Q: If prenatal vitamins are extra good for you when you’re pregnant, why not take them all the time?
A: These specially formulated multivitamins are designed to ensure pregnant women get all the extra vitamins and minerals essential for the development of a healthy baby and to meet the increased nutritional needs of mom, too. They also benefit women who are trying to become pregnant and new mothers who are breastfeeding.
Specifically, prenatal vitamins deliver a bigger boost of folic acid (between 800 and 1,000 micrograms a day, much more than the 400 micrograms a day needed by women of childbearing age) to help prevent neural tube defects and iron, which helps ward off anemia.
They also contain amounts of other vitamins and minerals -- including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin C -- that may be dangerous. For example, vitamins A and D can be harmful when taken in large quantities.
The rest of us should focus on getting all our nutrients from a rich and varied diet. If you want to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet, take a once-daily multivitamin formulated for your age group.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD, WebMD Nutrition Expert