Prenatal vitamins are special health supplements that contain all the important vitamins and minerals and that pregnant women take to maintain perfect health throughout the pregnancy. These vitamins are also important for the newborn.
About prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are recommended even for the women who are not yet pregnant but they are trying to conceive. They prepare their body for the pregnancy and provide ideal conditions for conception. They also prevent possible complications, for example having sufficient levels of folic acid at the time of conception will greatly reduce the chance of neural tube defect of the newborn.
All the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are much better absorbed through food than through supplements, so it is highly recommended to eat a well-balanced diet, which, of course, can be fortified by taking prenatal supplements.
Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter, but they also come in prescription-strength formulations, and those, of course, require a prescription from a physician. The difference between the two formulations is that those that require prescription are usually stronger and more concentrated. They usually contain more iron and sometimes they also have a stool-softening ingredient. For most women, over-the-counter supplements work just fine, but some women have special nutritional needs.
Some pregnant women have problems with their prenatal vitamins, like nausea, diarrhea or constipation. They should consider changing the bran of their supplements, or taking them with meals or in the evening.
Most important prenatal vitamins
The vitamins and minerals that are highly recommended in the prenatal period are vitamins A, C and B complex vitamins, as well as minerals like iron and calcium.
Vitamin A is important for the proper development of the skin and the mucous membrane cells. Pregnant women need between 4,000 and 5,000 IU each day.
The B complex vitamins, especially B6, thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid, are also important. Folic acid is absolutely essential because its deficiency can lead to serious birth defects, like spina bifida.
Vitamin C improves the immune system, making the body less susceptible to infections. This vitamin also promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It is recommended to take 70 milligrams of vitamin C every day.
Calcium has a double function. It promotes the development of the baby’s bones and at the same time it protects the mother’s bones that may become weak due to hormonal changes. The supplement should contain between 200 and 300 milligrams of calcium per day.
Iron is needed so the blood can carry oxygen to the baby. Pregnant women need at least 30 milligrams of iron per day.
Prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements should also contain vitamins D and E, essential fatty acids and zinc.