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When to start taking prenatal vitamins?


Article Summary

  • Learn when to start taking prenatal vitamins
  • Why prenatal vitamins are essential
  • Find out what the most important nutrients are
  • How to choose the right one for you
  • Understand the possible side effects
  • Get 3 tips on taking your prenatals

You and your baby benefit when you take prenatal vitamins.

Both you and your baby have special needs during pregnancy. Your baby will do a lot of growing. Your body will go through a lot of changes. A prenatal vitamin supplies the nutrients that your baby needs to grow and that you need to care for both of you.

In this article, we answer many of the questions new and expectant mothers have about taking prenatal vitamins.

How early should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

This is a tricky question as it has two answers.

Answer #1. When you decide that you want to get pregnant.

Even though prenatal vitamins are not fertility drugs and are not designed to help you get pregnant, they do supply essential vitamins that your baby will need in its early stages of development. Having these nutrients at the time of conception may play a role in the pregnancy outcome.

Small studies show that women who take prenatal vitamins increase their chances of getting pregnant. It also takes less time to become pregnant.

Answer #2. The minute you learn you are pregnant.

When you get a positive test, you need to start taking them. These vitamins have nutrients that you and your baby need to thrive.

If you are not sure what you should take, call your OBGYN. If you do not yet have one, call your primary care doctor. And expect a lot of congratulations along the way.

What are the most important nutrients in a prenatal vitamin?

You always want to eat a well-balanced diet. During pregnancy, some vitamins and minerals stand out. They play a vital role in your baby’s development.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these are some of the most important:

Folic Acid. Recommended daily amount (RDA): 600 micrograms.

Folic acid, a form of folate, is essential to spine and brain growth and the prevention of neural tube defects. The neural tube becomes your baby’s spine and brain. Without enough folic acid, the neural tube does not develop correctly. Neural tube defects can cause spina bifida (an incompletely developed spine) or anencephaly (an undeveloped skull and brain). 

You also need folic acid to support the growth of the placenta.

Iron. RDA: 27 milligrams.

You need plenty of iron when pregnant. It supports red blood cells, which you need to deliver oxygen to your baby. Your doctor will likely test your iron levels. If you show signs of low iron (anemia), you may need to take an additional iron supplement with your prenatal vitamins.

Iodine. RDA: 220 micrograms.

Your baby needs iodine for healthy brain development. The best food sources are seafood, although those can pose a challenge as many contain dangerous heavy metals. Eggs and iodized sea salt may provide some, but your prenatal vitamin helps you get everything you need.

Choline. RDA: 250 milligrams.

This is another nutrient needed for your baby’s brain and spinal cord development. Natural sources of choline include beef, milk, eggs, and peanuts. Your prenatal is essential if you typically try to avoid these foods.

Calcium. RDA: 1,300 milligrams 14-18 years / 1,000 milligrams 19-50 years.

Your baby will do a lot of growing and will need a lot of calcium to build bones and teeth. While there are a lot of excellent dietary sources of calcium, pregnancy – especially in the early stages – can be hard on the stomach, so your prenatal gives you what you need.

Is it OK taking prenatal vitamins if you’re not pregnant?

Prenatal vitamins supply the nutrient levels a pregnant woman needs. While you do need the nutrients in a prenatal, they may provide more than you need. Having too many of some nutrients can make you just as sick as having too little.

If you are not pregnant, it’s best to find a multi-vitamin that fits your lifestyle and needs. 

Is it better to take a prenatal vitamin in the morning or at night?

 During pregnancy, you simply want to get your vitamins. If nausea affects you early in your pregnancy, you may want to take it when you feel less nauseous. Many vitamins recommend taking them with a meal. This may aid absorption as some vitamins need fats for maximum absorption. Your food supplies those fats.

Morning or night, you just make sure you get your vitamins.

Choosing the best prenatal vitamins for you

You can buy prenatal vitamins from almost every pharmacy. You might find them in some grocery stores too. Most supply similar nutrient values, so you can choose the one that best meets your need.

When you look at the label, make sure it includes folic acid and iron. You should also expect to see calcium, iodine, choline, vitamins A, C, D, and most B vitamins too. You might also look for those that include DHA and essential fatty acids.

If you have questions or would prefer a recommendation, ask your OBGYN. During your pregnancy, you will have several blood tests done. Your doctor may also recommend others depending on how you are feeling. If any deficiencies are found, your doctor might recommend another prenatal vitamin that better meets your need.

Are there any side effects from taking prenatal vitamins?

Your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy. When you start taking prenatal vitamins, you add to those changes. In some cases, women report constipation as a side effect. This is often due to your increased iron intake.

To reduce your risk of constipation, it is a good idea to:

– Drink plenty of water and fluids

– Add fiber to your diet

– Exercise

You can read more in our article on constipation in pregnancy.

Tips on taking your prenatal vitamin

If you take any medications, you should consult with your doctor to determine if there are any specific enzymes you should avoid. Or perhaps, if agreed to by both you and your doctor, you may consider moving from the medication to the enzymes, they could

Pregnancy is an exciting time. One of the best ways to help you and your baby is to take a prenatal vitamin every day. It is a good idea to start as soon as you decide you want to be pregnant or find out you are. This is especially true to ensure you get enough folic acid.

Sometimes taking a prenatal vitamin can be difficult. You might feel nausea when you take it. Maybe eating isn’t easy. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your prenatal vitamin.

–         Drink water. The increase in iron and other vitamins and minerals might upset your stomach and cause constipation. Drinking enough water helps dissolve the vitamin and can help reduce your chance of becoming constipated.

–         Take it at different times. Start by following the instructions on the supplement but be willing to experiment. Maybe you do better taking it on an empty stomach instead of with meals – or with meals instead of an empty stomach. What’s important is that you take it.

Keeping these tips in mind can help you get the most from your prenatal vitamin in a way that works for you. 

If you have questions during your pregnancy, always ask your doctor.

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