Prenatal multivitamins and the role they should play

Before prenatal multivitamins, begin with a balanced, healthy diet

Prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplements are an important part of pregnancy nutrition but should not replace a healthy diet. Discuss prenatal supplementation with your health care professional.

Even if you are eating well, the amount of many of the important nutrients you should eat daily increases during pregnancy and might be difficult to obtain from your diet alone. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) guidelines recommend that you increase your intake of protein, iron, folic acid, vitamins A, B6, B12, and C, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, fiber, and more. If your daily diet is not able to meet this increased vitamin and mineral intake, prenatal multivitamins and mineral supplements will help you fill the gaps.

Why you need key prenatal nutrients

Prenatal multivitamins can help pregnant women maintain their nutrient intake.

Here are a few key nutrients and why they are important:

  • Folic acid helps develop the nervous system and helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects; it is critical during the first trimester.
  • Iron helps blood and muscle cells develop and prevents anemia; it is critical throughout pregnancy.
  • Calcium fortifies bones and teeth, and strengthens the circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems.

Prenatal multivitamins help make sure you're getting enough nutrients

Consider prenatal multivitamins your backup plan in case you miss any of the nutrients throughout the day. Prenatal multivitamins provide essential nutrients, of which you might not consume enough.

Your doctor can help you decide if a prenatal multivitamin or individual supplements are best.

Tips for taking prenatal multivitamins

  • Always begin by consulting your health care provider about nutritional needs and any nutrient supplements you want to take while pregnant or later, when you are breastfeeding.
  • Compare nutrients in prenatal multivitamin tablet, liquid, and chewable forms to be sure they contain all of the necessary nutrients.
  • Make it convenient by keeping prenatal multivitamins in clear sight to make them part of your daily routine.
  • Take prenatal multivitamins with a meal or snack, or before bedtime to help counter possible nausea.
  • Take supplements ONLY as directed in the dose your doctor recommends. Too much of even a good thing can be harmful to you or your baby.
  • Choose a prenatal prescription or over-the-counter multivitamin rather than a regular multivitamin to get the increased levels of nutrients specifically needed during pregnancy. Your doctor can make a recommendation.

Prenatal multivitamins and a healthy diet: the perfect pair

Remember, no vitamin or mineral supplements can replace a healthy diet. But by supplementing your healthy eating habits with prenatal multivitamins, you can meet your own nutrient needs while giving your baby a strong start.

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