While nutrition is important to the health of all individuals, pregnancy is a time when inadequate nutrition can affect the health of both you and your unborn child, and may even put your pregnancy at risk. Your doctor may recommend prenatal vitamins to help you obtain adequate amounts of important nutrients.
Pregnancy takes approximately 40 weeks from the time of your last period. During this time, your body changes to accommodate your developing baby. Your baby depends on you for all his requirements, including the nutrients he needs to grow and develop properly. Although you shouldn’t “eat for two,” you do need to consume some additional calories and nutrients during your pregnancy.
While most women between the ages of 19 and 30 require about 75 mg of vitamin C each day, pregnant women in the same age group need at least 85 mg daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. A successful pregnancy may also require increased amounts of other nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium and copper.
Prenatal vitamins contain a balance of nutrients to promote optimum health in your body and your baby’s developing body. The specific amount of certain vitamins in prenatal supplements varies depending on the individual product. Most prenatal vitamin supplements contain folic acid, calcium and iron. According to MayoClinic.com, the best time to begin taking prenatal vitamins is about three months before conception.
Prenatal vitamins help guard against nutrient deficiencies that may cause illness and birth defects. The folic acid in prenatal vitamins helps prevent birth defects related to abnormal brain and spinal cord development, known as neural tube defects. Iron can help guard against anemia, while calcium promotes healthy bones and teeth in both you and your baby. Prenatal vitamins may also help decrease your chances of delivering a low-birthweight baby.
Avoid taking vitamin supplements or medications during pregnancy without first consulting your doctor. Your prenatal vitamins may trigger feelings of morning sickness and nausea. Avoid additional nausea by taking your vitamins with a snack at night. The amount of iron in prenatal supplements may cause constipation. To reduce the discomfort of constipation, drink plenty of water, eat more high-fiber foods and participate in regular exercise, according to your doctor’s instructions.