Types of Prenatal Vitamins: How to Take Them, Benefits, and Side Effects
- Posted on: Jun 29 2023
When you begin to plan for your pregnancy one of the first things you should do is begin taking prenatal vitamins. You can begin taking them at any point during your pregnancy, but your doctor may suggest that you start taking them as early as when you begin to plan for pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins play a vital role in supporting the nutritional needs of pregnant women. They provide essential vitamins and minerals necessary for the healthy development of the baby and the overall well-being of the mother. They differ from a daily vitamin because they are created specifically for pregnant women and contain the specific levels of folic acid and iron needed during pregnancy.
There are two main types of prenatal vitamins: standard prenatal vitamins and prescription prenatal vitamins. Standard prenatal vitamins are the most common type of prenatal vitamins available over-the-counter. They generally contain a combination of key nutrients, including folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe specialized prenatal vitamins based on individual needs. These may have higher concentrations of specific nutrients or additional components like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) or different forms of iron.
Prenatal vitamins should ideally be taken before conception or as soon as pregnancy is confirmed. However, it is never too late to start taking them during pregnancy. Typically you will need to take one prenatal vitamin per day, but always listen to what your healthcare provider recommends. Some women find it helpful to take them with a meal to minimize the chance of experiencing an upset stomach.
We know that prenatal vitamins are created specifically for pregnant women but what exactly is in them and what are the benefits of taking them? There are many benefits to taking prenatal vitamins starting with folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Folic Acid: Adequate intake of folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects in babies and supports their brain and spinal cord development. Neural tube defects develop early in pregnancy which is why healthcare providers recommend taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid when you begin to plan for pregnancy.
Iron: Iron helps prevent anemia in pregnant women and ensures healthy oxygen transport to the baby.
Calcium and Vitamin D: These nutrients are essential for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth and help maintain the mother’s bone health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA, support the baby’s brain and eye development.
Many women wonder about the potential side effects of prenatal vitamins. Some women may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea, constipation, or upset stomach, when taking prenatal vitamins. Taking them with food or before bed may help alleviate these symptoms. Iron supplements can cause constipation or dark stools. Drinking plenty of water, consuming high-fiber foods, and discussing potential alternatives with a healthcare provider can help manage these side effects.
Prenatal vitamins are a valuable supplement to support the nutritional needs of pregnant women. They provide essential nutrients that contribute to the healthy development of the baby and the overall well-being of the mother. By understanding the types of prenatal vitamins available, following recommended guidelines for their intake, and being aware of their benefits and potential side effects, women can make informed decisions and ensure optimal health during pregnancy. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations regarding prenatal vitamin use. If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, please contact us at 817-776-4722.
– American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Practice Bulletin No. 222: Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 137(1), e1-e25.
– Mayo Clinic. (2021). Pregnancy Week by Week. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
– National Institutes of Health. (2021). Prenatal Care and Tests. Office of Dietary Supplements.