Prenatal vitamins are important to take as part of your pregnancy health routine. In a perfect world a pregnant woman would get all she needs from the food she eats. However, with growing conditions worsening and the quality of food depreciating, prenatal vitamins are a good way to ensure both you and your baby are getting an adequate supply of what is necessary for health and growth. Additionally, certain nutrients are essential in preventing certain birth defects.
Start Before Conception
In fact, a woman doesn't have to wait until she's pregnant to start taking prenatal vitamins. If you are trying to get pregnant you can start earlier to help prepare your body to support your baby. Your baby will begin immediately to develop and often a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant before the critical stage for brain development has passed in the gestational period. In order to ensure healthy growth, taking prenatal vitamins and nutrients in advance of conception is a wise choice.
Prenatal supplements consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals. A woman's daily intake requirements for certain nutrients will increase during pregnancy. Folate (folic acid), calcium, and iron are vital for proper fetal growth, development and for the health of the mother.
Folate - Important to neural development of the baby. Not enough folate early in pregnancy could lead to neural tube defects. This is available in a synthetic form called folic acid.
Iron - Helps the mother's blood carry oxygen. Iron may also be important to help prevent anemia in some pregnant women, especially around the second and third trimesters.
Calcium - Important for bone development. Getting enough calcium through a prenatal vitamin helps to protect your own bone density and well as providing for your baby.
Vitamin/mineral supplements can be a good way to ensure you are getting the vital nutrients you need daily. They are both essential to the healthy development of your baby and well as to your own physical health.
Choosing a Vitamin
Whatever prenatal vitamin you choose, make sure to talk to your doctor first. While you want to make sure to get enough of all necessary vitamins and minerals, overdosing on some nutrients can do just as much harm as good. Multivitamin combinations can vary depending on the nutritional focus. If a manufacturer is targeting women who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia, then there will be a much higher level of iron in their vitamin complex. Although many pregnancy vitamins are available by prescription, there are many that are available over-the-counter. Remember that by taking inappropriate amounts of synthetic vitamins it is possible to jeopardize both your baby's health and yours as well.
It is better to take one multivitamin than trying to get what you need from taking several different supplements. The risk of overdosing on a particular nutrient is reduced significantly when only one supplement is ingested per day. Taking more than 100% of the Required Daily Allowance of any nutrient should be avoided during pregnancy unless your health care provided has prescribed otherwise.
Don't Forget Diet
Don't forget that your diet is the most important way to ensure you are getting the best in terms of nutrients and vitamins. If your diet consists of organic, unprocessed foods, lean meats and fish, fruits, lots of colorful vegetables (mostly raw), whole grains, lentils, low-fat dairy and plenty of water, your are probably getting enough nutrients from your diet. Supplements contain higher doses of nutrients in concentrated amounts and can be dangerous if taken in improper amounts. If you are not eating a well-balanced diet of organic foods, then supplements will help fill the nutritional gap.
Your doctor will be able to give you more guidance and recommendations based on your own pregnancy risks and concerns.