The Benefits of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
When it comes to prenatals, the questions we hear from our patients are all over the map. Do I even need them? (Typically, yes, we do recommend them for reasons listed below.) Should I ask for prescription prenatals or are there over-the-counter vitamins I can use instead? Are there options for vegans and vegetarians, or those living an organic lifestyle? After helping more than 17,000 parents to prepare for pregnancy, we have answers to your most-asked questions about these important supplements.
What are the benefits of prenatal vitamins?
Before their benefits, a quick mention of what prenatals are not. Prenatal vitamins won’t help you avoid risks from a completely unhealthy diet. They’re meant to supplement an already-healthy diet full of fresh vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean proteins.
However, while some women may get all of their necessary vitamins and minerals in their diets, many do not. According to, 80% of people in the U.S. have diets deficient in the recommended daily doses of vitamins and/or minerals. Supplementing your diet with prenatal vitamins can promote a healthier pregnancy by replenishing your own nutritional needs and providing an optimal environment for healthy fetal growth.
Therecommend the following four supplements before and during pregnancy, in the following daily amounts:
- Folic acid, 600 mcg, to prevent neural tube defects. Some studies suggest a benefit of doses up to 1,000-2,000 mg
- Iron, 27 mg, to help supply more oxygen to the baby and prevent iron deficiency during pregnancy
- Calcium, 1,000 mg, for an infant’s healthy bone growth and muscular function, and to prevent bone loss in the mother
- Vitamin D, 600 IU, to aid in calcium absorption
When should I start taking prenatals?
Since birth defect risks of the brain and spine can occur in the very first month of pregnancy, we recommend taking prenatals as soon as you start trying to conceive.
If you’re struggling to conceive, prenatals can help as well. A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that women who took a daily multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid were 40% less likely to experience ovulatory infertility.
Many women continue to take prenatals through their pregnancy and after, until they finish breastfeeding.
What’s the best prenatal vitamin for me?
For the majority of women, a basic over-the-counter prenatal vitamin combined with a healthy diet will help them meet the majority of their nutritional needs. Always talk to your doctor first though. If you have other nutritional deficiencies or related conditions, they may prescribe specific supplements for you to take during pregnancy.
There are many different prenatal vitamin choices available. Some are made to be compatible with vegetarian and vegan diets. They also come in organic, gluten-free, and sugar-free varieties. Some pregnant women find pills difficult to swallow and prefer brands that come in a smaller size or are chewable. Some find that the “gummy” chewables are easier to tolerate with the nausea of pregnancy. A number of prenatals contain ingredients specifically for those with morning sickness. Your healthcare provider and their staff are experts in matching you with the right prenatal vitamins and supplements best for you.
To learn more about preparing for your a healthy pregnancy, contact one of our fertility clinics in Mandeville, Metairie, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans today!