As hard as anyone pregnant or not can try, very few mothers get a nutritionally balanced diet everyday. During pregnancy this can sometimes become even more impossible especially during early pregnancy when morning sickness is a common appetite suppressant and fatigue makes an expectant mother skip eating in exchange for a soft pillow and fresh sheets! These are just two small reasons why taking a good prenatal vitamin is vital throughout pregnancy. A good vitamin does not take the place of eating nutritiously but it can balance the scales in your favor, and your baby’s too.
Doctors routinely prescribe prenatal vitamins to women trying to conceive and to those who are pregnant. Taking a prenatal vitamin before getting pregnant and in the early months of pregnancy has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (spina bifida) in babies.
A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin designed to meets the need of pregnant and nursing mothers. Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have set guidelines for what has to be in a multivitamin for it to be called a prenatal vitamin. There are some ingredients that are now considered standard in prenatal vitamins such as a greater amount of folic acid (folate), iron and calcium. Expectant mothers, breastfeeding mothers and those trying to conceive need more of these nutrients than the average woman, especially folic acid. Folic acid specifically reduces the chance of neural tube defects.
And iron because with pregnancy, your body is making so much extra blood, that you could become anemic without the help of extra iron. Remember, your baby will take what it needs first to develop and grow, and therefore, your body may suffer if you’re not getting enough of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed throughout pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can be purchased over-the-counter at a drugstore or your doctor or midwife may write a prescription for your vitamins.
A good prenatal vitamin should contain:
Vitamin C – is essential for tissue repair, healing wounds and bone, and increases the body’s resistance to infection. For mother and baby this vitamin is essential as it is the agent that holds newly formed cells together. It also helps baby to grow and build strong bones and teeth, and is instrumental in the body’s ability to absorb iron.
Vitamin D – promotes general growth. It maintains proper levels of calcium and phosphorus thus helping to build baby’s bones and teeth.
B Vitamins (thiamine, vitamin B6, riboflavin) – Thiamine converts carbohydrates into energy for mother and baby and is essential for baby’s brain development. It also aids in normal functioning of the nervous system and heart. If deficient during pregnancy, a baby is at risk for beriberi, a serious heart ailment. Vitamin B6 is also vital to develop your baby’s brain and nervous system. Riboflavin helps the body to produce energy, promotes growth, good vision and healthy skin for mom and is important for the development of the baby’s bone, muscle and nervous system
Folic Acid – is one of the B Vitamins that is needed to produce red blood cells. It helps synthesize DNA, is conducive to normal brain functions and is a critical part of spinal fluid, thus making it one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tubedefects such as spina bifida.
Calcium – your developing baby needs this mineral to grow strong bones and teeth, healthy nerves and muscles and to develop normal heart rhythm and blood clotting.
Potassium – is a mineral that helps maintain fluid balance in the body. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure, nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
Vitamin A – is important for cell growth, healthy skin and mucous membranes, and resistance to infections. It promotes red blood cell production in both mother and baby and is essential for postpartum tissue repair.
Copper – a trace mineral found in all plant and animal tissues; it’s essential for forming red blood cells – a key process during pregnancy, when your blood supply doubles. Copper also aids tissue growth, glucose metabolism, and growth of healthy hair. It also helps form a baby’s heart, skeletal and nervous systems, arteries, and blood vessels.
Pantothenic Acid – is a trace mineral that regulates the body’s adrenal activity, antibody production, and the growth and metabolism of protein and fats. If you are deficient in this vitamin during pregnancy your baby’s growth may be slowed. This trace mineral is required for many essential functions, including growth, appetite regulation, digestion, wound healing, and the maintenance of collagen and elastin which may explain why some doctors think it may also help prevent stretch marks, one of the banes of pregnancy.
Iron – makes red blood cells, supplies oxygen to cells for energy and growth and builds bones and teeth. In pregnancy this mineral is so crucial because the body must produce extra blood to support the growing baby. During pregnancy you will need double the recommended daily dose of iron to insure your and your baby’s health. Many expectant mothers find taking a prenatal vitamin increases nausea in early pregnancy and sometimes beyond. If this happens, ask your doctor or midwife to change your formula or it may help to change how and when you take your vitamin. If you normally take it with a meal then try after your meal. If swallowing a large pill is difficult, cut it in half or talk to your doctor or midwife about a smaller tablet or capsule that can be opened and sprinkled on food. In any event just like your mother said all those years, don’t forget to take your vitamin.