Prenatal Vitamins FAQ

A lot of people lack important nutrients, even if they eat right. The best way to get the vitamins and minerals you really need for your body to be healthy and stay healthy is to follow a healthy diet. Any woman that is pregnant or is trying to become pregnant should take prenatal vitamins to supplement their existing diet.

What is the difference between prenatal vitamins and regular multivitamins?

Standard adult multivitamins do not contain as much iron, calcium, and folic acid as prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins ensure you are getting enough of these extra essential nutrients during your pregnancy, but they are not a substitute for eating right.

Here's why these vitamins and nutrients are important during a pregnancy:

  • Research suggests that taking prenatal vitamins can greatly reduce the risk of having a baby with low birth weight.
  • Just like when you were a child and told to drink your milk for strong bones, the same thing applies to pregnancy. Calcium helps promote strong bones for the mother and baby during pregnancy and helps maintain your nervous, muscular, and circulatory systems and ensures they are all functioning properly.
  • Folic acid helps prevent serious deformities to the brain and spinal cord caused by neural tube defects.
  • Iron enriches the body with blood and muscle cells for the mother's body and the baby's body and helps these cells develop. When a body lacks iron, a condition that occurs is anemia, which is when the blood doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells.

Are there any other nutrients I should be concerned about?

Most prenatal vitamins are not rich in vitamin D, which is an important vitamin, especially in the third trimester. It is recommended that in addition to taking your prenatal vitamin, that you also drink low-fat milk that is fortified with vitamin D and each foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. If you don't drink milk, or are allergic to milk products, you should talk with your doctor about vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Another important nutrient that most prenatal vitamins do not contain is omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids help with important brain functions and help a baby's brain develop. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in fish and seafood. If you do not eat seafood, or are allergic, you should speak with your doctor about taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Do I need a prescription for prenatal vitamins?

Virtually every pharmacy carries prenatal vitamins and they are available for purchase over-the-counter. However, your physician might recommend a specific brand of prenatal vitamins that might require a prescription.

How soon should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

During the first month of pregnancy, the baby's neural tube starts to develop, which later develops into the brain and spinal cord. Because most women do not know they are pregnant at that point, it is recommended that any woman contemplating conceiving should start taking prenatal vitamins at least three months beforehand.

How long do you have to take prenatal vitamins?

All doctors recommend taking prenatal vitamins (with water or juice only) from before conception through the entire pregnancy. If you plan to breastfeed, it may be important to continue taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding, to continue to supplement the baby with extra vitamins and nutrients.

Will I experience any side effects from prenatal vitamins?

If you experience nausea from prenatal vitamins, this can help:

  • Chewing on gum or sucking on hard candy after you take your vitamin
  • Taking your vitamin nightly, instead of every morning
  • Eating a snack before or after taking your vitamin

If you experience constipation, this can help:

  • As long as you have your doctor's permission, including more physical activity in your routine
  • Adding extra fiber to your diet
  • Drinking plenty of extra water
  • Asking your doctor about using stool softeners

If none of these tips appear to help, there are other options you can speak with your doctor about, such as, taking a different brand of prenatal vitamin, folic acid, calcium, and/or iron.