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.