Prenatal Vitamins: Are they worthwhile?
A well-balanced diet, with unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plenty of water will give you most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However, if you are planning on getting pregnant, your body may need extra vitamins and minerals. Prenatal vitamins are supplements that contain those extra vitamins and minerals.
Folic acid is the most important vitamin for prenatal health, but there are others you should be aware of. These extra vitamins and minerals will reduce the risk of the baby having malformations or impaired growth. They are also important to make sure your body has everything it needs to function properly.
As your body gets ready for pregnancy, it will require increased amounts of certain nutrients to create an environment in which the baby can grow and develop healthily. You need to track the daily amounts of each vitamin and mineral to make sure you take what your body needs and don’t take too much, which could be harmful for your health.
Folic acid is the most important prenatal vitamin. It is recommended you take 400 micrograms each day. You should start taking it as soon as you start planning for pregnancy and continue until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid is important to help lower the risk of problems with the baby’s brain and spine (neural tube defects). These occur within the first 28 days of pregnancy before most women know they are pregnant. This is why it is so important to start taking folic acid as soon as you think you might get pregnant. If you have had a previous pregnancy where the baby was affected by neural tube defects or sickle cell disease, you may need an increased amount of folic acid, so speak with your doctor about it.
You should also eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables. However, because it is difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone, it’s important to take a folic acid supplement.
Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, it is estimated that in the UK, children from age 5 and adults are not getting enough sun to naturally produce enough vitamin D. You can also get a small amount of vitamin D from some foods like oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines) and eggs. However, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.
For these reasons, a Vitamin D supplement is recommended to all adults, including women trying to conceive, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Vitamin D is important to regulate the amount of calcium in the body, keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The daily dose is 10 micrograms.
Iron is important for your blood. If you don’t have enough iron, you may feel tired and suffer from anaemia. You can get iron from foods like lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts. If your iron blood levels are low, your doctor may advise you to take it as a supplement.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and you can get it from several fruits and vegetables, like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes. You can also get vitamin C from supplements. It is important to protect cells and keep them healthy. Some research studies found that antioxidants may have a positive effect on sperm health and egg quality.
Calcium will prevent you from losing your bone density as the baby uses calcium for its own bone growth. You can get it from milk, cheese, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables and sardines. You can also have it as a supplement.
Are prenatal vitamins worthwhile?
Prenatal vitamins are important to keep you healthy, get your body ready for pregnancy and help the baby grow and develop healthily. Some prenatal vitamins, like folic acid and vitamin D are crucial and you should start taking them as soon as you start planning for pregnancy. Other vitamins and minerals might also be required depending on your diet and individual requirements. You can take one prenatal multivitamin that includes all the nutrients in one dose and avoid taking several tablets which may increase the risk of overdosing a particular vitamin or mineral. If you are wondering if you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, speak with your doctor who will be able to advise you.