Prenatal vitamins fill nutritional gaps and support your diet to help ensure that both you and your baby remain healthy.
You should start taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy, if possible, to maximize their effectiveness. Healthy development begins with conception. So if you are actively trying to become pregnant, visit your obstetrician or gynecologist for their prenatal vitamin recommendations.
Most prenatal supplements contain both vitamins and minerals, and are most commonly comprised of iron, folic acid, iodine and calcium. The following prenatal vitamin reccomendations will guide you through the importance of each supplement and how much you should take to maintain your health during preganancy:
Your body uses folic acid to make red blood cells and to repair and protect your functioning DNA. It promotes rapid cell growth of the placenta, which protects and nourishes your baby. Folic acid helps prevent defects from forming in the neural tube—where your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop in utero—which can cause conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly.
Neural tube defects can occur within the first 28 days of pregnancy, before you even know you are pregnant. If you are actively trying to become pregnant, take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, until conception is confirmed, to help prevent any neural tube defects.
It is also recommended that you take folic acid supplement within the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy to prevent anemia and lower your risks of preeclampsia. Folic acid is also found in leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits and other, fortified foods.
Do not take more than 1000 mcg of folic acid per day unless it is part of your obstetrician’s prenatal vitamin recommendations. Too much folic acid can mask a vitamin B deficiency and lead to anemia and neurological damage.
Calcium assists both your and your child’s bone growth, protecting you both from bone degradation and underdevelopment. Your baby needs calcium to grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles. Without enough calcium during your pregnancy, the placenta protecting your baby will draw calcium from your bones rather than from the baby, which can cause osteoporosis and other health problems later in life.
Approximately 1,000 milligrams daily is needed for healthy childhood development. However, your body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time, so you may need to take a small dose several times a day. Do not exceed 2,500 mg of calcium per day.
Vitamin D in necessary for your body to absorb calcium, so take it along with your other prenatal vitamins.
Calcium can be obtained through yogurt and milk. However, if you are unable to obtain or consume enough calcium-rich foods, buy a vitamin supplement.
Iodine assists your thyroid functions and your metabolism. During pregnancy, iodine aids the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. Iodine deficiency can cause stunted infant growth, deafness, and mental disability, and has been linked to miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirths.
Pregnant women need about 220 mg of iodine per day. Iodine is found in dairy products, eggs, vegetables, seafood, and yeast. You can easily get your recommended dose of iodine through enriched table salt—check the label on your salt to make sure it has iodine added.
Signs of iodine deficiency include an enlarged thyroid gland, depression, weakness, sensitivity to cold, and fatigue. If you are concerned that you have an iodine deficiency, talk to your obstetrician immediately to avoid complications in your pregnancy.
Iron assists the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your vital organs and tissues. When you are pregnant, your body develops more blood to support both you and your baby. Without enough iron, you are at risk of becoming anemic, which can reduce the amount of oxygen being carried to your baby’s developing tissues—leading to preterm birth and low birth weight.
Normally, women need around 18 mg of iron a day. As soon as you become pregnant, that amount almost doubles to 27 mg a day. If you have anemic tendencies, or have been diagnosed with anemia in the past, talk to your obstetrician about taking additional doses.
Calcium limits your body’s ability to absorb iron, so take these two prenatal vitamins at different times of the day. Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach, so consider taking it in the early morning or late evening.
Contact The Woman’s Clinic to discuss prenatal vitamin recommendations with one of our experienced obstetricians. Call 501-664-4131 to set up a personal health consultation.