When to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins

Got baby on the brain? You may want to start prenatal vitamins sooner than you thought!

A healthy diet will provide most but not always all the required nutrients during pregnancy. Therefore, it’s recommended you take prenatal vitamins, and the earlier you start, the better! 

Many questions pop up, asking if prenatal vitamins’ purpose is to keep mother and baby healthy and whether it’s safe to take them early.

The answer to both of the above is a resounding yes. Prenatal supplements support both the mother and baby as well as aid the baby’s physical development.

Specific vitamins, such as folate (known as folic acid in its synthetic form), are even recommended to be taken while trying to conceive.

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In this post, we’ll be answering some of the most commonly asked questions and concerns about prenatal vitamins and why it’s crucial they’re taken before and during pregnancy.

So, when exactly should you start taking Prenatal Vitamins?

If you’re actively trying to conceive, it’s recommended you start taking 400mcg of folate at least one month before conception up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. 

Taking folate as early as you can is essential because congenital disabilities happen within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore it’s crucial to make sure your body has the recommended amount of folate in the early stages of the baby’s development. 

What are the essential Vitamins to take? 

There is an endless amount of vitamins out there that claim to be a healthy supplement to take during pregnancy. It can be tough to know which vitamins are deemed essential and what ones might be unnecessary. 

We’ve rounded up the most recommended prenatal vitamins that are supported by studies, so if you’re a newly expectant mother, this is the place to start.

Folate

As you might have guessed from the above, folate is a contender for being the most critical prenatal vitamin you can take.

Becoming pregnant can be unpredictable, so if you haven’t taken folate before pregnancy, then start taking it as soon as you find out. 

Folate is an essential vitamin that helps prevent severe congenital disabilities known as neural tube defects such as spina bifida as well as protection against preterm birth.

The recommended dosage of folate before and during pregnancy is 400mcg.

Iron 

Iron helps create the placenta making extra blood for you and the baby to help move oxygen around the lungs and the body.

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A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia. As women experience a higher volume of blood during the pregnancy alongside a growing baby, incorporate iron into your diet or take a supplement. 

Iron supplements can be constipating, which may already be an issue for pregnant women. Taking iron supplements that are more bioavailable and gentle on the digestive tract, such as iron bisglycinate, can help avoid constipation or an upset stomach.

The recommended daily dietary allowance of iron for pregnant women is 27mg.

As well as taking a supplement, consider adding more iron into your diet. 

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Dried fruit

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for keeping your cells healthy and supporting your unborn baby’s physical development. It also helps increase your iron absorption. The recommended intake of vitamin c for an expectant mother is 50mg. *

An option besides taking a vitamin c supplement is to include more of the fruits and vegetables below into your diet. 

  • Citrus like oranges and lemons
  • Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Yellow Peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vitamin that our bodies can produce in response to sun exposure. However, vitamin D deficiency is common in the United States, especially in areas further from the equator, or in people who wear sunscreen or have darker skin tones. The best way to know if you are deficient in vitamin D is to ask your health care provider to test your blood levels. The recommended amount of vitamin D for women that are both pregnant and non-pregnant is 10mcg. 

It’s especially important to get enough vitamin D throughout pregnancy as it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

Since our primary source of vitamin D is sun exposure, it is only found in a limited amount of food, including: 

  • Oily fish
  • Egg yolk
  • Red meat
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Fortified cereal and oatmeal

Throughout the summer months, your body gets more vitamin D from sunlight, and you may not need to take a supplement. In the months where sunlight is limited, consider taking a supplement as it’s not easy to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D through food alone.

Calcium

Calcium helps to develop your baby’s bones and teeth.

The body cannot create calcium, so you’ll need to adapt your diet or take a supplement to meet the recommended daily amount, or you could do both. 

The recommended calcium intake for an expectant mother is 1000mg, which can be challenging to reach from foods alone. 

Try incorporating more of the following into your diet to reach your daily recommendation. 

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Collard greens
  • Salmon
  • Tofu

Dairy-free substitutes often contain calcium supplements, so make sure to check the label. As they typically have lower levels of calcium, you may also need to take a supplement. 

Where can I get Prenatal Vitamins?

Most prenatal vitamins are easily accessible from a range of brands as well as over-the-counter from your pharmacist. In some cases, you may need to request a prescription from a healthcare professional.

When seeking out a prenatal vitamin provider, find a trustworthy supplier who doesn’t add things such as artificial additives, chemical fillers, wheat, gluten, dairy, or eggs. You’ll want to find a brand that is trustworthy and only use high-quality pure ingredients.

Make sure also to see if your insurance provider covers prenatal vitamins as this may be a cheaper option than over-the-counter.

Do Prenatal Vitamins have any side effects?

Occasionally, taking prenatal vitamins can upset your stomach and cause nausea or diarrhea, but for most expectant mothers, there is no discomfort.

Here are some tips on how you can try and prevent or reduce any troubles you are having. 

  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Try taking them with food if you haven’t previously and vice versa
  • Speak to your doctor about trying another brand

What additional benefits do they have? 

There are claims that prenatal vitamins encourage hair and nail growth, but these theories are mostly anecdotal and yet to be proven by any study.

The perfect diet can be challenging to maintain, so taking additional supplements throughout your pregnancy ensures both your body and your baby are the healthiest they can be. But as always, make sure to confirm with your doctor.

Some studies show that taking specific prenatal vitamins can increase your chance of becoming pregnant. 

Conclusion

If planning on trying to conceive is in your near future, remember that taking a prenatal vitamin, particularly folate, is an absolute must.

If you are already pregnant and are yet to take a prenatal vitamin, now is the time to start to ensure both you and the baby are the healthiest you can be.