Prenatal vitamins are essential for every pregnancy (unless you’re allergic to them), and many experts recommend all women of childbearing age take prenatal vitamins regularly. This not only ensures women who aren’t pregnant are getting plenty of vitamins, but also makes sure they have plenty of vitamins in their system for when they become pregnant. Prenatals contain specific vitamins intended to help safeguard the health of mother and baby, as well as supplement a woman’s diet after delivery and during breastfeeding. Here’s a look at why prenatal vitamins are so important.
1. Nutrients for Baby
Prenatal vitamins have most nutrients essential to fetal development as well as maternal health. A single pill is typically packed with more than 20 different vitamins and minerals, each of which are necessary to stages of the baby's development -- for example, folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the first trimester. Those vitamins are also supplied in amounts appropriate to the pregnant body.
2. Nutrients for Mom
During pregnancy, baby’s get all their nutrients for development from their mother. The maternal body is going to send the essentials to a developing baby first, which can leave expectant mothers worn out and lacking things like calcium. While the baby grows, mom may feel extremely tired and even weak without enough of the minerals, vitamins, and nourishment her body requires. Prenatals may help maintain both stamina and strength as the baby gets first dibs on resources.
3. Provides Extra Iron
Some pregnant women are even more fatigued than most as the amount of iron in their blood is depleted. Iron is essential for the body to make red blood cells. The pregnant body actually increases blood production, making it necessary for mom to get at least 30 milligrams of iron a day.
Anemia, or insufficient iron, may cause significant problems during delivery. Anemia thins the blood, thus increasing the amount of blood loss during menstruation and childbirth. This extra loss of blood can be extremely dangerous, hindering the recovery from childbirth. Conversely, too much iron can cause nausea. For most women, however, once the body gets used to the extra iron, nausea should diminish. If you find you feel persistently sick after taking your prenatals, talk to your doctor about prescribing a vitamin with less iron.
4. Helps Supplement Mom’s Diet
Eating enough can be quite difficult in the early months of pregnancy when morning sickness quashes even the stoutest appetite. If you’re finding this difficult, taking a prenatal vitamin can supplement your diet and help make sure you get most of the nutrients you need. “Supplementing” is the key word here -- although the bottle may claim it contains 100% of some nutrients, it’s still important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. If your nausea or vomiting is severe, and you can’t keep down any food, talk to your obstetrician or midwife.