Why Can't You Just Take a Multivitamin?
"A prenatal vitamin has the amount of nutrients that more closely match the nutrient needs of a pregnant woman," says Swinney. "Some may also have things that regular multivitamins don't have, like DHA [an omega-3 fatty acid] and choline, which are particularly important for fetal brain development."
Do You Need to Buy Prescription Prenatal Vitamins?
You can buy prenatal vitamins right over the counter at your local pharmacy. Or you can get a prescription from your ob-gyn, midwife, or family doctor. You'll typically pay more for prescription prenatal vitamins. Yet they do supply an extra vitamin and mineral boost. "Prescription prenatals tend to have more vitamins and minerals included, or more of certain nutrients than an over-the-counter brand," Swinney says. You may find more folic acid (1,000 micrograms instead of the 400 micrograms in over-the-counter versions) and iron in prescription prenatal vitamins and supplements, as well as added nutrients like iodine, choline, magnesium, and copper.
How Safe Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Generally, prenatal vitamins are very safe. Many of the vitamins in them, including vitamin C and the B vitamins, are water soluble, which means your body will flush out any extra you consume. Where you do need to watch that the vitamin doesn't exceed the recommended daily allowance for pregnant women is with the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Because your body does store these vitamins, it is possible to get more than you need.
Too much of a good thing is never a smart idea. Don't pop handfuls of vitamins and supplements and then eat nutritional bars, because you could overdose on certain nutrients. Let your doctor know about all of the vitamins and supplements you're taking so that he or she can help you keep track of them.
Prenatal vitamins can cause some minor side effects like constipation and nausea, which can already be issues during pregnancy. "If your nausea is worse in the morning when you get up, don't take it when you get up. Take it before bed or with food," Pitkin advises. You can also try a liquid or chewable prenatal vitamin if it's easier for you to take. If constipation is a problem, add fiber to your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.