Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Important During Pregnancy?

Prenatal Vitamins

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Have you come across the term ‘prenatal vitamins’? Do you know why they are important for you as a nursing mother? Are you planning to start a family soon? If you found yourself nodding along to these questions, you might want to read this post.

Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful, yet crucial stages in a woman’s life. If you haven’t paid attention to your diet and lifestyle choices until now, this is the time when you start doing it. Your baby’s health is largely dependent on it.

This post will tell you all about prenatal vitamins- what they are, what they do, why they are important, and how they could help ensure a healthy pregnancy. Read on to find out how they help.

What Are Prenatal Vitamins?

Simply put, prenatal vitamins are vitamin and mineral supplements that are taken before, during and after pregnancy to help the mother meet her and her baby’s nutritional requirements. It is important to note that prenatal vitamins are not a replacement for a healthy diet, but just supplements.

Prenatal vitamin supplements are similar to other vitamin and mineral supplements available in the market. However, they differ slightly, in terms of the composition of the minerals. The mineral consumption is tailor-made for expecting moms. In general, prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, calcium, vitamin A and iron, all of which are known to play extremely crucial roles in fetal development. (1)

Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Important?

When you consume prenatal vitamins before pregnancy, the folic acid present in these supplements helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects, which affect the brain and the spinal cord. Studies conclude that neural tube defects usually develop within the first 28 days of conception (most women do not even realize they’re pregnant during this time). What’s more, around half of all pregnancies tend to be unplanned, which is why, it is best for women in their childbearing age to start to take prenatal supplements before conception itself.

Prenatal supplements also contain calcium, which is important for maintaining bone mineral density. During pregnancy, your baby needs calcium for bone growth, and that’s when you often experience a loss of bone mineral density. Taking prenatal supplements could help reduce this loss.

What’s more, these supplements also contain many other essential minerals like iodine, iron, niacin, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, riboflavin and vitamin B12 (2). Iodine is essential for regulating thyroid function. Iron helps enhance blood oxygenation and increases your RBC count. Vitamin D, C, and B¬12 are essential for improving your immunity.

Choosing The Right Prenatal Vitamins:

You’ll probably come across many options when you decide to purchase prenatal supplements, and it is easy to get lost in the sea of brands and clever marketing strategies. So what’s the best way to choose the correct prenatal vitamin supplement? Here’s what you must look for:

Choose a prenatal supplement that has the following mineral composition.

  • Folic acid- 400-800 mg
  • Iron- 30 mg
  • Calcium- 250 mg
  • Zinc- 15 mg
  • Vitamin C- 50 mg
  • Vitamin B6– 2 mg
  • Vitamin D- 400 IU
  • Copper- 2 mg

It is important to note that these supplements don’t meet 100% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of the minerals listed above. These supplements boost your bodily function and reduce the risk of deficiency of crucial nutrients.

Have a word with your pediatrician, before you decide on what supplement to buy. If you have given birth to a baby with neural tube complications, you may need an additional dose of folic acid. (3)

Benefits Of Prenatal Vitamins:

Prenatal supplements are a good backup for any nutritional gaps in your pregnancy. They help reduce the risk of several birth defects and other complications associated with pregnancy. Some findings also reveal that these supplements lower the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight in babies while helping you maintain your health during pregnancy.

An analysis of 41 different studies was able to link consumption of prenatal supplements before and throughout the first trimester of pregnancy to a lower risk of structural birth defects. The birth defects particularly affect the palate, the limbs, and the neural tube.

These supplements could also be beneficial for women who follow a vegetarian diet and tend to lack vitamin B12 and other minerals found in meat and meat-based diets. (4)

The Flip Side To Prenatal Supplements:

On the flip side, excessive consumption of prenatal supplements could lead to certain health problems. Constipation, nausea, and vomiting are some common side effects of the excessive consumption of prenatal supplements. In some cases, they also lead to other side effects such as tingling sensation in the toes, easy bruising, rapid heart rate and memory loss.

Furthermore, overconsumption of these vitamins could lead to toxicity. Some other adverse reactions associated with the consumption of these supplements include breathing difficulties, swelling of the mouth or throat and allergic reactions.

A Word Of Caution:

It is important to choose the right prenatal supplement for yourself. Talk with your healthcare provider to help you decide the one best for you. Some supplements contain more iron and are tailor-made for women affected by iron deficiency and anemia while others may contain higher amounts of other minerals. Also note that taking more than the recommended daily amount of these minerals could raise the risk of several health concerns.

Instead, follow a healthy diet with lots of nutritious foods and take the right dosage of these supplements. Eat fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grain foods.

If you’re taking supplements for the first time, be sure to consult your doctor first. You may be allergic to certain components of these prenatal vitamins, which may cause complications for you or the baby in your womb.

We hope this article helped you understand better about the consumption of prenatal supplements. Our fellow mothers would love to hear your views. So, help them out. Tell us, did these supplements help you have a healthy pregnancy? Leave a comment below.

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