- July 14, 2020
- Michael Allibone
- Posted in Resources
Whether or not you've been taking your prenatal vitamin is one of the main questions your OB will ask you throughout your pregnancy — and for good reason. Prenatal vitamins provide essential nutrients for the prenatal development of your baby. Taking your vitamins is especially important when you’re so nauseous you can’t eat properly!
Many of us don't get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our food, which becomes critically important when you're pregnant. Your developing baby needs certain nutrients to grow properly, and prenatal vitamins ensure that your baby gets the nutrients he or she needs.
So what should you look for in a prenatal vitamin? What are the most important nutrients for your growing baby? When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
We've got you covered with answers to the most common questions about prenatal vitamins and how they impact prenatal development.
How Are Prenatal Vitamins Different From Other Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid than regular vitamins. Folic acid is typically found in dark, leafy greens and reduces the risk of prenatal development disorders of the brain or spinal cord. The most common malformations from a lack of folic acid are neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Prenatal vitamins contain more iron than regular vitamins, although you can also find prenatal vitamins without added iron if you notice increased nausea or constipation. If you're already dealing with these unpleasant symptoms during early pregnancy, your OB may recommend an iron-free vitamin.
Studies show that your blood volume increases by an incredible 50% during pregnancy, so your body needs more iron than ever to make that blood. An iron supplement will help prevent anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells that may cause you to feel dizzy, tired, and weak.
What Should I Look For in a Prenatal Vitamin?
Shopping for a prenatal vitamin can quickly become overwhelming. With so many prenatal vitamin brands on the market today, you may not know what to look for.
A study in Australia found that the prenatal vitamin you choose should have a minimum of the following micronutrients for proper prenatal development:
- 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
- 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12
- 4 mcg of vitamin D
- 1,000-1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 27 mg of iron
- 220 mcg of iodine
- 10-11 mg of zinc
- 65 mcg of selenium
In addition to certain key ingredients, you'll need to choose between pills, capsules, and gummies. Capsules and gummies are easier on your stomach, but gummy prenatal vitamins do not contain iron.
Aside from the critical nutrients, growing evidence suggests that taking a prenatal vitamin with an omega-3 fatty acid such as DHA is important, too. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in your baby's brain and eye development. The recommended amount is at least 200 mg of DHA.
Which Nutrients Impact Prenatal Development Most in a Prenatal Vitamin?
Four micronutrients are critically important to prenatal development. The first is folic acid because it supports your baby's brain and spinal cord development and prevents neural tube defects in your developing baby.
Calcium is essential during pregnancy because, just like you, your baby needs calcium to grow strong bones and teeth. If you aren't getting enough calcium, your growing baby will take it directly from your bones, putting you at risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Iron ensures proper blood oxygenation and that your blood is supplying your baby with all the oxygen he or she needs to grow healthy and strong. Iron can also prevent you from developing anemia, which will make you feel even more fatigued than you already do!
Iodine is another essential nutrient for prenatal development that helps develop your baby's brain and nervous system and regulates your baby's metabolism.
When Should I Start Taking a Prenatal Vitamin?
In an ideal situation, you should take your prenatal vitamins before you even start trying to have a baby: neural tube defects often occur within the first month of pregnancy. Many women won't even realize they're pregnant until around six weeks or so.
If you're unable to start taking prenatal vitamins before your pregnancy, you should do so as soon as you find out you're pregnant. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy to ensure healthy prenatal development. If you plan to breastfeed, the nutrients in your prenatal vitamins will support your body's milk production.
Both you and your baby need essential nutrients during your pregnancy, and the foods you eat aren't enough to meet those minimum requirements. Prenatal vitamins are critical in providing you and your baby with everything you need for healthy prenatal development.
Do you have a question about prenatal vitamins or want to share your favourite brand? Leave us a comment below!
- Coletta, J., Bell, S., Roman, A. (2010). Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 3(4), 163-171. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/
- Hytten, F. (1985). Blood volume changes in normal pregnancy. Clinical Haematology, 14(3), 601-612. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4075604
- Mousa, A., Naqash, A., Lim, S. (2019). Macronutrient and Micronutrient Intake during Pregnancy: An Overview of Recent Evidence. Nutrients, 11(2), 443. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413112/
- Cavalli, P. (2016). Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and proper folate periconceptional supplementation. Journal of Prenatal Medicine, 2(4), 40-41. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279093/
- Wilson, R., et al. (2008). Vitamin and mineral supplementation in pregnancy: evidence to practice. Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, 48(2), 105-109. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jppr.1438
The information provided represents the general opinions of NTD Eurofins and is not intended to be used as specific advice for any one individual. Individuals should always consult with a physician to obtain specific advice and to receive answers to any and all questions or concerns related to health, wellness, pregnancy, and birth.
Pursuant to applicable federal and/or state laboratory requirements, Eurofins NTD, LLC has established and verified the accuracy and precision of its testing services. Tests are developed and performance characteristics determined by Eurofins NTD, LLC. The methods and performance characteristics have been reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.