Filling in the Gaps with Prenatal Vitamins
Filling in The Gaps with Prenatal Vitamins
Exercise and a healthy diet is always important, but during pregnancy it’s even more so. Your baby depends on the nutrients that come from your own body through the foods you eat. Though you can receive most or all of the minerals and vitamins needed for good health from food, sometimes during pregnancy there can be deficiencies. Your baby needs plenty of resources for healthy growth, and your body must provide them. If you have any gaps in your nutrition, your doctor or midwife can recommend a prenatal vitamin or supplement. You should always check first before you begin taking any dietary supplements, as some minerals and vitamins can be toxic if you take too much. A good prenatal vitamin should provide folic acid, iron, iodine, calcium, and other vitamins.
Before getting pregnant, women should be taking a prenatal vitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. Not getting enough folic acid could lead to neural tube defects, which involve the spinal cord and brain. Neural tube defects happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – and as early as 28 days after conception – so it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid as early as possible. Folate also supports the placenta. Folic acid/folate is found in foods such as nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and leafy green vegetables.
Iron, Iodine, and Calcium
These three minerals are critical during pregnancy:
- Iron- Required in the bloodstream to carry oxygen, iron is important in delivering nutrients to the baby and mother. Too little can lead to anemia and a feeling of fatigue or dizziness. A prenatal vitamin should contain 17 milligrams (mg) of iron. Foods containing iron include red meat, oatmeal, spinach, and dried beans and fruits.
- Iodine – The mineral iodine is important in thyroid function. If you have an iodine deficiency, it can cause mental disability, poor physical growth, deafness, or even stillbirth for your baby. A prenatal vitamin should contain 150 mcg of iodine. You get an iodine boost when eating cranberries, sea vegetables, potatoes, navy beans, and yogurt.
- Calcium – Bones need plenty of calcium to grow and strengthen. Ingesting 200-300 mg of calcium from a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy helps contribute to dense, strong bones for mom – and enough to share with her growing baby. Foods high in calcium are dairy products, bread, cereal, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin overdose during pregnancy
When pregnant, it might seem like the more vitamins and minerals, the better. However, taking too many vitamins can be toxic to your body. Vitamin toxicity often results from taking more than one multivitamin (like a prenatal vitamin) at a time or taking individual vitamin supplements in addition to a multivitamin. Taking too much calcium and iron have the greatest risks, although any vitamin or mineral taken in excess can produce symptoms such as:
- More frequent urination
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Muscle weakness, fatigue
- Pain in the muscles, joints, bones, or stomach
- Yellowish tint to the skin
- Itching and/or rash
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Nausea/loss of appetite
- Cracked lips
- Sensitive eyes
- Cloudy urine
If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about taking too many supplements, call your doctor or poison control immediately.
Though a prenatal vitamin can certainly help pregnant women fill in any gaps the body needs to support a growing baby, eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals can help in feeling healthy and strong throughout pregnancy. A prenatal vitamin should never replace a healthy diet. Always be sure to speak with your doctor before taking a dietary supplement.
Did you take any prenatal vitamins during pregnancy? Share your experience in the comments!