Importance of Prenatal Vitamins | Gleneagles Hospitals
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Women’s Health

Importance of Prenatal Vitamins

06 June 2024 · 4 mins read

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Taking prenatal vitamins like folic acid during pregnancy provides various benefits for both the mother and the foetus. Learn more.

Expectant mothers require adequate vitamins and minerals to support their own health as well as the development of the growing baby in the womb.

Prenatal vitamins are essential for maintaining the health and well-being of both mother and baby throughout pregnancy. 

Prenatal vitamins are dietary supplements specifically formulated for pregnant women to address nutritional deficiencies, if any. Women are advised to take them both before and during pregnancy to maintain optimal vitamin levels, which can contribute to a reduced likelihood of complications and better health outcomes for both mother and newborn.

Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins

Taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy provides numerous benefits for both the mother and the developing baby. These vitamins support healthy pregnancy growth and aid in proper foetal development. Regular intake can also help prevent birth abnormalities, low birth weight, and some premature births.

Folic acid

Folic acid plays a crucial role in supporting the early development of the baby’s neural tube, which eventually forms the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid is particularly vital for preventing neural tube anomalies like spina bifida, a condition that can lead to severe abnormalities. 

Folic acid aids in the synthesis of red blood cells and reduces the risk of spinal and brain birth abnormalities. It promotes the formation of the neural tube, essential for the baby’s brain and spine development. Sufficient levels of folic acid are necessary for the healthy growth and functioning of cells within this structure, ensuring proper neural tube closure and minimising the risk of abnormalities in the spine, skull, and brain.

It is recommended that women planning for pregnancy start taking extra folic acid supplements at least three months before conception.

During pregnancy, it is crucial to adhere to the recommended daily intake of folic acid to support foetal development adequately. Pregnant women are advised to consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, both before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

While breastfeeding, the recommended intake increases to 500 mcg per day, and from the fourth to ninth months of pregnancy, it increases to 600 mcg per day. It is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before exceeding these recommended doses, as higher amounts may not necessarily provide added benefits in preventing neural tube abnormalities.

Iron

Throughout pregnancy, a woman’s body must produce more blood to support the growth of her placenta and baby. Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron daily to meet this demand.

Iron deficiency among expectant mothers is a common cause of anaemia, making it crucial to incorporate iron prenatal supplements into their daily routine to maintain healthy iron levels. Iron in prenatal vitamins plays a vital role in preventing anaemia during pregnancy, which can lead to fatigue and other complications.

Vitamins

TypeImpotance
Vitamin AFor the baby’s immunity and visual development.
Vitamin B6For the baby’s brain and neurological system development, and digestion of protein and carbohydrates.
Vitamin C For the maintenance of healthy cells and collagen production for the mother and baby’s tendons, bones, and skin.
Vitamin DFor the maintenance of calcium and phosphate levels, which are essential to maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. 

Other essential prenatal vitamins include DHA (an Omega-3 fatty acid) important for baby’s development and growth and lower the risk of preterm birth, iodine for the mother’s thyroid health, and calcium to help the mother avoid losing bone density as the baby needs calcium for bone formation.

Starting Prenatal Vitamins

Ideally, women planning for pregnancy should start taking prenatal vitamins before conception. Proper nutrition and nutrient intake are crucial, even in the early stages of pregnancy.

The CDC recommends daily intake of folic acid at least one month before conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to prevent birth abnormalities and reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and congenital disabilities.

Before attempting to conceive, it is advisable for women to consult with their obstetrician regarding prenatal vitamins to ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

Potential Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamins

While prenatal vitamins are generally safe and well tolerated, they may sometimes cause mild side effects, but the benefits far outweigh them.

Constipation is a typical side effect that may be a result of the higher content of iron in prenatal vitamins. To alleviate constipation, it is recommended to drink plenty of fluids, increase fibre intake in your diet, engage in regular physical activity (with your healthcare provider’s approval), and consider using a stool softener if necessary.

If a pregnant woman experiences morning sickness, certain prenatal vitamins may exacerbate her nausea. A healthcare provider may suggest alternatives such as chewable (gummies), liquid, or powder forms of prenatal vitamins.

Make an Appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

If you have just conceived or are planning to get pregnant in the future, it is best to speak to your doctor about prenatal vitamins.

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today to consult with our Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialists, or find out more about our Obstetrics and Gynaecology Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.


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