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Everything You Need To Know About Prenatal Vitamins

A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need — but even if you eat a healthy diet, you might fall short on key nutrients. If you're pregnant or hoping to conceive, prenatal vitamins can help fill any nutritional gaps you run into. Here are some frequently asked questions about Prenatals that may help shed some light on which ones are right for you.

Q: How are prenatal vitamins different from other vitamins?
A: Prenatal vitamins typically contain more folic acid and iron than do standard adult multivitamins. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. Iron also helps prevent anemia, a condition in which blood has a low number of healthy red blood cells. In addition, some research suggests that prenatal vitamins decrease the risk of having a baby who is small for his or her gestational age.

Q: Do I need to be concerned about other nutrients?
A: Not all prenatal vitamins include omega-3 fatty acids, which is known to support baby's brain development. If you don't normally eat fish or other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, your health care provider might recommend an additional supplement in addition to prenatal vitamins. Calcium and vitamin D are important as well — especially during the third trimester, when your baby's bones are rapidly growing and strengthening.

Q: Which brand of prenatal vitamins is best?
A: Prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter in nearly any pharmacy. Your health care provider might recommend a specific brand of prenatal vitamins or leave the choice up to you. Generally, look for a prenatal vitamin that contains: folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D. It also might be beneficial to look for a prenatal vitamin that contains vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, iodine and copper.
Remember, prenatal vitamins are a complement to a healthy diet — not a substitute for good nutrition. Prenatal vitamins won't necessarily meet 100 percent of your vitamin and mineral needs. You healthcare provider will help you in determining the best vitamin regimen for you and your baby, so always consult with your doctor first.

Q: When should I start taking prenatal vitamins- and how long?
A: Ideally, you'll start taking prenatal vitamins before conception. In fact, it's generally a good idea for women of reproductive age to regularly take a prenatal vitamin. The baby's neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy — perhaps before you even know that you're pregnant. It's best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. Your health care provider might recommend continuing to take prenatal vitamins after the baby is born — especially if you're breast-feeding.

Q: Do prenatal vitamins have any side effects?
A: Some women feel queasy after taking prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, take your prenatal vitamin with a snack or before you go to bed at night.
In other cases, the iron in prenatal vitamins contributes to constipation. To prevent constipation: Drink plenty of fluids, include more fiber in your diet, include physical activity in your daily routine, as long as you have your health care provider's OK.

If these tips don't seem to help, ask your health care provider about other options. They might recommend another type of vitamin regimen for you altogether since each and every pregnancy is unique must be handled as such!

Bella Women's Care Blogger

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