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Pregnancy Prenatal Vitamins – Preparing the Body for Changes

When you’re preparing to conceive a child, it’s a good idea to begin taking prenatal vitamins – even if you haven’t yet conceived. These supplements will help you prepare your body for pregnancy. In fact, if you’re a sexually active woman, it’s a good idea to take prenatal vitamins as a matter of course – that way, if you become pregnant accidentally, your baby will have a good start. For example, you need enough folic acid in your diet at the time of conception to prevent your baby from developing a neural tube defect.

When you’re pregnant or planning to conceive, you should eat as healthy a diet as possible. With a few small exceptions, we absorb nutrients better when they’re in the food we eat, rather than when they come in supplement form. Still, a prenatal vitamin offers a good insurance policy for those days when your diet is less than ideal.

Prenatal vitamins are available as an over-the-counter purchase or your health care provider can write a prescription for you. Some health care providers also have samples they can share with you while you’re looking for a brand of vitamins that works for you. The chief difference between the prescription versions and the over-the-counter versions is that the prescription ones typically contain higher levels of some nutrients – iron in particular – are sometimes flavored and sometimes include a stool softener. For most women, an over-the-counter brand is perfectly fine, but there are some women who have nutritional needs better met by a prescription supplement.

Some pregnant women have trouble taking prenatal vitamins while they’re pregnant. If you’re having a problem with nausea after taking your vitamin, try taking it with your evening meal or at bedtime. You can also talk with your health care provider about taking a different vitamin, perhaps a chewable or a liquid. Prenatal vitamins are too important to ignore – talk to your health care provider and you’ll be able to find an acceptable alternative.

The following are some of the vitamins you need to consume during pregnancy:

  • Vitamin A is used in the development of skin and mucous membrane cells. You’ll need between 4,000 and 5,000 IU each day.
  • Vitamins B6, thiamine, riboflavin, and folic acid are important in the development of muscles, bones, the nervous system and the brain. Folic acid is especially crucial in the prevention of neural tube defects, a specific type of birth defect. Spina bifida is the most common birth defect involving the neural tube. Your supplement should contain between 800 and 1,000 mcg of folic acid, 1.5 mg of thiamine, 1.6 mg of riboflavin, 17 mg of niacinamide and 2.2 mcg of vitamin B12.
  • Vitamin C helps to maintain your health and makes you less susceptible to illnesses. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb the calcium and phosphorus it needs – your supplement should contain at least 70 mg of Vitamin C.
  • Calcium is used by your baby's bones and helps protect your bones from becoming weakened during pregnancy. Your supplement should contain between 200 and 300 mg of calcium.
  • Iron is also needed to help your blood carry oxygen to your baby. You’ll need increased amounts of iron because of your increased blood volume during pregnancy – you need at least 30 mg of iron daily.

In addition to the vitamins and minerals listed above, you also need vitamins D and E, essential fatty acids and zinc. Other vitamins and minerals may also be desirable additions to your diet – talk to your health care provider if you have any specific nutritional concerns.

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