5 Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins
We all aim to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet with all the essential nutrients during pregnancy. However, getting in all your daily nutrients can be a challenge, given the effects of depleted soils and our packed schedules, combined with the increased nutritional needs of a pregnancy.
That’s where prenatal vitamins and supplements come in.
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What are the benefits of prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are made to ensure mom and baby receive all the key nutrients they need for a healthy pregnancy. In addition, they offer a fast and sure way to know you are getting precisely the right amount of those vitamins and minerals.
Because your body changes while carrying a baby, you will need more of the vitamins and minerals than the pre-pregnancy recommended amount. A prenatal can help provide you with what your body needs to undergo a smooth pregnancy that you can’t always get from your diet.
1) Supports growth and development during pregnancy
If you are actively trying to get pregnant, you should consider taking a prenatal vitamin at least three months before conception, even if you already take a regular multivitamin.
Prenatal vitamins are made with ingredients specific to supporting the growth and development during pregnancy, so a regular multivitamin may not be sufficient. It's a good idea to start before you are pregnant, so that your very early pregnancy - when you may not even know you are pregnant - is well supported.
2) Supports mothers of advanced maternal age
Prenatal vitamins could be especially beneficial for those of advanced maternal age (in medical parlance, that means women over 35). As we mature, our bodies typically need a little more support to get the nutrients we need to support our overall health. So, especially if you are over 35, taking prenatal vitamins is one way to ensure you get the daily vitamins and nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy.
3) Delivers a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals
You may be wondering what ingredients are in prenatal vitamins. The ingredients in a prenatal vitamin are carefully selected to support a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.
Although some prenatal vitamins cover more bases than others, high-quality prenatal vitamins should include these key ingredients:
Did you know that Folate is a B vitamin, specifically B9? This nutrient helps to support the growth of new cells. The role Folate plays in the body can help babies develop healthily in their mother’s womb. For example, Folate helps support the brain development of the baby and to prevent neural tube defects. In addition, Folate is necessary to make DNA and other genetic materials.
Some of the most folate-rich foods include:
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Fresh fruits and fruit juices
- Whole grains
- Sunflower seeds
You can also find folic acid in fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread, eggs, fruit juice, soy milk and other milk alternatives, and yogurt.
Tip: Do not confuse Folate with folic acid. This is a misconception that many people have. Many prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, the synthetic form of the B vitamin, while Folate is the natural form of B9 that is found in foods and already in an active form.
Iron is another vital ingredient in prenatal vitamins that supports the health of mom and baby. Iron is a mineral that supports healthy growth and development. Because the amount of blood increases during pregnancy, it is essential for women to increase their iron intake each day. Your body uses iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby.
Prenatal vitamins are one way that pregnant women can ensure they are getting the right amount of Iron to support the healthy growth of their babies and support their own health.
Iron-rich foods include:
- Red meat
- Lentils and legumes
- Pumpkin seeds
Tip: Iron can often cause bloating, nausea and other gastrointestinal discomfort. It can make morning sickness worse, too. If this is something you experience, you can drink more water and increase your fiber intake to try to reduce the side effects. Here’s more on how to mitigate nausea from prenatal vitamins.
Another key ingredient in prenatal vitamins is Choline, which is an essential nutrient that is responsible for many things, such as:
- Modulating gene expression
- Cell membrane signaling
- Lipid transport and metabolism
- Early brain development
- Producing acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions
Although Choline is vital for healthy brain development of the baby, more than 95 percent of women don’t meet the daily requirement.
Many food sources can provide your body with Choline, such as:
- Dairy products
- Various fruits and vegetables
However, it can be challenging to get all the Choline you need by just eating these foods. For example, to get 450 mg of Choline, the recommended amount for pregnant women, you would need 4 eggs every day. Prenatal vitamins can help to ensure you are getting the proper amount needed during pregnancy.
Vitamin D is most known for its role in calcium absorption and immune health. Vitamin D helps support skeletal development in babies during pregnancy, as well as after birth, when the baby relies on the mother’s breast milk.
A healthy level of Vitamin D has been associated with female reproductive health and good pregnancy outcomes. Whether you are attempting pregnancy or already pregnant, getting enough Vitamin D is essential.
Vitamin D is naturally produced in the skin by exposure to sunlight. Also, many foods are rich in Vitamin D, such as:
- Dairy products
- Red meat
- Some breakfast cereals, milk and other foods with added Vitamin D
Vitamin C helps support a healthy immune system. Research shows Vitamin C is essential for tissue growth and repair all over the body. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps repair and maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin, and cartilage – a type of firm tissue that covers and protects the bones.
So, it’s safe to say that vitamin C is another essential ingredient in a prenatal vitamin. Vitamin C can help support healthy bones, gums, and teeth.
You can find plenty of vitamin c-rich foods, such as:
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
- Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
- Winter squash
- Red and green peppers
Recommended daily amounts
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these are the daily recommended amounts for these essential ingredients during pregnancy:
- Folate: 600 micrograms
- Iron: 27 milligrams
- Choline: 450 milligrams
- Vitamin D: 600 IUs
- Vitamin C: 85 milligrams
Recommended amounts may be higher or lower, depending on the organization. Doctors may recommend higher amounts for women whose levels are low.
Other important nutrients
Prenatal vitamins provide many different nutrients. Here is a non-exhaustive list of various ingredients that also play a role in pregnancy health:
Tip: Make sure the ingredients in your prenatal vitamins are in their bioavailable forms. This can help you get the most out of your prenatal vitamins.
4) Tops up the levels of essential nutrients
Consuming the necessary nutrients for yourself is one thing, but getting enough for two…or even more might require a little more than just “eating right.”
Prenatal vitamins are an effective tool to fill this gap. Starting the vitamins about three months before pregnancy can support your body's health and prepare you for the growth and development of a healthy baby.
In your early stages of pregnancy, you may not know you have conceived yet. Therefore, starting on prenatal vitamins early can ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need to support your baby's early growth and development.
Of particular importance in this respect is the neural tube, which is developed in the 3rd or 4th week of pregnancy and is the precursor to the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord. Getting enough nutrients such as Folate and Choline early in the pregnancy is key to the normal development of the neural tube.
5) Supports healthy neural tube development
The proper development of the neural tube is essential for the growing baby’s lifelong cognitive health. Errors in the neural tube development can lead to neural tube defects, especially during the first trimester. Supplying your body with the proper amount of choline and folate in prenatal vitamins can help support the healthy growth of the neural tube.
What to look for in the best prenatal vitamin
There are many prenatal vitamins out there, but it is best to choose one that will meet your standards.
- Quality: Ingredients should be in high-quality, bioavailable forms, meet the recommended daily values, and cover all key nutritional needs.
- Expertise: Some prenatal vitamins are developed by reputable reproductive health doctors, ensuring that they address common nutritional gaps doctors see among pregnant women.
- Trust: Look for prenatal vitamins used and recommended by reproductive health experts all over the globe.
Before taking any prenatal vitamins and supplements, always consult your OB/GYN and health care provider. They can point you in the right direction, based on your medical history and any risk factors. Your doctor can also help you mitigate any potential side effects, such as constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea, that can be a reality for many pregnant women.
Bottom line on the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins
At Ovaterra, we emphasize the importance of prenatal vitamins: They benefit women by providing the proper nutrients that both mom and baby need to thrive and lay the foundation for lifelong health.
Finding a prenatal vitamin with the right vitamins and minerals can help support and maintain your baby's proper growth and development. It can also help make you feel a little more energized and a little less depleted during this exciting but taxing period in your life.
Start taking prenatal vitamins three months before you know you’ll start trying. That way, you’ll have the nutritional foundation in place when you -- and the growing baby – need it.
- Choline | Health Professional Fact Sheet
- Folate and Folic Acid in Pregnancy
- Folate (Folic Acid) | Vitamin B9 | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
- Iron | Consumer
- Nutrition During Pregnancy | ACOG
- Role of vitamin D in ovarian physiology and its implication in reproduction| a systematic review | NIH
- Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose | Mayo Clinic
- Nutrition as We Age: Healthy Eating with the Dietary Guidelines - News & Events | health.gov
- Male Infertility: Causes & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic
- Vast Majority of Poor, Urban Women Don't Use Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy, Study Shows | Hopkins Medicine
- How Vitamin C Supports a Healthy Immune System
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