Prenatal vitamins are supplements made for pregnant women to give their bodies the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor may suggest that you take them when you begin to plan for pregnancy, as well as while you’re pregnant.
Eating a healthy diet is always a wise idea — especially during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin to help cover any nutritional gaps in your diet.
Benefits of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
The right prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements can help you maintain your own health during pregnancy and minimize certain risks for your child. Taking prenatal vitamins from the start can provide the following important benefits:
- Reduces the risk of your child developing spina bifida and neural tube defects: Getting enough of the B vitamin folic acid very early in your pregnancy and before you conceive can greatly reduce your child’s risk of developing neural tube defects, such as spina bifida (cleft spine) and anencephaly (improper development of the brain and bones of the skull). By taking sufficient quantities of folic acid before and at the beginning of pregnancy, your baby’s risk of being born with these defects is reduced by up to 70%.
- May reduce the risk of other birth defects: Folic acid may also help lower the risk of your child being born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or certain heart birth defects.
- May reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia: For the mother, taking sufficient folic acid early in the pregnancy may lower the risk of developing preeclampsia, a dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure, fluid retention, and excess protein in the urine. In severe cases of preeclampsia, when blood pressure is extremely high, an emergency C-section may be required.
- Helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia: Women need a lot of iron during pregnancy – approximately twice as much as before conception. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin (blood) for both you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron helps move oxygen from your lungs to the baby’s body and the rest of your body. Taking prenatal vitamins with iron can help prevent iron deficiency anemia, a condition that can cause extreme fatigue and other symptoms.
- Reduces the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality: Taking prenatal vitamins to ensure you get enough iron during pregnancy can help protect your child’s health as well as your own. Preventing iron-deficiency anemia helps reduce the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and infant mortality.
- Helps provide enough calcium for your child’s development: Women 19 years of age and older need 1,000 mg of calcium a day before, during, and after pregnancy. Women age 18 and younger need 1,300 mg. Your baby needs calcium to develop strong teeth and bones, a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles, and normal heart rhythm and blood clotting.
- Helps protect your health from the effects of calcium deficiency: Getting sufficient calcium can reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia and hypertension (high blood pressure). If you don’t have enough calcium in your diet during pregnancy, your developing baby will draw it from your bones, which can impair your health in the future. Prenatal vitamins can help supply at least a portion of your daily calcium needs.
- Reduces the risk of your child developing rickets: Rickets is a condition involving weakened and softened bones in children, caused by vitamin D deficiency. It can lead to fractures and deformities. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. If you don’t get enough vitamin D during pregnancy, your baby could be born with a deficiency and at risk for rickets, abnormal bone growth, and delayed development. Prenatal vitamins can help supply enough vitamin D to prevent this.
- May help reduce the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes associated with vitamin D deficiency: Although more research is needed, studies have found links between vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and both preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
- Gives you the peace of mind of knowing mother and baby’s nutritional needs are met: It is important to eat well during pregnancy with a healthy diet that includes meat, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. Ascertain nutritional requirements are higher at this time, even an excellent diet may not provide the extra nutrients you need to protect your child’s health and your own. Eating a healthy diet and taking prenatal vitamins as prescribed by our caring physicians at Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology can give you peace of mind knowing you are doing all you should to meet the nutritional needs of your child and to help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
- Medical News Today: Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy ‘increases preeclampsia risk’