Recommended for a healthy pregnancy
Prenatal vitamins are vitamin supplements intended to be taken before, during pregnancy, and during postnatal lactation. These supplements are not intended to replace a healthy diet but to provide women during and immediately after pregnancy with the nutritients they need for mother and child. Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to make up for any nutritient deficiencies in the mother’s diet. Unlike other multivitamins, prenatal vitamins contain different amounts of specific nutrients to better suit the needs of an expectant mother. You will find that vitamins such as folic acid, calcium, and iron are in higher concentrations. Nutrients such as Vitamin A are reduced in prenatal vitamins. This reflects the decades of scientific research on the role that these compounds play in fetal development. To help ensure that a pregnant mother is receiving all the nutrition she needs, prenatal vitamins are an excellent choice during pregnancy.
As mentioned, prenatal vitamins boost your daily folic acid, calcium, and iron. A folic acid deficiency in an expectant mother can result in having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord called the ‘neural tube defect’. Folic acid in prenatal vitamins can reduce this risk. Spina bifida, the most common neural tube defect, occurs when a baby is born with a spine or spinal cord injury due to incomplete closure of the neural tube. The term spina bifida incorporates many different types of injury.) Calcium is important during pregnancy to prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density. The fetus will utilize this calcium mineral for bone growth. Iron helps both the mother’s and the baby’s blood to carry oxygen. While a daily vitamin supplement is no substitute for a healthy diet, most women will need supplements to make sure they get adequate levels of these minerals.
Prenatal vitamins have a combination of minerals. This combination may vary in number of minerals as well as the volume of each mineral. But generally, there are ingredients that come in greater quantities among brands of prenatal vitamins supplements than other types of supplements. The major components are folic acid, iron, and calcium. These are the main active reagents. An effective prenatal vitamin should have these components. Folic acid is very essential during pregnancy. It helps in prevention of neural birth defects in the baby. Folic acid is also said to be essential in the proper development of the brain and spinal cord of the baby. The iron component is essential for the production of hemoglobin that enables our blood to transport oxygen. In a pregnant woman, hemoglobin is very important in supplying blood to the placenta and the fetal tissues. Calcium ions are essential in the synthesis of bones. Note that as the baby grows in the uterus, the calcium requirement of the mother also increases.
The fact that prenatal vitamins contain a combination of several vitamins and minerals makes them have a wide range of benefits.
- Hemoglobin: Iron is one essential mineral in prenatal vitamin supplements. Iron is used for the production of hemoglobin that enables our blood to transport oxygen. In pregnant women, hemoglobin component is very important in supplying blood to the placenta and the fetal tissues. Iron deficiency anemia is a common complaint during pregnancy.
- Development of fetus: You will find Vitamin A in prenatal Vitamins. It is one of the most important and essential nutrients required during pregnancy. This vitamin is useful for the development of the baby’s skin, limbs, and eyes, though too much can lead to birth defects.
- Bones: In prenatal vitamin supplements, there is a good percentage of calcium. Calcium is used to build the baby’s bones, teeth, muscles, nerves, heart, and other features. A pregnant mother needs to take adequate calcium or the baby will use the calcium in the mother’s bones, thus lowering the mother’s bone density.
- Neural tube defects: This is a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid deficiency has been linked to this defect in the fetus. Folic acid is a key constituent of prenatal vitamins. Pregnant mothers should therefore take prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid.
- Immune system: Vitamin D in prenatal vitamins is said to raise the immune system function by preventing influenza and cold.
- Anemia: Anemia is an iron deficiency disease. It is commonly observed in women during pregnancy. Some of the symptoms of anemia are headaches, fatigue, and paleness. During pregnancy, there is more demand for iron in expectant women. Supplements of iron prevent the occurrence of anemia. Iron is a key component in prenatal vitamins.
- Spina bifida: This is a birth defect of the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida occurs when a baby is born with a spine or spinal cord abmormalities from a neural tube that did not close. Folic acid, a component in prenatal vitamins, reduces the chances of this defect. Pregnant women are advised to take folic acid particularly during the first three months of a pregnancy. During this period, folic acid is needed to build the spine and the brain of a baby.
- Breast and colon cancer: Another constituent of prenatal vitamins is vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin D is one such vitamin that protects a woman against breast and colon cancer.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density. Women with calcium deficiency will lower their bone density. Pregnant women are advised to take calcium to help build their bone mass as well as that of the fetus. Sufficient calcium in the body reduces the risk of suffering from osteoporosis.
As in the case of any other supplementation, prenatal vitamins can also cause side effects in some women. A general observation is that most women can tolerate prenatal vitamins without any trouble. However, a few women experience side effects, including the following.
- Headache and nausea: Some women taking prenatal vitamins may experience headaches and nausea. While headaches are considered to a common side effect, nausea may subside with the onset of the second trimester. Nausea may be accompanied with a sour stomach too.
- Constipation: Constipation is another common health problem associated with the consumption of prenatal vitamins. This effect may be due to the iron content in prenatal vitamins. This condition can be relieved by consuming fibrous food items and drinking lots of water.
- Allergic reactions: Some pregnant women may develop allergic reactions in the form of hives, breathing trouble, etc. In case of occurrence of such reactions, you should seek immediate medical attention, as the allergy may be due to any of the ingredients in the prenatal vitamins.
- Bad taste: Prenatal vitamins can cause a bad taste in your mouth, which is heightened because of the increased pregnancy hormones. Some women find that drinking a glass of water with the vitamin helps.
- Other side effects: Indigestion, gas and belching, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and pains, weakness, insomnia, discoloration of urine and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are all possible side effects of prenatal vitamins.
It is worth noting that the above effects may not always be a result of taking prenatal vitamins. Many of the described symptoms occur during pregnancy anyway without prenatal vitamins, and so it can be difficult to differentiate between the two. But in case of any major symptoms – like allergic reactions, severe vomiting, intense abdominal pain and cramps, unusual bruising and bleeding – you should seek immediate medical attention. For minor symptoms like headaches and nausea, you can consult your doctor for some safe medicines, which can relieve the side effects of prenatal vitamins. Prenatal nutrients are essential and of great importance to expectant women. It can be hard to fulfill the nutritional demands of expectant mother and unborn child through diet alone. Prenatal vitamins provide a safe, relatively low cost and healthy way to achieve optimum health.