What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements made for pregnant women to give their bodies the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor may suggest that you take them when you begin to plan for pregnancy, as well as while you’re pregnant.
Eating a healthy diet is always a wise idea — especially during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin to help cover any nutritional gaps in your diet.
What to Look for in Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins help ensure that you get the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.
Look for prenatal vitamins that have:
- 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
- 400 IU of vitamin D
- 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 3 mg of thiamine
- 2 mg of riboflavin
- 20 mg of niacin
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 15 mg of zinc
- 17 mg of iron
- 150 micrograms of iodine
In some cases, your doctor will give you a prescription for a certain type of prenatal vitamin.
Foods that have folic acid include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Many other foods fortified with folic acid
What About Other Nutrients?
There are other nutrients that may improve the health of your pregnancy. Your doctor can help you decide if you need to take supplements that include:
Omega-3 fatty acids: These fats, which include DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), come only from food sources such as fatty fish and nuts. Studies show omega-3s can lower your risk of preterm birth and of having a baby with low birth weight. If you don’t eat much food that’s rich in omega-3s, ask your health care provider if a supplement is right for you.
Choline: Although your body can make some choline on its own, you get most of it from food. Rich sources include beef, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs. Many pregnant women don’t get enough choline, which the baby needs for healthy brain growth.
When to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
The best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is before conception. Folic acid is especially important. You should begin taking a folic acid supplement at least 1 month before you try to get pregnant to prevent birth defects.
Some doctors recommend that all women who could have a baby take prenatal vitamins, even if they don’t plan a pregnancy.
Prenatal Vitamin Side Effects
Some prenatal vitamins can cause nausea in an already nauseated pregnant woman. If that happens to you, talk to your health care provider. They may be able to prescribe a different kind of prenatal vitamin that you don’t have to swallow whole. Options include:
The iron in prenatal vitamins may also make you constipated. If you’re constipated it can help to:
- Eat a high-fiber diet
- Drink lots of water
- Exercise if your doctor says it’s safe for you
- Take a stool softener with your doctor’s OK
At Amrita Medical Center, our staff is happy to answer any of your questions and help you decide if the right fit for you. We even offer same day appointments for your convenience. Contact us here!