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Are Prenatal Vitamins Important?


What's the first thing women do when they realize they're pregnant? Besides telling loved ones, delving into health information is a common reaction. One of the most shared pieces of information about pregnancy is that women should take prenatal vitamins. Are these tiny, nutritious capsules really necessary? 

What are prenatal vitamins?

When a woman is pregnant she requires different nutrition than when she is only eating for herself. It's often tough to get all the needed vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy baby by just eating well. Taking a prenatal vitamin can prevent birth defects and overall promote a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, some examples of these vitamins include:

  • Folic acid - prevents brain, heart and spine birth defects and may reduce the potential for preeclampsia.
  • Omega-3s - DHA and EPA are found in fish oil, which you may add to your daily supplement regimen on its own to improve nerve, brain and eye tissue development in the baby.
  • Vitamin A - promotes healthy eyesight and skin.
  • Vitamin C - aids in iron absorption and may improve gum, teeth and bone health.
  • Iron - supports growth and reduces chances of developing anemia, preterm delivery and low birth weight.
  • Vitamin B12 - helps form red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B6 - helps the body utilize carbohydrates, fat and protein and forms red blood cells.
  • Calcium - Just like this supplement helps women grow strong bones, babies benefit from calcium the same way.
  • Vitamin D - aids in strong baby bones and teeth.

pregnancy, pregnant, baby, fetal health, pregnancy healthYour doctor will talk with you about any supplements he or she recommends during pregnancy.

Should you take them?

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate vitamins and supplements. If you are considering taking prenatal vitamins, talk with your obstetrician. He or she may run a blood panel to determine your unique makeup and note any minerals or vitamins you should take. Also, talk about foods that can help you absorb these nutrients and get them naturally, like the calcium in dairy or the vitamins in fruits and veggies.

It's important to note that a pregnant friend of yours may require different supplements than you because you each have different levels of vitamins in your blood. Your ethnicity and family history may also play parts in what conditions you and your baby should try to prevent through healthy prenatal care. 

How else can I improve my prenatal health?

When you first visit a doctor about your pregnancy, he or she will offer a lot of advice on how to have a healthy baby and reach full term. This may include discussing safe exercising, recommending nutritional plans and discussing lifestyle changes. You will be told to stop smoking, drinking alcohol and to avoid caffeine as these substances can harm your unborn child. You may want to bring a notebook to this appointment because there will be a lot to take in. If you ever have a question about pregnancy, the baby's development or your health, don't hesitate to contact your doctor.

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