Many women take prenatal vitamins when they are pregnant to avoid nutritional deficiencies and ensure that their babies get the nutrients that they need. In many cases, women begin use of prenatal supplements before they even get pregnant so that they can be sure they are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals that they need during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when women do not know for sure if they are with child. Prenatal supplements contain a number of different vitamins and minerals, including:
Folic acid: Folic acid offers a number of benefits when taken by pregnant women. It can reduce chances of birth defects that affect the spine and the brain. However, these problems typically develop during the first 28 days of pregnancy. This means that women should increase heir folic acid intake while they are trying to conceive a child. Folic acid can be found in nuts, beans, leafy vegetables, and citrus fruits.
Calcium: Calcium supplements are recommended to pregnant women because it helps to prevent loss of bone density. As the fetus grows, it will rely on the mother’s calcium supply; this can lead to bone density problems in women that do not consume enough calcium. High amounts of calcium can be found in milk (including soy, rice, and almond milk), yogurt, and cheese.
Iron: During pregnancy, women produce more blood to support the growing fetus. This means that the iron supply is spread out more thinly. That is why most experts recommend that women increase their iron intake by 50 percent during pregnancy. The iron helps the mother and child more efficiently carry oxygen in the blood. Iron-rich foods include whole grains, beans, liver, leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, and brussel sprouts.
If you are pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor to learn more about prenatal vitamin supplements, and to find out which products are right for you.