Q & A: Prenatal Vitamins

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to preparing for a baby, but did you know that your body is one of the most crucial elements of that? You’ll probably hear a lot about what you shouldn’t do—no smoking, drinking or Jacuzzis—but what about what you should do? It’s important to eat well and maintain regular physical activity. Just don’t forget about the vitamins.

Whether you’re trying to conceive or in the last weeks of your pregnancy, prenatal vitamins should be an integral part of your wellness routine. With all of the information floating around online and in health forums, it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed.

Here’s a helpful Q & A to get you started!

Q: What are prenatal vitamins?

A: Pregnancy.about.com says, “A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin that is designed with pregnancy and breastfeeding in mind. The amount of vitamins and minerals in these supplements are safe and appropriate when trying to conceive, during pregnancy and postpartum while you are breastfeeding.” 

Q: Why should I take a prenatal vitamin?

A: These vitamins, in conjunction with a good diet, help maintain a healthy pregnancy and support the baby’s growing needs. One example of this is the amount of folic acid in prenatal vitamins. The higher quantities reduce the percentage of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Q: When do I need to begin taking prenatal vitamins?

A: According to FitPregnancy.com, the best time to begin taking prenatal vitamins is approximately three months before you begin trying to get pregnant.

Q: How do I get them?

A: They can be obtained from most stores, online and by prescription from your doctor.

Q: Which prenatal vitamin should I take?

A: Prenatal vitamins come in pill and liquid form. It’s best to speak with your doctor about your specific diet and health needs to determine which type is best for you.

Q: Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?

A: According to LiveStrong.com, some side effects are bowel problems, such as constipation or diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, headaches, changes in the color of your urine ranging from bright yellow to greenish, and a metallic taste in your mouth. These are just a few of the more commonly reported side effects. Also note that you may not experience any side effects. When I was taking prenatal vitamins, I only experienced nausea if I took it on an empty stomach.

Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent some of the side effects?

A: Having a light snack prior to taking your vitamin or taking it before bed can help prevent nausea and vomiting. Drinking plenty of water, eating a diet rich in fiber and maintaining physical activity will help fight bowel problems and headaches.

Q: Are all prenatal vitamins created equal?

A: According to FitPregnancy.com, not all prenatal vitamins are the same. “Prescription vitamins are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but they’re not required to contain certain nutrients. There are many different formulations available, with different concentrations of each nutrient. Some have a little of everything; others contain only a handful of nutrients.”

Many over-the-counter vitamins are just as good as prescription vitamins, so  weigh the pros and cons and do your research about which type is best for you.

Q: Should I continue to take prenatal vitamins after I deliver?

A: Yes, according to AmericanPregnancy.org. “Your body has an increased need for nutrients during lactation. Eating well-balanced nutritional meals along with continuing to take your prenatal multivitamin after delivery ensures that you get enough of the essential nutrients you need. This affects the nutritional content of your breast milk and supports the health of both you and your baby,” says the site. Getting enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients also can affect your mental postpartum health. “Studies link low levels of nutrients with increased postpartum mood issues. Research suggests that multivitamin/mineral supplementation can help maintain healthy mood and mental health in postpartum women,” says AmericanPregnancy.org.

Jennifer Bosse lives in Kansas City with her husband and two children.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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