9 out of 10 doctors recommend prenatal vitamins to their patients. And according to a study by Johns Hopkins, prenatal vitamins during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects.
They are essential during pregnancy, and many moms-to-be choose to take them as soon as they start trying to conceive. But do these vitamins increase your appetite? Do they increase your weight? Are they safe enough for your consumption? Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are a special type of multivitamin explicitly made for pregnant women. They contain the right balance of nutrients for the fetus and the mother.
Ideally, a healthy diet will be challenging to maintain when pregnant, especially if you have morning sickness or aversions to certain foods. So prenatal vitamins primarily fill any nutritional gaps between what you eat and what your body will need.
They lower your risk of certain defects during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes, and early delivery. Simply because they contain a unique blend of nutrients, including folic acid and iron, which are proven vital defensive players.
Folic acid will help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida by aiding brain and spinal cord development. At the same time, iron will be responsible for energization through hemoglobin build-up.
On the same note, prenatal vitamins contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that also supports brain development in the fetus.
Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet during pregnancy, as they ensure an efficient supply of nutrients for infant development. Needless to say, they reduce the risk of specific congenital disabilities, including neural tube defects (NTDs), if taken before conception and throughout pregnancy.
Here are some other benefits of prenatal vitamins:
Preventing Neural Tube Defects (NTDs)
Preventing neural tube defects (NTDs) is one of the most important reasons to take prenatal vitamins. NTDs are severe congenital disabilities that, when left unattended, can cause brain damage, paralysis, and even the death of your fetus. They are preventable if the mother takes folic acid supplements before conception or early in pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin B found in various foods, though abundant in leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli.
Improving Fetal Growth
Helping your unborn baby grow properly during pregnancy depends on adequate nutrition. Taking prenatal can help you supply the proper nutrients to your unborn baby, facilitating their growth and development.
Preventing Other Health Conditions in Future Pregnancies
Numerous studies have shown that taking folic acid before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of having a child with spina bifida or other neural tube defects by 50 percent or more. So taking prenatal vitamins may be your best bet.
Reducing the Risk of Premature Birt
Additionally, taking prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy days will reduce the risk of premature birth by up to 60 percent, as revealed by multiple studies. And you know how severe and premature birth can be to you and your unborn.
Improving Overall Health
Taking prenatal vitamins will improve your overall health and equip you with the necessary nutrients for growth and stamina. Your body will change abruptly and adjust to motherly needs while your immune system improves.
Now that you have known the benefits of these supplements, I’m sure you might also want to know when is the right time to start initiating their dosage.
When Should You Take Prenatal Vitamins?
You should take prenatal vitamins as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, even if you aren’t showing signs yet, simply because your body will need extra nutrients to prepare for the support and growth of the fetus. You can also start taking these supplements before conception to maximize your performance.
Otherwise, switching to a prenatal vitamin as soon as possible will be the best option if you’ve been taking multivitamins for some time, even before pregnancy.
Prenatals vs. Regular Multivitamins
With prenatal, there are several brands available on the market today. However, not all are created equal. The main difference between prenatal and regular multivitamins is that they contain higher levels of pregnancy, favoring nutrients crucial for expectant mothers.
They contain more iron than standard multivitamins for efficient hemoglobin build-up and energization and folic acid for disease prevention. On the other hand, multivitamins are essential for body growth and, therefore, practical for daily consumption. They have zero impact on fetus growth, as they work like other standard body nutrients.
In contrast, prenatal vitamins should be taken every day starting at least one month before conception and continuing throughout your pregnancy to breastfeeding (if applicable).
Can Prenatal Vitamins Make You Gain Weight?
Prenatal vitamins are not known to cause weight gain. In fact, there is no evidence or recorded case that links prenatal vitamins with unnecessary weight gain. While it’s true that many foods high in calories can make you gain weight during pregnancy, it’s not because of the vitamins themselves — it’s because of excess consumption.
It may seem counterintuitive, but overeating anything will, in most cases, result in weight gain. Ultimately, if you’re trying to avoid gaining too much weight while pregnant, then focus on eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly instead of avoiding vitamins altogether.
Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamins
Because of the high-dose vitamins, it’s common for some women to experience side effects after taking prenatal vitamins. These can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint pain and stiffness
In case you have any concerns about these side effects, talk to your doctor or midwife. They may recommend taking your prenatal vitamin with food to help reduce nausea and vomiting. Otherwise, some of these signs are normal during pregnancy and, therefore, relatively hard to differentiate the definitive cause, whether prenatal or pregnancy.
Other than vitamin D and iron, there isn’t a definitive link between prenatal (and other prenatal vitamins) and weight gain. That may change in the future once further research is done. But as of now, taking your prenatal is the best way to ensure that you get proper nutrition while pregnant—even though they might not necessarily make you lose or gain weight.