When you go to your first prenatal appointment, your care provider will probably talk to you about taking a prenatal vitamin.
Do I Need a Prenatal Vitamin?
You probably don't need prenatal vitamins if you get enough vitamins and minerals to support your pregnancy in your daily diet. However, most women do not have an adequate diet to support the nutritional needs of the fetus. If you are pregnant with multiples, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, suffer from lactose intolerance, smoke, or have other dietary restrictions and intolerances, your healthcare provider will probably require a pregnancy vitamin.
What Vitamins and Minerals Do I Need?
Most women don't get enough iron and folic acid in their diets, so these vitamins and minerals are an important part of many prenatal vitamins.
- Folic acid will help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. It is vital to get enough folic acid in the first trimester. If you are trying to get pregnant, you may want to consider taking a pregnancy vitamin or folic acid supplement to prevent birth defects. You can reduce your baby's risk for neural tube defects up to 70% by taking 600 mcg/a day of folic acid.
- Your body will need more iron in pregnancy to support extra blood requirements. Additionally, your baby will need iron for his/her development. If you are pregnant, you will need to be taking in between 27-30 mg/ a day of iron. Additionally, you should mix up your calcium and iron intake since calcium can affect your iron absorption. For example, you should not take your vitamin with a glass of milk or your morning cereal.
Most, though not all pregnancy vitamins, also contain some calcium as well as other trace vitamins and minerals. However, a prenatal vitamin with calcium will not fulfill your daily requirements. You need to make sure your vitamin contains less than 10,000 IU of Vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects. Talk to your care provider about your diet. If he/she knows what vitamins and minerals might be missing, he/she can suggest an appropriate vitamin.
What if I Can't Swallow a Pregnancy Vitamin?
Talk to your care provider. He/she might be able to recommend a smaller pill. Often, the size of pregnancy vitamins is due to calcium. If you get enough calcium in your daily diet, you may be able to switch to a smaller pill. Your care provider may also allow you to split the vitamin in two (taking half in the morning and half at night) or recommend a pill with a slick coating. There are some chewable prenatal vitamins on the market, but they tend to have an unpleasant taste.
What if the Pregnancy Vitamin Upsets my Stomach?
An upset stomach due to pregnancy vitamins is common, especially in the first trimester when morning sickness is at its worst. This is usually due to the amount of iron in the vitamin. Talk to your care provider if you are having difficulty. He/she may be able to recommend a vitamin with less iron, assuming that you are getting enough iron in your daily diet.
What if I Do Not Want a Pregnancy Vitamin?
It is certainly your choice not to take a prenatal vitamin. If you decide not to take one, you need to make sure that you're getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. You will need to talk to your care provider about your daily vitamin and mineral requirements and how to get them met by your daily diet.