During pregnancy, health should be your main concern. By staying healthy, you have the best chance for a worry-free pregnancy and birth. Although prenatal vitamin supplements are not absolutely essential for your health, they can be a big asset in this respect. They are formulated especially for pregnant mothers, with high levels of essential nutrients that help prevent birth defects and complications. If you're thinking of having a baby, it is best to take supplements three months before conception to keep your vitamin levels high.
What Makes Prenatal Vitamins Different
Pregnant mothers need much higher levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals than other adults. Deficiencies can result in serious birth defects and other problems. Therefore, prenatal vitamin supplements contain much higher levels of folic acid, calcium and iron than regular multivitamins. The exact amount and formulation depend on the specific brand. They are readily available over the counter in pharmacies, though some types still require a prescription. However, always check with your health care provider before taking any kind of supplement.
The greatest concentrations of calcium in your body are naturally stored in your bones, keeping them healthy and strong. If you don't get enough calcium through supplements or daily diet, your body will begin leaching the deposits in your bones, making them weak and brittle. Calcium deficiency can also lead to preeclampsia, a major cause of premature delivery and pregnancy complications. Mothers should get 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams of calcium during and after pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can provide around 150 to 200 milligrams per dose, but the body can absorb only 500 milligrams each time, so you may want to take multiple doses of supplemental calcium several times per day.
Anemia occurs when not enough red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. Because these red blood cells serve both the mother and the developing baby, pregnant women have an increased risk of becoming anemic. Mild cases of anemia involve fatigue and weakness; serious cases, however, can lead to heart damage. To prevent this, you need to maintain a healthy regular intake of iron. You should get at least 30 milligrams of iron every day.
Birth Defects Risk
Neural tube defects are abnormalities in the spine or brain of the growing fetus. They pose severe health risks, since they can result in anencephaly or spina bifida. These conditions are always devastating and often fatal. Folic acid, or folate, is one of the B complex vitamins, and it is essential for preventing these serious birth defects. However, the critical period for ensuring the right intake of folic acid is between the 21st and 27th days after conception, when many women are still unaware of their pregnancy. This is why it is particularly important that you take enough folic acid at all times, which most prenatal vitamin formulations contain.
Other Sources of Vitamins
While prenatal vitamins are a good means of supplementing your daily supply of vitamins and minerals, bear in mind that they are just that: supplements. You should not depend solely on prenatal vitamin formulations to meet all your nutrient requirements as an expectant mother. In the end, you will still be getting most of these essential vitamins and minerals from your diet. Make your food choices as healthy as possible. Avoid excess amounts of fat and cholesterol. Be sure to eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Milk and other dairy products contain high amounts of calcium, green leafy vegetables and legumes have plenty of iron, and lean meats and egg yolk have high iron content.