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Health & Pregnancy

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Prenatal Vitamins: Nutrition Your Baby Needs

Even if you eat a super healthy diet, you still need prenatal vitamins. It takes a lot of vitamins and minerals to grow a baby!

Prenatal vitamins give you extra amounts of these three key nutrients for pregnant women:

  • Folic acid helps your baby's brain and spinal cord develop correctly. This nutrient reduces the risk of serious birth defects called spina bifida and anencephaly.
  • Calcium protects your bones as your baby grows. Your baby takes this vital mineral from your bones and teeth. You could lose bone density if you don't take extra calcium as your baby develops.
  • Iron helps your blood deliver oxygen to your baby. It may also prevent your baby from being born early or too small.

When Should You Take Prenatal Vitamins?

Folic acid should be started at least one month prior to conception.

It's best to start taking prenatal vitamins while you're trying to get pregnant. The birth defects prevented by folic acid happen within the first few weeks of pregnancy -- before you even know you're expecting.

Don't worry if you didn't take prenatal vitamins before you got pregnant. Many women haven’t in the past, and they still had healthy babies. Just start taking them as soon as you know you're pregnant.

When you get pregnant, ask your doctor which prenatal vitamin is best for you. If you’ve been taking one already, bring the bottle in so your doctor can check its nutrients.

How Will Prenatal Vitamins Make You Feel?

Prenatal vitamins may make you queasy, especially if you already have bouts of nausea. To ease nausea:

  • Try taking vitamins with food or before you go to sleep.
  • Talk with your doctor about switching to another kind.
  • Ask about a chewable vitamin, which may be easier on your stomach.

The iron in prenatal vitamins can make you constipated. For relief:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables because their fiber helps keep you regular.
  • Drink water to wash down the extra fiber and help you digest it more easily.

What About Other Extra Vitamins?

A prenatal vitamin includes all the vitamins and minerals a pregnant woman needs. Taking too many vitamins or minerals may harm your baby. For example, large doses of vitamin A may cause birth defects.

Stay safe. If you took special supplements before you got pregnant, don't take them now unless your doctor approves.

There is one supplement you may want to ask your doctor about even though it is included in most PNV. Omega-3 fatty acids may help your baby's brain develop. If you don't eat fish high in omega-3s (anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines) your doctor may recommend an omega-3 supplement.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on June 15, 2014

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