For most people, a healthy diet is a great way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. But if you’re planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, your body needs extra nutrients beyond the healthy foods you eat – and those can be provided in a prenatal vitamin.
“Pregnancy requires a higher level of nutrients to support the rapid growth and development of a baby,” says CentraState OB/GYN Charlsie Celestine, MD. “Prenatal vitamins can help prevent health problems and ensure that both mom and baby receive the essential vitamins and minerals they need.”
What are some key nutrients in prenatal vitamins?
- Folic acid is a B vitamin superstar. Adequate intake can prevent certain birth defects – called neural tube defects – in your developing baby’s brain and spine.
- Iron is important because pregnancy increases blood production to support your baby’s growth. Iron helps your body make the extra blood that you and your baby need while preventing anemia, a lack of healthy red blood cells.
- Calcium plays a critical role in the formation of your baby’s bones and teeth. It also supports your bone health during pregnancy.
- Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption and contributes to your baby’s bone, eye and skin health.
- Iodine is a mineral that helps in the development of your baby’s brain, spinal cord and nerves.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that helps with your baby’s growth and development, particularly the brain and eyes.
When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?
It’s best to start before you get pregnant. That’s because neural tube defects happen during the first month of pregnancy – often before you even know you’re pregnant. So it’s important to have enough folic acid in your body starting at least one month before you get pregnant. And because nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, it’s a good idea for women of reproductive age to take a vitamin containing 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
Dr. Celestine notes that prenatal vitamins can sometimes contribute to constipation, but staying hydrated, being physically active and including enough fiber in your diet can help.
“With plenty of prenatal vitamins now available over the counter, talk to your OB/GYN about what’s best for you,” adds Dr. Celestine. “Your doctor can also advise you on any special circumstances, like how to get the right amount of nutrients if you’re a vegetarian or whether you need extra folic acid. This guidance can help you have a healthy pregnancy and help your baby have a healthy start.”
Prenatal Program: Get Ready for Baby
CentraState’s prenatal health program helps parents prepare for their special delivery. The program includes 40 videos, plus live Q&A sessions with the instructor. Learn more and sign up: www.centrastate.com/prenatal