Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Necessary?

Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Necessary?

When you’re pregnant, your growing baby’s health is always top of mind. That means making sure you get the minerals and vitamins needed for healthy fetal development. 

In a perfect world, you’d be able to get these from the foods you eat. But during pregnancy, when you have symptoms like morning sickness, sensitivity to tastes and smells, and a changing body, it’s challenging to eat perfectly every day.

That’s why at the private practice of board-certified OB/GYN Kelly Morales, MD, we recommend all expectant mothers take prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins give you and your baby what you both need to have a healthy pregnancy.

Here’s why you need prenatal vitamins and how they benefit both mom and baby.

Do I really need prenatal vitamins?

There’s no doubt that pregnancy takes a toll on your body. The energy required to supply your baby with what they need to grow requires a balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. 

Since getting this balance from food isn’t always practical, prenatal vitamins offer a way to keep you and your baby healthy and well. 

According to research, the minerals and vitamins in your prenatal supplements reduce your baby’s risk of birth defects. Regular multivitamins don’t have the right amount of folic acid and iron.

It’s best to begin taking prenatal vitamins at least four weeks before you conceive. But as a mom herself, Dr. Morales knows that you don’t always plan pregnancies in advance. So don’t panic if you just found out you’re expecting and haven’t taken prenatal vitamins.

While starting prenatal vitamins some time in your first trimester is ideal, you can start taking them at any time. And keep taking prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy and while breastfeeding for the health of you and your baby. 

But what about the side effects from prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins may be good for you and baby, but they can also trigger unpleasant side effects. Some of the most common side effects are constipation and other digestive issues, which many women experience. 

You need healthy red blood cells to bring oxygen to you and your baby. The iron in prenatal vitamins helps make red blood cells, but this mineral also causes constipation and other symptoms, such as:

The good news is that you can prevent constipation and other digestive symptoms while taking prenatal vitamins. Talk to Dr. Morales for personalized recommendations, and eat lots of fiber-rich foods and drink water throughout the day to stay regular. 

Less frequently, the higher doses of vitamins A and E cause side effects. Vitamin A can leave you with dry, peeling, or itchy skin and minor hair loss. And you may bruise or get a rash more easily from the extra vitamin E. 

But most women who take prenatal vitamins don’t experience side effects. Dr. Morales can help you find the right combination of vitamins and minerals to keep these effects at a minimum if you find you’re sensitive.

Which prenatal vitamins are best?

Because every woman — and every pregnancy — is different, there’s not one best prenatal vitamin. The right prenatal vitamin for you may differ from the prenatal vitamin that’s right for someone else. 

That’s why it’s best to discuss prenatal vitamins with Dr. Morales. She reviews your blood work, medical history, and other relevant information to give you personalized prenatal vitamin recommendations.

In general, reach for prenatal vitamins with at least 600-800 micrograms of folic acid and 27 milligrams of iron to stay at optimal levels for fetal development and your health during your pregnancy.

In addition, look for vitamins that contain:

Discuss the prenatal vitamins you select with your Dr. Morales. Some vitamins — especially regular multivitamins — may contain large doses of certain vitamins that could harm your baby. 

Learn more about prenatal vitamins by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Morale in San Antonio, Texas.

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