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What is the Importance of Prenatal Vitamins During Pregnancy?

calendarNovember 18, 2016

When to start taking prenatal vitamins

You should be prepared to do the best for your baby, even before it is conceived. That is why you need to be informed what prenatal vitamins you are going to need during pregnancy. Taking supplements will give you more security that your body will have enough amounts of essential vitamins and elements for the baby. Consult with your doctor before and after conceiving. The health specialist will be able to best explain to you the importance of prenatal vitamins and to help you understand what are prenatal vitamins and when to start taking prenatal vitamins.

What Do Prenatal Vitamins Do?

In general, they will make your body stronger and able to cope with the challenges of pregnancy. Taking vitamins as supplements also has the following advantages:

  • Boost fertility – Taking supplement will reduce the chances of having problems to conceive.
  • Relieve nausea – Vitamin B6 will help you cope with this quite unpleasant symptom. As researchers have shown, the future mothers who take vitamin supplements daily before conception and after it, have fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting during the first trimester. This means that supplements can help you cope with the exhausting and quite annoying morning sickness.
  • Reduce risk of birth defects – this is connected with the importance and the role of the folic acid. Health specialists consider that getting enough folic acid before sperm meets the egg, as well as in the early stages of pregnancy, could significantly reduce the risk of birth defects.

Which are the Best Prenatal Vitamins?

Because of the large choice of vitamins for pregnant women on the market, you should know how to choose the best ones. Consult with your doctor who will prescribe you the suitable prenatal pills according to your individual needs.

Which Nutrients are Considered to Be the Most Important for Pregnant Women?

Here is a list of six nutrients which play a key role in your baby’s growth and development during the pregnancy:

  • Folic acid;
  • Calcium;
  • Iron;
  • Vitamin D;
  • DHA;
  • Iodine.

What is Folic Acid Used for?

Folic acid is a kind of vitamin B which is used by every cell in your body for its normal healthy growth and development. You should take it before and during early pregnancy in order to prevent birth defects of the brain and the spine of the baby, known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Some researchers suggest also that this vitamin could help prevent heart defects and birth defects in your baby’s mouth known as cleft lip and palate.

How Much Folic Acid Do You Need During Pregnancy?

In the months of pregnancy, you should take 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. When choosing the best prenatal vitamins before pregnancy, have in mind that before conceiving, it is a good idea to take a vitamin supplement which contains 400 micrograms of folic acid. Food could also supply you with some amounts of folic acid. You can find it in some kinds of flour, bread, cereals and pastas where it has been added to them. You will read “fortified” or “enriched” on the labels of such products. Folic acid can also be found in some fruits and vegetables. Its natural condition in food is called folate. You can supply your body with folic acid through the following foods:

  • Orange juice;
  • Leafy green vegetables;
  • Lentils and beans.

Why is Iron Necessary for Your Body?

Iron helps the body produce hemoglobin. This is a protein which helps the transportation of the oxygen from your lungs to the other parts and organs of your body. When you are pregnant, your need for iron increases two times. The reason is that your body now needs this iron to make more blood which to carries the oxygen to your baby.

How Much Iron Do You Need during Pregnancy?

What are prenatal vitamins

Your daily needs of iron during pregnancy are 27 milligrams of iron each day. You will find this amount in most prenatal pills. Food sources which are rich in iron include:

  • Meat, especially the red one, as well as poultry and seafood;
  • Cereal, bread and pasta in which iron has been added;
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce;
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and other types of dried fruit .

Sources of Iron

There are two kinds of iron which can be found in different foods. The so-called heme iron you can get from animal products such as meat, poultry and fish. Non-heme iron can be found in non-animal products - beans, fruits, vegetables, cereals and nuts. The body absorbs better the heme iron, so it is not a good idea to ignore animal products during pregnancy even if you are a vegetarian. 

Also, the organism will absorb better the non-heme iron when you have fruits and veggies together with meat, poultry and fish. It is also a good idea to combine all products which contain plenty of iron with foods which are rich in vitamin C. You will find this vitamin in tropical fruits - grapefruit, mango, papaya, orange, lemon and others as well as in cantaloupe, spinach, tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli.

Risks of Iron Deficiency

If your body does not get enough iron during pregnancy, you will become anemic and will experience the following problems:

  • Feeling exhausted. Since hemoglobin carries the oxygen through your body, you will often feel breathless and out of energy.
  • You will become more vulnerable to infections. This is a huge danger both for you and the baby.
  • Have problems with pregnancy – because of iron deficiency, your baby might get born too soon - before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Your child might also be with a low weight, even if the child was born on time.

Since anemia during pregnancy might be a serious health problem and cause damage to your baby, contact your doctor if you notice any signs that you have become anemic – exhaustion, paleness, problems breathing and others.

Why is Calcium Necessary for Your Body during Pregnancy?

This mineral will help the bones, muscles, teeth, heart, and nerves of your baby develop normally. In the months of pregnancy, you will need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. In order to receive this amount of the essential mineral, you should take your vitamins for pregnant women. Do not also forget to eat foods which are rich in calcium. Some great sources of calcium are:

  • Milk;
  • Dairy products;
  • Broccoli and kale;
  • Goji berry and others.

What Health Problems Might Calcium Deficiency Cause?

If your body does not receive enough calcium during pregnancy, your organism will take it from your bones and will give it to your baby. As a result, you might suffer from osteoporosis later in your life. This condition means that your bones will become thinner and might break easily. Consult with your doctor how often your calcium levels and bone density need to be tested.

Why Does Your Body Need Vitamin D?

This vitamin helps the absorption of calcium from your body. It also has an important role in helping the nerves, muscles and immune system work. The baby uses vitamin D in the development of bones and teeth.

What Amount of Vitamin D Do You Need When You are Pregnant?

Pregnant women are in need of 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D as a daily dose. Your body needs to be supplied with it through food and prenatal vitamins. You will find vitamin D in foods such as fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. An important source of vitamin D is the contact of the skin with sunlight. Have a lot of walks outside but be sure to protect your skin with a sun lotion. After giving birth, sunlight will be a great source of Vitamin D for the baby, too.

What is DHA and Why Is IT Necessary for Your Body and for the Baby?

Docosahexaenoic acid – DHA is also known as omega-3 fatty acid. It is essential during pregnancy since it helps the baby’s growth and development. When pregnant, you will need a daily dose of 200 milligrams of DHA. Have in mind that not all prenatal pills contain DHA, so you might need to take an additional DHA supplement. Foods which are quality sources of DHA are fish, low in mercury such as trout, herring, salmon, anchovies and halibut.

Why Do You Need Iodine during Pregnancy?

It helps the production of thyroid hormones. Iodine during pregnancy will help the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. When you are pregnant, you will need 220 micrograms of iodine daily every day. Just like Omegs-3, iodine cannot be found in all prenatal vitamins. You can supply your body with iodine by eating foods which are rich in it such as:

  • Iodized salt – you should cook your meals with it;
  • Fish;
  • Milk and dairy products.

Provide Your Body with the Right Nutrients

What do prenatal vitamins do

Your body and the baby will need the most the following vitamins and elements daily during pregnancy:

Folic acid: 600 mg. The neural tube of the baby will be formed in the first month of pregnancy. This is usually before most women realize know that they are pregnant . This is the reason why you have to start taking your prenatal vitamins you even start trying to conceive. As an addition to eating folate-rich foods, you will need a supplement with at least 600 mcg of folic acid, also known as vitamin B9. If your family history shows a higher risk of neural tube defects, it is recommended to take up to 10 times that amount. Consult with your doctor what amount of folic acid you are going to need during pregnancy.

Calcium: 150 mg. This is a crucial nutrient for pregnant women. Be sure to get plenty of calcium with your diet which has to contain milk, yogurt or other foods which are rich in calcium. If your health specialist decides that this is necessary, you might also take additional doses of calcium through supplements.

Iron: 27mg. The baby’s cells will be built with its help. That is why your iron need will be increased during pregnancy. Your doctor will have your iron levels in order to prevent anemia during pregnancy or treat it on time if you have it.

Iodine: 150 mcg. It is essential for the thyroid and brain development of your baby. Since many women do not have enough amounts of iodine in their bodies, they are usually advised by their doctors to take a daily supplement of iodine. It is also a good idea to cook with iodized salt. The recommended total intake for pregnant women is 220 mcg per day. Consult with your doctor whether you need to take iodine supplements.

Vitamin B6: 1.9mg. It will help you relieve the morning sickness. Be sure to have it in your supplements if you have intensive sickness. Omega 3 fatty acids. You will have to take them as additional supplements since prenatal vitamins usually do not contain them. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats which can be found in many types of fish. They are considered to help the baby’s brain development. These are considered to be the most important elements which your body and your baby will need during pregnancy.

And here are some more nutrients which might be also quite useful for you:

  • Vitamin A: You need to rake no more than 10,000 IU of it. Higher amounts can be toxic to both you and the baby. Beta-carotene which can be found in carrots is considered to be the safest source of this vitamin.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU. It works in combination with calcium to grow the baby’s bones and to protect yours from damage. Your health specialist should test your vitamin D levels since its deficiency is a relatively common issue among women. If you appear to be deficient, you will need to take an additional supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily. This is the way to ensure healthy bones for you and the baby.
  • Zinc: 11 mg. Its role is to support your immune system and to ensure the healthy cell division. Since during pregnancy your body will become more vulnerable to infections, your immune system will need additional support.
  • Copper: 0.9 mg. It is used in the formation of blood cells as well as for better nerve, bone and immune system health.
  • Vitamin C: This vitamin helps your body absorb iron and your immune system be more efficient. It has an important role in preventing anemia during pregnancy. Have in mind that more than 2,000 mg of it can be dangerous for your baby. Follow strictly the recommendation of your doctor and do not take additional doses of any vitamin or element if they were not prescribed to you. Vitamins C can be found in many foods such as vegetables and orange fruits, so you might not need to take it as a supplement if you have a healthy diet.
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