Pregnant women will hear advice throughout their pregnancy about diet, exercise and getting enough sleep. They will likely be recommended to take prenatal vitamins that will help the fetus developing in her womb.
Pregnancy increases the requirement of all nutrients. Prenatal vitamins help to cover any nutritional gaps that are not met by the diet. They contain many micronutrients of which folic acid, iron and calcium are especially important.
Folic acid helps in the development of the nervous system which includes the brain and spinal cord. Deficiency of this vitamin results in faulty development of the nervous system results in neural tube defects. These happen during the early stages of pregnancy even before many women know they are pregnant. Because about half of the pregnancies are unplanned, it is recommended that all women of child bearing age take 400 microgram or 0.4mg of folic acid daily. They can also eat foods that contain folic acid like green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and citrus fruits. However, a prenatal vitamin with 400mcg of folic acid is a good back up.
Calcium helps to prevent the mother from losing her own bone density as the baby uses the calcium from the mother for its own bone development and growth.
Pregnant women’s blood is thinner than a non-pregnant women’s. They need extra iron to make more blood to carry enough oxygen through both mother’s and baby’s body.
Women can find prenatal vitamins at their local drug store or have them prescribed by a doctor. It is recommended to take prenatal vitamin daily throughout pregnancy and also during early months of breast feeding. It is preferable to take with food.
Some prenatal vitamins can cause nausea in an already nauseated pregnant woman. Talk to your health care provider who will be able to prescribe a different kind.
By Subha Rajan, MD, family physician at ThedaCare Physicians-New London.