Pregnancy Information Prenatal Vitamin Supplements

During pregnancy, prenatal supplements help to create a healthy mother and baby, and are known to decrease birth defects. A woman generally takes a prenatal supplement before, during and after her pregnancy.

Prenatal supplements are available by prescription or over the counter. During your prenatal doctor visits, your doctor will determine what prenatal vitamin supplements you need. Experts also recommend that you tell your doctor if you are on any current medications.

Your prenatal supplements may come in the following forms:

  • chewable tablet
  • liquid
  • pill.

The liquid form of a supplement will absorb into your system more effectively. Every woman is different, so your physician will decide which prenatal supplement will fit your particular health needs.

Health Benefits of Prenatal Supplements

When you are pregnant, your body needs additional vitamins and minerals. Prenatal supplements provide your changing body with the nutrients that you lack.

Becoming pregnant while already taking prenatal vitamins means your body will have a good supply of the necessary vitamins and minerals for a healthy pregnancy. In fact, studies show that birth defects are reduced when prenatal supplements are taken before conception. Some doctors prescribe these prenatal supplements several months before attempting pregnancy.

The following ingredients are important in a prenatal supplement:

  • Calcium, which is taken to prevent bone loss late in pregnancy.
  • Folic acid, which prevents birth defects.
  • Iron, which is taken to make enough blood to nourish the baby.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, your doctor might recommend additional supplements to ensure you are getting all of the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

The Importance of Folic Acid

Many studies have revealed the important role that folic acid plays both for your body during pregnancy, and in the development of your child. One of its main functions is its role in reducing the chance of birth defects.

Birth defects that may be prevented with the help of folic acid are:

  • anencephaly
  • cleft palate
  • congenital heart defects
  • limb reduction defects
  • spina bifida
  • urinary tract defects.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services suggests that a childbearing woman ingest at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Folic acid can also be ingested through natural sources, including green leafy vegetables, nuts and beans. It is also found in some breakfast cereals. However, in most cases, eating these foods does not provide enough folic acid for a pregnant woman, so a supplement is recommended.

Possible Prenatal Supplement Side Effects

Like any type of supplement, there may be some side effects with prenatal supplements. The most common side effects of prenatal supplements are:

  • constipation
  • nausea
  • stool changes.

These side affects can be prevented or reduced by taking your prenatal vitamin supplement at mealtime, and with a full glass of water.

Although rare, there have been cases of more serious side effects than the ones listed above. If you experience any of the following allergic reactions, you are urged to contact your doctor right away:

  • breathing difficulties
  • facial swelling
  • hives
  • swelling of the mouth or throat.

Although prenatal supplements contain important minerals and vitamins, maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is always encouraged. Try not to give in to junk food cravings, and include plenty of healthy foods such as:

  • complex carbohydrates
  • fruits
  • lean protein
  • vegetables.

Resources

Brooke, B. The importance of prenatal vitamins. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from the Babies Online Web site: http://www.babiesonline.com/articles/pregnancy/importanceofprenatals.asp.

Essortment. Benefits and risks of prenatal multivitamins. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from the Essortmnet Web site: http://www.essortment.com/lifestyle/benefitsrisksp_slfr.htm.

Stuart Prenatal. Good nutrition to give your baby. Retrieved April 7, 2008, from the Stuart Prenatal Web site: http://www.stuartprenatal.com/vitamins_nutrition.html.