During pregnancy, it can be hard to get all the nutrients that you and your baby need, even if you eat a wide variety of healthy food, including meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.
Most women can benefit from taking a prenatal vitamin, as an insurance policy to make sure the right amount of important nutrients are present during pregnancy.
Taking a prenatal vitamin is even more important for mums-to-be with dietary restrictions, health issues, or pregnancy complications.
Who needs prenatal vitamins?
Every woman can benefit from taking prenatal vitamins, but there are some who benefit more:
- Vegetarians or vegans
- Women who are lactose intolerant or have other food intolerances
- Women who smoke
- Women who have certain blood disorders
- Women with eating disorders
- Women who have certain chronic diseases
- Women having twins or higher multiples
What is in a prenatal vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins always contain folic acid and iron, because these are crucial vitamins that pregnant women rarely get enough of through diet alone.
Getting enough folic acid in the month before you conceive and early in your pregnancy can reduce your baby's risk of defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, by up to 70 percent.
Folic acid can also reduce the risk of other defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects. Taking folic acid may also reduce your risk of pre-eclampsia.
Preventing iron-deficiency anaemia can cut your risk of pre-term labour, low birth weight, and infant mortality.
What to look for in prenatal vitamins?
Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains the following:
- 400 micrograms of folic acid.
- 400 IU of vitamin D.
- 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium.
- 70 mg of vitamin C.
- 3 mg of thiamine.
- 2 mg of riboflavin.
- 20 mg of niacin.
- 6 mcg of vitamin B12.
- 10 mg of vitamin E.
- 15 mg of zinc.
- 17 mg of iron.
- 150 micrograms of iodine
In some cases, your doctor will give you a prescription for a specific type of prenatal vitamin.