The importance of prenatal vitamins

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We tell you why it’s important to balance your binges with a good prenatal vitamin.
pillbottleIt’s recommended that women take a prenatal vitamin before, during and even after their pregnancy to supplement their diet with needed nutrients to keep both mom and growing baby healthy. Prenatal vitamins come in all shapes and sizes. Assuming you don’t have specific dietary needs, you may be able to take a simple over-the-counter vitamin to help support a healthy pregnancy.
There are a few important ingredients to look for when deciding which vitamin is right for you. Among the most important are folic acid, iron and calcium.
Folic acid
Women are recommended to take at least 400 mcg of folic acid a day to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. The most common of these is spina bifida, a disorder that occurs when the spine doesn’t completely close and nerves are left exposed. Spina bifida can cause paralysis and other problems with your child’s brain. Research has shown that supplementing the mother’s diet with folic acid during pregnancy greatly reduces the chances of developing this birth defect.
Since spina bifida occurs during the first 28 days of conception, all women of childbearing age are encouraged to supplement their diet with folic acid. Therefore, any woman planning a pregnancy should begin taking folic acid immediately. Aside from pills, folic acid can also be found in fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries and citrus fruits.
Iron is another important ingredient found in prenatal vitamins. Unfortunately, most women don’t have adequate iron levels in their bloodstream even when they’re not pregnant. Because of increased blood production during pregnancy, an expectant mother needs nearly twice the amount of iron, so pregnant women are recommended to take a supplement containing at least 30 mg.
Calcium is also important to all women and especially important for those who are pregnant. Developing babies take calcium from their mothers for growing teeth and bones, leaving mom lacking for calcium of her own. All women are encouraged to get 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Many prenatal vitamins do not contain a sufficient amount of calcium, so it’s important to eat calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals and juices.
Other important ingredients
Other ingredients in your prenatal vitamin may include vitamins A, B-12, C, D, E, thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine and zinc. It’s important to be careful of overdosing on any synthetic mineral, so be sure to consult your doctor to avoid taking more than the recommended daily allowance of any nutrient. Most doctors will prescribe a prenatal vitamin or recommend a certain brand for you try based on your individual needs.
What if your prenatal vitamin isn’t working for you?
Unfortunately, prenatal vitamins don’t come in a one-size-fits-all formula. Iron supplements can cause constipation and calcium supplements are often found in large pills that are not always easy to swallow, which is tough when your gag reflex is already working overtime. Talk to your doctor to see if there’s a better option for your specific needs if your vitamin seems to be doing more harm than good. There are many types available including powder, chewable and even some with stool softeners that can help with uncomfortable side effects. You may also want to try taking your vitamin at night or after a meal to avoid an upset stomach.

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