though prenatal vitamins are safe for almost all women, some women do experience side effects including:
- Nausea: Prenatal vitamins can cause nausea and vomiting, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Constipation: Some women may experience constipation when taking prenatal vitamins, particularly if they contain high doses of iron.
- Diarrhea: In some cases, prenatal vitamins may cause diarrhea, particularly if they contain high doses of magnesium.
- Upset stomach: Prenatal vitamins may cause an upset stomach, particularly if they are taken on an empty stomach.
- Headache: Some women may experience headaches when taking prenatal vitamins, although this is less common.
- Allergic reaction: In rare cases, prenatal vitamins may cause an allergic reaction, which can include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider if experiencing any side effects from prenatal vitamins. They may recommend adjusting the dosage or switching to a different brand to help alleviate symptoms.
Prenatals provide that extra boost of these essential nutrients:
- Folic acid: Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, which is crucial for the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. It can help prevent birth defects such as neural tube defects.
- Iron: Prenatal vitamins also contain iron, which is essential for the production of red blood cells. Pregnant women need more iron than usual to help their bodies make more blood to support the growing fetus.
- Calcium: Prenatal vitamins often contain calcium, which is important for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women need more calcium than usual to support the baby’s growth and development.
- Vitamin D: Prenatal vitamins may contain vitamin D, which is important for the absorption of calcium and the development of the baby’s bones.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Some prenatal vitamins may contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes.
- Vitamin B12: Prenatal vitamins may also contain vitamin B12, which is important for the development of the nervous system and red blood cells.
Not all prenatals are the same, not all of them have all of the aforementioned nutrients, and, on top of that, they’re not very well regulated. Look for vitamins that have these certifications – National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
There key advantages of taking prenatal vitamins for pregnant women and women who are trying to conceive, including:
- Promoting healthy fetal development: Prenatal vitamins contain essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D, which support healthy fetal development and can help prevent birth defects.
- Supporting maternal health: Prenatal vitamins can help ensure that pregnant women get the nutrients they need to support their own health during pregnancy, such as preventing iron-deficiency anemia.
- Addressing nutrient gaps: Many women may not get enough essential nutrients from their diet alone, so taking prenatal vitamins can help fill nutrient gaps and support overall health.
- Reducing the risk of pregnancy complications: Adequate intake of essential nutrients can help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes
- Preparing for breastfeeding: Prenatal vitamins can also help prepare women for breastfeeding by ensuring adequate intake of nutrients such as vitamin D, which is important for the development of the baby’s bones.
Overall, taking prenatal vitamins can provide important health benefits for both the mother and baby during pregnancy and beyond. And, above all, talk to your ObGyn or dietitian nutritionist for the supplement guidance you need.