Practical advice for new parents

Prenatal Vitamins

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During a pregnancy the intake of certain vitamins and minerals increases substantially. Because of this most health care providers recommend that prenatal vitamins are taken through the course of a pregnancy along with eating a well-balanced diet. Some nutrients that are provided in these supplements are particularly important for the proper growth and development of a baby, for example calcium, and iron. Folic acid is especially vital to a fetus as it has been proven to prevent certain types of birth defects. Thus, many doctors recommend that all women who are of child-bearing age should take additional folic acid.

Prenatal vitamins, or ‘prenatals’, as they are commonly called, are generally multivitamin combinations that have higher amounts of iron and folic acid to meet the needs of a pregnant woman. Taking additional supplements on top of prenatals can raise concerns because of the risk of overdosing on a particular vitamin or mineral. Ask your healthcare provider before you take any supplement.

While prenatal vitamins are important, it is even more crucial that you eat a well-rounded diet throughout pregnancy. Your diet should include a wide array of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein such as legumes, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat or fish. You will also need to drink plenty of water. Unlike supplement vitamins, it is virtually impossible to overdose on nutrients from eating a typical diet.

Because many women suffer from morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite during the first months of pregnancy, taking prenatal vitamins is particularly important during this time. Unfortunately the supplements themselves can also cause increased nausea, particularly if taken on an empty stomach. For this reason, it is generally advised that prenatal vitamins be taken shortly after a meal and at the time of day when nausea is at a minimum.

Constipation can also be another side effect of taking prenatal vitamins because of the large amount of iron contained in them. This can be tackled by increasing both your water and fiber consumption and, if necessary, stool softeners can be taken. Again, make sure you consult with your healthcare provider before commencing any course of prenatal vitamins or making any other significant changes to your diet.