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Pregnancy multivitamins -
Are they essential, or just a pricey gimmick?

Extra nutrients might be useful for expecting mothers

Pregnancy multivitamins are not just average supplements you can take whenever you want. They’re essential for expecting mothers because they can reduce birth defects, keep low weight at birth, and minimize other complications. Yet, in spite of their great benefits, women should first consult with a gynecologist to be sure if supplementation is required or not.

Pregnant women are recommended to take iron and folic acid because these vitamins can prevent neural tube defects, help the placenta develop, and increase the blood volume. Yet, there are numerous other minerals and vitamins meant for breastfeeding, pregnancy and even conception, and they’re all claiming to be extremely important. Are they really that useful?

Little girl hugging mum's pregnant tummy
Good nutrition is essential for expecting mothers for their own health and
to reduce birth defects or other complications.

Micronutrient necessities of pregnant women

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends daily intake of several nutrients for pregnant women, according to latest evidence. Some of the most important minerals and vitamins are:

   Iron - it is important for the mother, the placenta, and the fetus

   Folic acid - women should take 500 mcg with one month before conception and continue with 600 mcg after that

   Iodine - is vital for the mental development and normal growth of the baby

   Vitamin D - helps the body absorb and use calcium

   Calcium - the fetus needs increased quantities of calcium for healthy teeth, bones, nerves, muscles, and heart.

   Vitamin B12 - is important for the neurodevelopment of the baby and it can be found in eggs, flesh and dairy.

   Omega 3 fatty acids - support the baby’s neural development

Warning: There are certain supplements that may cause serious problems if they’re consumed in excess. One of them is vitamin A, which is generally available as retinol or it is obtained from beta carotene. When consumed in increased amounts it can be toxic for pregnant women. Vitamin B6 is usually used to relieve nausea, but it can also be dangerous and may prevent the baby from developing properly. Likewise, you should consume only moderate quantities of iron because higher levels can lead to constipation and gastrointestinal pain.

A pregnant's woman tummy
The fetus requires minerals and vitamins for development,
provided by the mother while pregnant.

Do you really need special supplements?

Taking mineral supplements and vitamins for pregnancy can be helpful, especially in countries where malnutrition is extremely common. However, if you have a healthy daily diet and you eat lots of vegetables, fruits, dairy products and nuts you may not need pregnancy multivitamins. There are numerous nutritional benefits from food that cannot be obtained from a pill, and let’s not forget that no pill can undo the effects of a negative diet.

Unfortunately, most women these days don’t have a diet that’s 100% healthy. Not to mention that some future mothers make efforts to eat well because they suffer from severe morning sickness. For this reason, extra nutrients might be useful during pregnancy.

A healthy and equilibrated diet should obviate the need for mineral and vitamin supplementation. Yet, lactation and pregnancy create additional nutritional demands for women, and in this case supplementation is advisable. Some of recommended supplements:

  » Folic acid and iodine for all expecting women

  » Increased quantity of folic acid for women with a multiple pregnancy

  » Vitamin B12 for vegetarians

  » Iron for vegetarians and women with multiple pregnancy

  » Calcium for those who don’t eat dairy

  » Vitamin D for deficiency

Expecting mum with a large tummy laying on bed
Prenatal vitamins and nutrients will help your baby's growth and health

Talk to your health care provider about vitamin supplementation

Prior to starting to take vitamins, discuss with your health care provider about supplementation. He will be able to recommend vitamins and nutrients that you and your baby need. Most pregnancy multivitamins available in stores feature iron and folic acid, but most of them have only small quantities of calcium, fish oil and other essential vitamins.

Prenatal vitamins are meant to help your baby growth health. Yet, they don’t guarantee that a 100% healthy child at birth. The main benefits of these vitamins are that they can fill in the gaps and help mothers cope with vitamin deficiencies.

Specialists are mentioning that supplementation can give mothers an artificial sense of security. Just because you’re taking them it doesn’t mean you can postpone a doctor’s appointment or cut out essential food from your diet.

Make an appointment and talk to your health care provider about taking vitamins first. Don’t take them just because you know they’re good. Note that we’re talking about pills, and pills have side effects.

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