Food (sort of) Friday: Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal Vitamins are a standard part of prenatal care. But did you know they should be started at least three months before pregnancy ? And did you know that 50 % of all pregnancies are unplanned ? Given these two facts you could make an argument for all women of childbearing age to take prenatal vitamins all of the time. 

What makes prenatal vitamins so special ?

Mayo Clinic recommends that a prenatal vitamin include at least the following : 

  • Folic acid — 400 to 800 micrograms
  • Calcium — 250 milligrams
  • Iron — 30 milligrams
  • Vitamin C — 50 milligrams
  • Zinc — 15 milligrams
  • Copper — 2 milligrams
  • Vitamin B-6 — 2 milligrams
  • Vitamin D — 400 international units

Consider folic acid. This is given to prevent defects of the baby's brain and spinal cord, what we call neural tube defects. These defects form in the first 28 days after conception, so often times the woman does not even know she's pregnant. This is why it is ideal for women to be on them in the three months before pregnancy. As soon as a woman decides to try to become pregnant she should start a prenatal vitamin. 

Prenatal Vitamins are not always easy to take. I recommend taking a gummy prenatal vitamins  if nausea is a problem. I also recommend taking them with food in the evening. Sometimes they cause constipation. Of course that is best dealt with by fluids, fiber, fruit and vegetables, but stool softeners can be used .

Pregnant women need more of just about every nutrient. This also includes calcium and iron, in addition to folic acid. Calcium is necessary for building bone. Iron is necessary for manufacturing red blood cells which carry oxygen to mom and baby. A deficiency of iron results in anemia, which is suboptimal for both mom and baby. Personally, I think Calcium taken separately from the Prenatal vitamin or iron causes them both to absorb better. It is also good to note that Calcium citrate is the most easily absorbed type of Calcium. Additionally, calcium should be paired with vitamin D. Most over the counter calcium supplements do just this. 

Newer data also indicate that it is beneficial for pregnant women to ensure that they are consuming at least 200 milligrams of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in addition to their prenatal vitamins. This seems to be beneficial for the development of unborn baby's brain. It is available by supplement or incorporated into a prescription prenatal vitamin. 

But vitamins are not the whole story. I have prepared a page devoted entirely to preparation for a planned pregnancy. You might be surprised to see some of the things that it contains. Have a look HERE.