MPH Blog

Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins?

Pregnant women face unique and heightened health concerns because their body’s resources are now spread to two living beings. One way that women can help manage these health concerns is through prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins address the unique needs of both mothers-to-be and their unborn children.

Common prenatal vitamins include:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Folic acid
  • Iodine

Each of these vitamins meet a specific health need. Folic acid, which is often naturally found in citrus, spinach leaves, and certain nuts, prevents neural tube defects. Essentially, it protects your unborn child from defective development of the brain or spine. If a defect has already been detected, taking folic acid early enough may actually improve your child’s development. Be sure to ask your doctor about taking folic acid supplements, as it may only improve certain cases.

Calcium is another important supplement. Though naturally found in milk, a calcium supplement can help provide the much-higher amount of the mineral to pregnant women. When a baby’s skeleton is developing, calcium is often diverted away from the mother’s bones, leading to a higher risk of bone degradation. Calcium supplements ensure strong bones for both the mother and the baby.

Iron supplements serve a crucial purpose—it allows oxygen to travel through the blood far more quickly and efficiently. Iron is normally important regardless of pregnancy, but women who are pregnant will need roughly 1/3 more iron daily than women who are not pregnant. The last supplement, iodine, promotes thyroid function. The thyroid helps the developing baby grow healthy.

Risks of Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins do come with a limited set of side effects. For example, too much iron can result in bowel irregularity (either constipation or diarrhea) and nausea, and it can sometimes to be fatal. Other effects of too many prenatal vitamins include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps
  • Severe, constant nausea

If you have any problems metabolizing iron, physicians do not recommend taking prenatal vitamins with iron for the above reasons. However, the good news is that these effects are very rare. For the most part, a vitamin supplement will have nothing but positive effects on a pregnancy, barring allergic reaction or rare conditions. If you have no medical allergies or iron-metabolizing conditions, consider taking prenatal vitamins from before conception into breastfeeding your child.

As always, consult your personal physician if you have questions pertaining to your specific situation. In the event that you do experience any allergic reaction while pregnant, contact your doctor immediately.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.