Because a woman’s nutritional requirements change during pregnancy, many OB/GYN providers recommend prenatal vitamins to ensure pregnant moms get all the nutrients they need to have a healthy pregnancy and encourage fetal growth and development. Of course, prenatal vitamins should not replace a balanced diet, but they can be helpful, especially if you are prone to certain vitamin deficiencies.
What’s in a Prenatal Vitamin?
Many expecting mothers wonder if prenatal vitamins are necessary, but it depends on each woman’s individual needs, health status and dietary habits. Talking to your doctor about your diet can help determine whether you need a prenatal vitamin to supplement your nutritional intake and what dose is appropriate.
Recommended vitamins and minerals for pregnant women include:
- Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, which are severe abnormalities of the spinal cord and brain. Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, pasta, beans, breads, fortified cereals and rice contain folic acid.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use phosphorous and calcium to promote the growth of strong teeth and bone structures. You can get vitamin D from sunlight or in foods such as milk and fatty fish.
- Calcium is essential for helping both mom and baby have healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also prevents blood clots and helps the muscles and nerves function properly. You can get calcium from dairy products, dark leafy green vegetables, and some breads and cereals.
- DHA, short for docosahexaenoic acid, is a nutrient found in seafood that can help promote healthy development of the fetal central nervous system.
- Vitamin B6, pyridoxine, helps form red blood cells and reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (a.k.a. morning sickness). You can find vitamin B6 in a wide variety of foods.
- Vitamin B12 also helps form red blood cells and may help prevent neural tube defects. Not enough vitamin B12 during pregnancy can contribute to anemia (a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells) and even infertility. Seafood, beef, pork, poultry and dairy are all good sources of vitamin B12.
- Iron is important in preventing anemia, low birth weight and premature delivery. Iron-fortified grains, beef, pork, dried beans and fruits, spinach and oatmeal contain iron.
- Iodine is crucial for fetal brain development and can be found in dairy and seafood.
- Vitamin A helps promote strong teeth and bones, but it also helps develop healthy skin and eyesight. You can find vitamin A in carrots, milk, eggs, green and yellow vegetables, and yellow fruits.
- Vitamin E helps the body form and use muscles and red blood cells and can be found in vegetable oil, wheat germ, nuts, spinach and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin C is important for protecting tissues, building a healthy immune system and helping the body absorb iron. Citrus fruits are a common source of vitamin C, but other fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C as well.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Have Side Effects?
As with any medication you take, there is always the risk of side effects. However, the risk of nausea is high with prenatal vitamins, especially if you’re already prone to bouts of nausea during your pregnancy. However, you can ease your nausea by doing the following:
- Eat food before taking the vitamin, and take it only before going to bed.
- Talk to your doctor about prescribing another brand.
- Ask about chewable vitamins, which may be easier on your stomach.
In addition to nausea, the iron in prenatal pills may make you constipated. You can obtain relief by upping your intake of fruits and veggies, which are high in fiber, and drinking more water.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure you and your baby get the appropriate nutrients during pregnancy is by following your doctor’s orders. That includes taking the prenatal vitamins he or she prescribes you.
Obstetricians/gynecologists at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause.
“Nutrients and Vitamins for Pregnancy.” American Pregnancy Association.
“Recommending Prenatal Vitamins: A Pharmacist’s Guide.” Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/resource-centers/omega-3/recommending-prenatal-vitamins-a-pharmacists-guide
“Prenatal Vitamins.” American Pregnancy Association.