Prenatal Vitamins: 3 Key Ingredients

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Ovi Gherman

Prenatal vitamins are pretty much recommended by any obstetrician today. The fact of the matter is that prenatal vitamins offer a number of benefits, both to your developing baby and to you during pregnancy. There are even some doctors that suggest, if you are breast feeding your baby, you continue to take your prenatal vitamins even after your baby is born.

It’s important to remember first off that no vitamin is going to be able to make up for not getting enough nutrition in your meals. Prenatal vitamins are designed to supplement your nutrition, not to replace it. They help to insure that you get the right amounts of particular nutrients that you need to help your body and to help your baby grow.

In particular, there are three nutrients in prenatal vitamins that are really vital to your baby’s growth and development:

  • Folic Acid. Folic acid is known to help reduce the odds of a number of neural tube-related birth defects, such as spina bifida. The standard recommendation is for 400 micrograms of folic acid a day during pregnancy. If you have a family history of neural tube defects, your doctor may want to put you on a prenatal vitamin that has a higher dose of folic acid.
  • Iron. The purpose of iron in your body is, for the most part, to help your blood carry oxygen. During pregnancy, your body contains about 50 percent more blood than when you’re not pregnant, and so you need more iron than usual. Iron is essential to your baby’s growth, as well as the development of the placenta. The usual recommendation is about 17 mg of iron each day. In addition to prenatal vitamins, you can get iron in foods such as shellfish, turkey, spinach and liver. For some women, the iron in prenatal vitamins leads to nausea, or can intensify morning sickness.
  • Calcium. Your body needs plenty of calcium to begin with. Add to that the fact that your baby’s developing bones need calcium, you need an extra boost of this mineral to help make sure that your baby develops correctly and that you don’t lose any bone density.
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