Prenatal vitamins are high in iron and folic acid and recommended for pregnant women since they are at risk for developing low levels of these crucial vitamins and minerals.
Folic acid and iron
Folic acid prevents neural tube defects, which can lead to serious brain and spinal cord abnormalities. Iron supports the fetus' growth and development.
Folate isn't only necessary for neural tube development, it's also important in nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) synthesis, which is necessary due to the widespread cell division brought on by growth and embryological development. Reduced folate intake is related to elevated blood homocysteine (an amino acid) levels. Higher levels of homocysteine in the mother has been linked to increased risk of spontaneous abortion and other complications, such as placental abruption and preeclampsia.
Some prenatal vitamins include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and vitamin B6, among other nutritional supplements. The contents of a prenatal vitamin supplement varies from brand to brand. It's ideal to begin taking them prior to conception, and after pregnancy as well -- especially if you plan to breastfeed.
Prenatal vitamins can almost be considered essential for pregnant women, especially if their diet is low in vitamins and minerals.
Folate and other B vitamins may reduce the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, fetal growth retardation, spontaneous abortion, and pregnancy complications, including placental abruption and preeclampsia. There is also an association between prenatal vitamins and a lower incidence of autism.
Reduced risk of autism
According to a study from the University of California-Davis, "mothers who didn't take prenatal vitamins were at greater risk of having an autistic child." The study compared a group of autistic children, children with autism spectrum disorder, and typical development, and found that mothers who did not take prenatal vitamins during the three months before pregnancy were more likely to have a child with autism. Some previous studies suggest that children with autism have reduced methylation capacity (addition of a CH3 group to a substrate), as well as different B-vitamin metabolisms. The authors believe that along with lack of folate and B-vitamins for neurodevelopment, reduced methylation may be the explanation.
Potential side effects
Some women experience nausea when taking prenatal vitamins, however this can be resolved by taking them with food or right before bed. The high amount of iron may cause constipation, but increased fluid and fiber intake can help with that.
Vitamins and supplements are not FDA regulated. Before you select a prenatal vitamin, be sure to talk to your obstetrician since every woman's needs are unique. This article should not be construed as medical advice.
Where to buy
There are a variety of prenatal vitamin brands and prices fluctuate, but it's important to talk to your doctor about your specific dietary needs during pregnancy. Overall, make sure that your prenatal vitamin contains the following:
|Calcium||200mg to 300mg|
Where to buy
You can use our PricePlow comparison engine to decide which prenatal vitamin is best for you (after you talk to your doctor, of course). Brands include Prenatal Pack by Douglas Labs, Rainbow Lite Prenatal Petite, and Solaray Baby Me Now Pre-Natal Multi.
- Please vaccinate your children
- Healthy eating during pregnancy
- Exercise during pregnancy
1. Mayo Clinic;"Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose;" Reviewed April 2012
2. Pagano, Trinal; WebMD.com; "Pregnancy and prenatal vitamins;" Reviewed May 2012
3. Schmidt RJ, et. al.; Epidemiology; "
;" July 2011
4. Scholl, TO, WG Johnson; American Journal of Clinical Nutirition; "Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy;" May 2000