Prenatal vitamins and supplements are essential for pregnant women, especially those who don’t have the best diet. But which supplements should a pregnant woman take and are they safe? Here pregnant women will learn all the information that they need to select the supplements that will provide the most benefits to them and their baby.
What Are They?
A supplement is defined as any substance that is taken to supplement the dietary intake of nutrients. Prenatal vitamins and supplements consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals. A woman’s needs for certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron, folic acid and vitamin D, changes significantly during pregnancy, typically increasing. So most women will take a prenatal vitamin supplement to provide their baby all the nutrients needed to grow and develop properly.
Why are they important?
Often people don’t eat as well as they should, for a number of reasons. Maybe they don’t like the taste or texture of fresh fruits or vegetables. Maybe they have certain food allergies that prevent them from eating well. Maybe they just can’t afford to eat right. Whatever the reason, prenatal vitamins and supplements fill in the gaps in the diets of pregnant women so that their babies have the nutrients they need to develop properly.
Since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned and some of the most severe problems that are caused by dietary insufficiencies are caused before most women know they are pregnant, women should be sure that they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need if there is even the slightest chance that they can become pregnant. It is recommended that women take prenatal vitamins before they become pregnant.
Choosing Vitamins and Supplements
Choosing the correct prenatal supplements is vitally important. It is possible to get too little or two much of a specific nutrient, so when choosing a prenatal supplement keep the following things in mind:
- Taking a multi-vitamin is a better idea than taking individual supplements. They combine everything a woman needs into an easy dose, usually one per day. This helps prevent accidental overdose and makes taking them easier.
- Look for single dose prenatal vitamins. Several of the supplements available require multiple pills several times per day. This makes it more cumbersome to take the supplements and easier to forget doses.
- If a woman has a hard time taking a prenatal vitamin in pill form, she can look for a liquid form, or talk to her doctor. Some prenatal vitamins are available by prescription.
All supplements are not created equal. When selecting an over-the-counter supplement look for one that has at least these ingredients:
- 200 to 300 mg of calcium
- 70 mg of vitamin C
- 30 mg of iron
- 15 mg of zinc
- 10 mg of vitamin E
- 4,000 to 5,000 IU (international units) of vitamin A
- 400 IU of vitamin D
- 800 to 1,000 mcg (1 mg) of folic acid
- 1.5 mg of thiamine
- 1.6 mg of riboflavin
- 2.6 mg of pyridoxine
- 17 mg of niacin
- 2.2 to 12 mcg of vitamin B-12
If a prenatal supplement has slightly higher amounts than those listed above, it’s not really cause for concern; these are just the minimum guidelines. Also it’s important to note that often prenatal vitamins will say that they have more than 100 percent of a particular nutrient. This is perfectly normal as these supplements are designed to nourish both mother and child.
Occasionally if a woman is highly deficient in a particular nutrient, such as Vitamin D for example, mom’s obstetrician may prescribe that particular supplement in addition to a prenatal multi-vitamin. If this occurs, the doctor will monitor mom’s level of this particular vitamin or mineral, usually through blood work.
Even though prenatal vitamins are generally considered safe, there are some safety precautions to be aware of.
As with any medication or supplement, it’s important to never exceed the recommended dose. This could lead to dangerous overdoses for mom and baby.
A pregnant woman needs to be sure her doctor has a complete medical history. The reason is certain medical problems could be made worse by particular vitamins, or may require extra vitamins. For instance, those with a bleeding disorder may require Vitamin K, when most would not. If this is the case, the doctor may prescribe a prenatal supplement that is better suited to the mother’s needs. Also some medications may interfere with body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman’s life and every woman wants a healthy baby. By taking a good quality prenatal vitamin and carefully using other supplements, with her doctor’s approval, she can ensure that she is creating an environment in her body that will give her baby the best start possible in life.