Having a baby is a life changing experience. In all the excitement of planning nurseries and buying cribs and cute baby clothes, there’s one thing that you should remember much before you even conceive. Prenatal vitamins.
Yes, prenatal vitamins are a must in today’s lifestyle where women do not meet their adequate nutrition requirements from food alone. It’s a hectic life, fast paced and most women don’t have time to eat proper nutritious food. So, if you’re planning to have a baby, then you need to consult your doctor and start taking prenatal vitamins before conception itself.
Prenatal vitamins have to be taken before, during and even after pregnancy because at this crucial time the body’s stores are depleted as the body prepares for the baby.
Why are prenatal vitamins important?
Prenatal vitamins contain a combination of important vitamins and minerals that are required for the healthy growth of the baby. If these vitamins are taken at least six months prior to conception, then the chances of birth defects are reduced greatly.
Medical studies have shown that most birth defects usually occur within the first 28 days after conception and sometimes women aren’t even aware that they have conceived. The only way in which birth defects can be avoided or prevented are when you take prenatal vitamins before conception. Most birth defects can be prevented by a program of wholesome prenatal nutrition. Folic acid is only one of a long list of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids that reduce birth defects and boost the health of newborns.
Some of the vitamins and minerals that you can find in a typical prenatal vitamin are:
- Folic acid – This is one of the most important components of a prenatal vitamin. Folic acid helps tremendously in reducing the occurrence of neural defects such as spina bifida. Spina bifida occurs in the earliest stages of pregnancy when the spinal cord is not closed, exposing the nerves and resulting most often in paralysis and even mental retardation.
Folic acid is also known to prevent another serious defect, hydrocephalus, which is an incurable condition in which cerebrospinal fluid abnormally gathers in the brain’s cavities causing neurological dysfunction. Natural sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, nuts, orange juice and other citrus fruits. Despite these sources, if you want to make sure you have adequate folic acid, it is better to take a supplement in the form of a vitamin. Doctors recommend at least 400 mcg of folic acid in a day.
- Calcium – As the fetus grows inside the body, it starts depleting the calcium in the bones of the mother’s body because it requires them for its own growth. Due to this, you could lose your own bone density and it could cause numerous problems later on, osteoporosis being just one of them. Calcium supplements provide the growing fetus with the required calcium sources. Calcium is found in natural sources such as dairy products, eggs, soya beans, nuts and fish although it is highly recommended that you take supplements as they can be absorbed better by the body.
- Iron – One of the most common problems that pregnant women are beset with is anemia. When you are pregnant, the body produces more blood and as a result uses up more iron from the body. Because of this iron deficiency, anemia occurs and can cause fatigue and tiredness. Other complications could also result because of anemia. Iron supplements however are typically taken after the first trimester.
The right prenatal vitamin
It’s easy to get a prenatal vitamin over the counter these days, but if you are particular about your and the baby’s health, a good idea would be to consult with your doctor before you conceive and ask them to recommend one for you. The reason is that your doctor knows your medical history and will be equipped to suggest a prenatal vitamin that has all the right components of vitamins and minerals for you.
Possible risks associated with prenatal vitamins
While prenatal vitamins are essentially good for a pregnant woman or one who is planning to conceive, sometimes they also come with a few risk factors. Some prenatal vitamins can cause side effects of an allergic nature such as hives, swelling of throat and mouth or difficulty in breathing. If any of these reactions occur, you should consult your doctor immediately.
Other minor problems include nausea or constipation and doctors recommend that you drink a full glass of water while taking prenatal vitamins. A few over enthusiastic individuals sometimes consume multiple supplements and this can cause more harm than good because excess levels of certain vitamins in the body can become toxic.
Barring this, prenatal vitamins are excellent sources of important nutrients for the mother and the baby. Of course, you should include fresh and nutritious food in your diet as well and not solely depend on vitamins.
Good to know:
Studies of women taking prenatal vitamins have shown that they can drastically reduce the risk of cancer, neuroblastoma and brain tumors in their children.