When a doctor diagnoses a pregnancy, one of the first things she will do is prescribe a prenatal vitamin. While most vitamins and minerals are best received through good nutrition, it is not always possible to get everything a growing baby needs from food alone. However, some women dislike taking prenatal vitamins for various reasons. Whether considering taking a prenatal vitamin or discontinuing use, it is important to fully understand the benefits of prenatal vitamins for both you and your baby.
When a woman is pregnant her body uses calcium to help her growing baby. If she does not consume sufficient amounts of calcium her body will begin taking calcium from her bones to compensate. While this biological mechanism is always beneficial to a fetus, it can leave a mother with weakened bones. The calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A in prenatal vitamins all help to keep the mother’s bones and teeth strong by providing the minerals needed for baby’s bone and brain growth.
Pregnant women are often said to glow. This is largely due to the prenatal vitamins most pregnant women take. Vitamin E, niacin and riboflavin all help to promote healthier skin, hair and nails. The result is shinier hair, stronger nails, clearing of the skin’s complexion and faster growth of hair and nails. Harvard School of Public Health has released information stating that the vitamin C found in prenatal vitamins aids in the creation of collagen, which may help prevent wrinkles long-term.
Prenatal vitamins contain the two most important B vitamins, B6 and B12. Not only do these two vitamins help your baby’s skin and mind develop, they also help your heart. B6 and B12 help lower the amount of homocysteine in the bloodstream. This has been shown to limit the chance of developing heart disease. Additionally, these B vitamins are great for the blood itself. They help prevent anemia, which can become a deadly problem for a growing fetus.
A report released by Colorado State University warns that pregnancy hormones suppress a pregnant woman’s immune system. This leaves her vulnerable to infection, which can have dire consequences for a fetus. Luckily, however, prenatal vitamins can boost a woman’s immune system. Both zinc and vitamin C help a body to fight off any infections a pregnant woman may encounter.
A neural tube is the precursor to a baby’s brain and spinal cord. One of the greatest benefits of prenatal vitamins is neural tube defect prevention. The Food and Drug Administration reports that every year, 2,500 babies are born with neural tube defects. This can result in paralysis and mental retardation in the child. However, it is estimated that this number could be cut in half by the proper use of folic acid found in prenatal vitamins. An embryo is most susceptible to neural tube defects within the first four weeks after conception. Since most women are unaware of their pregnancy in these first 28 days, every woman of childbearing age should consume at least 400 mcg of folate or folic acid a day.