Whether you’re already pregnant or planning to get pregnant, choosing the right prenatal vitamins can be overwhelming. There is plenty of conflicting advice on nutrition, and many options to choose from. At Carnegie Imaging, our team of OB/GYNs and dieticians can help you simplify your nutritional needs. Before your appointment, learn more about prenatal vitamins below.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements specifically designed to optimize and support health for women who are trying to get pregnant, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Typically, prenatal vitamins include:
- Folic acid, which helps reduce the risk of your child having neural tube defects
- Iron, which women (both pregnant and not) are commonly deficient in
- Calcium, which lowers risk of osteoporosis and other health issues
Prenatal vitamins from different brands will have varying nutrients, and your needs will differ depending on your diet and other factors. Your OB/GYN or a dietician can help you determine which vitamins are important for you to supplement through pregnancy and breastfeeding.
When Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins?
Most women are advised to begin taking some vitamins while they are trying to conceive so that they are supporting their own health and their baby’s development as soon as they become pregnant. In fact, some doctors recommend that all patients who are of reproductive age take prenatal vitamins as a precaution. In particular, folic acid is important very early in pregnancy. The baby’s neural tube, which later becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy, and requires folic acid to develop properly. However, at this stage, many women do not know that they are pregnant at all.
How Should I Choose a Prenatal Vitamin?
There are countless prenatal vitamins available over the counter, making it difficult to choose the best option for you. Your OB/GYN may make a specific recommendation, or you may schedule an appointment with a dietician for prenatal nutrition advice. It’s often beneficial to choose a prenatal vitamin that includes vitamin A,vitamin D, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and iodine in addition to folic acid, iron, and calcium.
Choose a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid in the form of folate (found in foods) or 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). Yes, it is hard to pronounce, but the reality is that more than half of the US population cannot convert folic acid to its active form.
Generally speaking, you should avoid prenatal vitamins that offer an excess of the vitamins you require daily, as high doses of certain vitamins can be harmful. Your doctor will explain your recommended dose and which specific vitamins you should look for. Also try to avoid supplements with added herbs or proprietary blends. Proprietary blends are not regulated by the FDA and can be kept secret by the company. We bet you don’t want to be taking in ingredients that a company is trying to hide from you.
If your prenatal doesn’t contain calcium, but contains iron that is because they compete for absorption. Therefore it’s recommended to take an additional calcium supplement but be sure to keep it separate from your prenatal.
Can I Take Prenatal Vitamins if I’m Not Pregnant?
Taking prenatals or at least some supplemental folate or 5-MTHF is recommended to anyone who is planning to become pregnant or is at “risk” of becoming pregnant. However, if you have seen advice online or heard through friends that taking prenatal vitamins can make your hair thicker or your nails stronger, brush it off. Taking vitamins that you don’t need can be detrimental for your health in some cases. For example, too much folic acid can mask symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency, while excess iron can cause constipation or other digestive issues.
Schedule a Consultation
To learn more about prenatal nutrition or to meet with a trusted OB/GYN, schedule an appointment by calling our New York City offices or contacting us online.
- “Is it OK to take prenatal vitamins if I’m not pregnant, and I don’t plan to become pregnant?” Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. via Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/prenatal-vitamins/faq-20057922
- “Prenatal Vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose” Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945#:~:text=Ideally%2C%20you’ll%20start%20taking,regularly%20take%20a%20prenatal%20vitamin
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!