Prenatals Vitamins: Why You Should Take Them & How They Make a Difference
If you’re aiming for conception or you’ve just found out that you’re pregnant, you probably have well-meaning advice coming at you from all angles.
When it comes to prenatal vitamins, most health care providers agree that you should start taking them before you begin trying to get pregnant, and continue during your entire pregnancy. I even recommend taking them while you’re breastfeeding, too.
Perhaps you’re questioning everything you’ve ever put into or on your body while you’re pregnant. Can prenatal vitamins really make a difference? Do you really need them? Can’t you and your baby get everything you need from a healthy diet?
I'll break down some things you need to know about prenatal vitamins so you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you and your developing baby.
Why take a prenatal?
Prenatal vitamins are an excellent complement to a healthy diet during pregnancy because they provide key nutrients that could be missing from the foods you eat. They are specialized multivitamins that are formulated specifically with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients necessary to support a healthy pregnancy.
While every expecting mom should do their best to include a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats in her diet each day, it’s difficult to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy through diet alone.
Can you get everything you need from your diet?
When you are pregnant, you need folate, iron, calcium, and many other vitamins and minerals in much higher amounts than you do at any other time during your life. These nutrients are essential for your baby’s growth and proper development.
Even if your diet includes a wide variety of healthy foods, it can be very difficult to meet these high demands, especially if you’re also dealing with pregnancy-related food cravings and aversions. For those who are lactose intolerant, eat a plant-based diet, or have other dietary restrictions, it’s even more difficult to consume all the nutrients you need through food alone. Multiples pregnancies and certain health conditions can increase your need for specific nutrients even further.
At the end of the day, including a prenatal vitamin in your daily regimen is key for ensuring that you get enough of the most important nutrients before and during your pregnancy.
Are prenatal vitamins the same as multivitamins?
No, a regular multivitamin isn’t the same as a prenatal multivitamin. Prenatal vitamins contain key nutrients like folate, iron, and b vitamins in increased amounts for pregnant women. While a high-quality prenatal supplement is probably all you need, you should consult with your healthcare professional to see what other supplement he or she recommends to meet you and your baby’s specific needs.
When is the best time to start taking prenatal vitamins?
If possible, you should start taking prenatal vitamins every day at least three months before you start trying to get pregnant. Taking prenatal vitamins before you conceive gives your body a chance to increase its stores of vital nutrients like folate, which is crucial for preventing birth defects.
Also, women usually need more iron than men, and that need increases even more when you’re pregnant. Taking a prenatal supplement that includes iron as early as possible can prevent serious issues like iron deficiency anemia and lower your risk of preterm labor or low birthweight.
You should also know that it’s never too late to begin taking a prenatal supplement. Even if you didn’t plan ahead, they can still be of tremendous benefit if you begin taking them as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Love and health,