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Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins

by Christie Johnson
  • Overview

    Prenatal vitamins are recommended for the health of pregnant women and their babies. They are specifically formulated multivitamins that make up any deficiencies a mother may have in her diet. Prenatal vitamins are especially important, because the vitamins provide the additional folic acid, iron and calcium needed during pregnancy.
  • Folic Acid

    Folic acid is instrumental in preventing neural tube defects, which are serious abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord. It can also help to prevent preterm labor and low birth weight. The March of Dimes says folic acid may protect pregnant women against cancer and stroke. Between supplements and food, pregnant women should have 600 mcg of folic acid a day. Prenatal vitamins have 600 to 1,000 mcg.
  • Iron

    Iron helps both mother and baby carry oxygen by promoting the development of blood and muscle cells. It can also prevent anemia and decrease the risk of preterm labor and low birth weight.
  • Calcium

    Calcium builds stronger teeth and bones in mother and baby. It strengthens the nervous, muscular and circulatory systems.
  • When to Take

    Doctors recommend beginning prenatal vitamins even before conception, if possible. Experts at the Mayo Clinic says it's important, because the baby's neural tube begins to develop during the first month of pregnancy. Mayo Clinic recommends taking the vitamins throughout pregnancy. Doctors may even recommend taking them while breastfeeding.
  • Side Effects

    Two common side effects of prenatal vitamins are nausea and constipation. To avoid these side effects, many pregnant women take the vitamins with food. Drinking plenty of water and adding more fiber to your diet may help.

    References & Resources