When you find out you're expecting, one of the first (and most important!) things you'll do is start taking a prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are a vital part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy, and taking them can help prevent certain birth defects and complications. Pregnant women need higher amounts of some very important vitamins and nutrients, and the right prenatal can make all the difference. If you're wondering when to start taking your prenatals, which one to take, or even how to take them during pregnancy, we've got the answers right here.
When should you start taking a prenatal vitamin?
Planning to start trying to conceive? Then now's a good time to start taking a prenatal vitamin. Experts recommend starting a prenatal vitamin three months before trying to get pregnant, because those vital nutrients will be present in those super critical early stages of pregnancy. If you weren't planning on getting pregnant or didn't start your prenatal before trying to conceive, start taking it immediately upon finding out you're expecting. Your doctor may prescribe a prenatal vitamin, but you can take an over-the-counter prenatal so you don't have to wait until your first appointment.
What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?
Believe it or not, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal! Prescription prenatals are regulated by the FDA, but are not required to contain certain nutrients, so make sure that the one you're taking is right for you. Many OTC prenatal vitamins are perfectly acceptable, but beware of added herbs or supplements (check with your doc before taking anything OTC).
There are several nutrients and vitamins that a good prenatal vitamin will have: folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Folic acid is incredibly important - it can help prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses. Pregnant women need at least 600 micrograms a day, and many prenatal vitamins contain more (which is totally fine). Iron is another nutrient that should get top billing in the prenatal you choose - you need 27 milligrams a day during pregnancy. A good prenatal will contain calcium; you need 1000 milligrams a day, but you may need to supplement as many prenatal vitamins only have 150-200 milligrams (you can get that extra calcium from Tums, or an additional calcium supplement). When it comes to vitamin D, you want at 600 IUs a day when combined with a healthy diet. And a lot of prenatal vitamins also contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is crucial to fetal brain and eye development. If yours doesn't have DHA, you can get your daily dose with a mercury-free fish oil capsule.
If Your Prenatal Vitamin Makes You Nauseous
A lot of women have a hard time taking their prenatal vitamins because of morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness. It's hard to take a big ol' pill when you can't even keep food down! If your pregnancy-related sickness is making it hard to take your prenatal vitamins, try taking them at night so you can sleep through the nausea. It may also help to take them after you've eaten - vitamins are easier to tolerate when not taken on an empty stomach. If you're still having a hard time, talk to your doctor about alternatives, like chewables or slow-release supplements.