Taking a prenatal vitamin when you're expecting helps ensure that you and your baby are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you both need to stay healthy. Some people do experience side effects, including upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea and gas, when taking prenatal vitamins, but these can usually be minimized. Talk to your healthcare provider before stopping your prenatal vitamins.
Iron Side Effects
Iron-deficiency anemia increases your risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight, and many moms don't get enough of the mineral through diet alone. Iron in vitamins can cause stomach discomfort, nausea and other gastrointestinal side effects. Check the label on your prenatal vitamins if you're experiencing these symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women get 27 milligrams of iron per day. If your vitamin contains a high amount, switch to a prenatal with less iron and eat more iron-rich foods instead to help minimize the unpleasant side effects.
DHA Side Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, are important during pregnancy. DHA helps your baby's brain and retinal tissue develop properly. The best dietary sources for DHA are cold water fish, such as herring, tuna and sardines. Many pregnant women avoid fish because of concerns about mercury and other toxins, so many brands of prenatal vitamins include DHA. Nausea and gas are common side effects of DHA supplements, and the excess gas might make you feel bloated. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any side effects you're experiencing, as she may advise you to take a vitamin without DHA, particularly if your diet includes fatty fish.
Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin
Sometimes it's the vitamin itself that causes stomach upset and gastrointestinal problems. Look for a prenatal vitamin that will dissolve in your stomach quickly. What to Expect recommends that you choose a vitamin that bears the United States Pharmacopeia seal to ensure that it meets dissolution standards. Choose a vitamin that contains vitamin B6, which can help reduce nausea in pregnant women, according to BabyCenter.com. Or ask your doctor about taking a separate B6 supplement. Some women take small doses of B6 several times a day to ease nausea and vomiting.
Making Prenatals Easier to Stomach
While it's best to take prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach to increase iron absorption, if you're having stomach discomfort or nausea, take your vitamin with some food. The National Institutes of Health advises against taking iron with milk, high-fiber foods or caffeinated foods or beverages, because these can decrease iron absorption. You can also break your vitamin in half and take one half at different times during the day to reduce the amount of iron and DHA your body has to deal with in a single dose. Taking your vitamin just before you go to sleep can also help.
- BabyCenter: Prenatal Vitamins: A Nutritional Insurance Policy
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency
- What to Expect: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats During Pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association: Omega-3 Fish Oil and Pregnancy
- eMedTV: DHA Side Effects
- What to Expect: Choosing the Best Prenatal Vitamin
- BabyCenter: Is My Prenatal Vitamin Making Me Nauseated?
- BabyCenter: Does Vitamin B6 Help Relieve Morning Sickness?
- MedlinePlus: Taking Iron Supplements