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Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins?

Updated on July 31, 2012
Prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins | Source

For many women, being pregnant and taking prenatal vitamins go together without question. For many other soon-to-be mothers, however, taking prenatal vitamins can be a confusing problem that presents them with many uncertainties.

What are the vitamins a pregnant mother needs? Why is folic acid important? When should I start taking prenatal vitamins? Many women also want to know if it's safe to take prenatal vitamins when they aren't pregnant for the added nutrients and benefits to hair and nail growth.

This Hub covers some of the basic vitamins and nutrients a pregnant mother needs, reasons to take prenatal vitamins, side effects of prenatal vitamins and links to some of the most highly rated vitamins to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

What vitamins and nutrients should a prenatal have?

According to WebMD, mothers need a specific amount of certain nutrients in their prenatal vitamins. The most important of these is folic acid, which is a major contributor in reducing brain and spinal cord birth defects.

A woman who takes at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day greatly reduces the risk of defect for her unborn child.

Calcium and Iron are also important in a prenatal vitamin, since the formation of the baby's bones will require significant amounts of calcium.

Besides these three, doctors also recommend Vitamins B12, C, D and E as well as riboflavin, niacin, thiamine and zinc.

Why should I take prenatal vitamins?

As mentioned above, prenatal vitamins can do wonders to help prevent serious birth defects. One of the most serious birth defects that leads to miscarriage and death shortly after birth in most cases is anencephaly, a neural tube defect that results in lack of brain formation.

Doctors believe that anencephaly is a result of folic acid deficiency in pregnancy. It's important for pregnant mothers to begin consuming enough folic acid as soon as they find out their pregnant, because most neural defects occur within the first few weeks of pregnancy. Ideally, women trying to become pregnant should be consuming the correct amount of folic acid beforehand.

Iron intake for a pregnant woman is triple that of a non-expectant mother as it helps ensure a healthy birth weight and reduces the risk of giving birth prematurely.

Prenatal vitamins are especially good for women who may be missing nutrients in their diet. While many vegans and vegetarians consume all their necessary vitamins and minerals, it's more difficult for a pregnant woman with a similar diet to consume the required nutrients. A prenatal vitamin is a vital supplement.

What are some side effects of prenatal vitamins?

Many of the women I know who take prenatal vitamins are not pregnant and take prenatal vitamins for the added boost in hair and nail growth. Folic acid does wonders for hair growth and is often used as a remedy for hair loss.

For pregnant women, prenatal vitamins have more benefits, but also a few downsides. Oftentimes women taking prenatal vitamins will use them as an excuse to eat poorly. Prenatals are NOT a replacement for healthy eating; they are meant to fill in minor gaps in your diet.

Prenatal vitamins also do NOT guarantee a healthy baby, free of birth defects. They greatly reduce your risk, but there are still many defects and problems that can occur for reasons doctors don't understand.

Besides these general warnings, prenatal vitamins have few side effects. The two most notable side effects are constipation and nausea. Women in their first trimester are prone to morning sickness and frequent nausea, which can be compounded by prenatal vitamins.

If you find that prenatals make you even more queasy, doctors suggest breaking the pill in half and taking half in the morning and half at night. If you suffer from constipation while taking prenatal vitamins, fiber one bars or Metamucil are both great products that should be combined with increased water intake to help keep you regular.

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    • His princesz profile image

      His princesz 5 years ago

      Hello Shanna11, this hub is very helpful for me, personally. We lost our first baby. I had miscarriage our 3 months old fetus, 2 months ago. Maybe because the fetus was already 1 month before I knew I was pregnant and was not taking prenatal before that. I'm now taking my vitamins in preparing for my next pregnancy. Hoping to have a healthy baby soon. Thanks for this! Useful and voted up! :)