Another common health practice for pregnant women is to take prenatal vitamins. When the foods and nutrients you eat are going to your baby, you want to make sure that you’re getting enough of the important vitamins and minerals the baby needs to support their health and growth — and the nutrients you need to support your own.
But when should you take prenatal vitamins? This is a common question that women are asking, and it’s one that we hope to answer. Let’s get started.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that women take during their pregnancy to ensure that they get enough of the nutrients that are crucial for supporting a healthy pregnancy.
When you become pregnant, your daily requirements for specific nutrients increases. Your body uses much more energy, it needs more minerals to help get oxygen and energy to the baby, and the baby needs more nutrients to grow quickly and healthily.
Prenatal vitamins are a simple way to help women get to that important nutritional threshold easily. These over-the-counter supplements do not replace a balanced diet, but they’re meant to help fill in the nutritional gaps so that you and your baby can get what you need throughout the pregnancy.
When Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins?
Now for the big question! As a general rule, it’s good to take a multivitamin at all times to fill in the nutritional gaps in your regular life.
But prenatal vitamins are a little different — they place a greater emphasis on folic acid and iron, which is the main reason why your daily multivitamin should eventually be switched to a prenatal multivitamin.
Ideally, it’s good to switch to a prenatal supplement about three months before you plan on becoming pregnant, but that isn’t always possible. In that case, start taking a prenatal supplement as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
In addition, some OB-GYNs and healthcare providers recommend that you continue taking supplements after you give birth to help your body recuperate well and make sure your baby is getting proper nutrition during breastfeeding.
As with most multivitamins, the best time of day to take prenatal supplements is in the morning. And it's best to avoid taking them on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of side effects like nausea.
Why Should I Take Them?
Prenatal vitamin supplements do more for you than just help you get proper nutrition. They work to support your baby’s health as they grow and may even protect against certain complications with pregnancy.
Baby’s Brain Health
For starters, prenatal vitamins can help to support the health of your baby’s brain and nervous system, specifically when it comes to one of the more serious birth defects, called spina bifida.
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that can affect part of the baby’s brain and spinal cord, putting the baby at risk. However, according to the CDC, taking enough folic acid throughout the pregnancy can help to reduce the risk of spina bifida by up to 50%.
This is why you will see B9, also called folate or folic acid, on nearly every prenatal supplement on the market. It’s important for supporting the health of the baby’s brain and the mother’s health.
Blood and Oxygen
Another important aspect of prenatal vitamins is the effect they have on your and your baby’s blood oxygen levels. Oxygen levels and red blood cell levels need to be high for your baby to grow well.
By the start of the third trimester (or after about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy), a mother’s total blood volume will have increased by about 100%, meaning you’re carrying twice as much blood as you usually do. Your body needs plenty of iron to make all the red blood cells necessary to transport oxygen to you and your baby, so pregnant women typically need to up their iron intake.
Doing this can help prevent iron deficiency, which can contribute to anemia. Supporting your health in this way may help you maintain energy levels and minimize fatigue.
Nutrition and Morning Sickness
Prenatal vitamins are especially important for women who struggle with morning sickness. Many women struggle to keep their food down, which can contribute to a lack of nutrition during pregnancy.
Nausea can also cause you not to feel hungry, and a lack of appetite leads to an even further lack of nutrition. Prenatal supplements are a great tool to fill in the gaps when maintaining a healthy diet is difficult during pregnancy.
What Ingredients Should I Look For?
When you’re in the market for a prenatal multivitamin, there are several things you should look for to get the benefits we’ve talked about. So make sure you check the nutrition label for all of these key nutrients.
Make sure you’re getting your supplements from a reliable source that guarantees transparency on their nutrition labels. Some less-than-honest companies might not live up to the standards you’d like for products that you’re taking every day, and especially during pregnancy, so make sure that you buy from a company you can trust.
Here at iwi life, we prioritize transparency so that you can rest assured you are getting high-quality nutrition.
As we mentioned above, folate, also called folic acid or vitamin B9, is an incredibly important nutrient in prenatal supplements. Vitamin B9 helps your body produce red blood cells and convert carbohydrates from food into energy, and helps your baby during crucial growth periods.
In addition, folate can help to support the health of your baby’s nervous system as it develops. So you should take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day while pregnant.
Iron is a crucial component in red blood cells. It’s what allows your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body and the baby’s body.
It can also help you with energy and focus, help support your gastrointestinal health, and support your immune system. It’s one of the most important prenatal supplements to get.
Vitamin A, specifically beta carotene, is a very important vitamin for prenatal health. This powerful nutrient helps support eye health and immune system function.
Not to mention, it helps with reproductive health, working to make your pregnancy sustainable for your body.
Folic acid isn’t the only B vitamin that’s important for pregnancy. The entire vitamin B complex has a role to play.
In particular, vitamin B12 works to support the health of the nerve cells, and it also contributes to the production of DNA. Vitamin B6 helps to produce important neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, supporting the wellness of the central nervous system.
You might know that vitamin C helps support the immune system. But it does more than just that.
Vitamin C also plays a role in collagen formation, and it works to support muscle development, the formation of blood vessels, and much more.
Vitamin E is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, and it is an important antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radicals. In addition, vitamin E helps to maintain healthy skin for you and your baby.
One incredibly important mineral for you and your baby is calcium. For starters, calcium is important for the growth and strength of healthy bones. The nerve cells, muscles, and heart also need calcium to function, so a healthy amount of calcium is important for all-around body function.
Vitamin D serves many purposes throughout the body. For starters, it helps to maintain healthy function in the eyes, skin, bones, and teeth. The reason it does this is that your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, much of the calcium you take in would go to waste.
Specifically, it’s good to look for vitamin D3 to support your bone health and calcium absorption.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are an important nutrient to get both during and after pregnancy.
Omega-3s like EPA and ALA are helpful, but the most important one is DHA. DHA is crucial during pregnancy, as it is utilized in the growth of the central nervous system.
After pregnancy, DHA is still important, specifically during breastfeeding. DHA is a crucial component of breast milk, and it is also included in baby formula. So making sure your body gets enough of this omega-3 will help keep your baby properly nourished.
Plant-Powered Prenatals From iwi life
A quality prenatal multivitamin is an important nutritional ally that can help to make your pregnancy better. Not only does it help to support your health and quality of life, but it can also support the development of the baby.
If you’re looking to support your pregnancy wellness and happiness with a prenatal vitamin, our plant-powered Prenatal Multivitamin can help. With crucial ingredients like omega-3s, iron, folate, and calcium, iwi life’s Prenatal supplement can provide you the support you need for your overall wellness.
The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins | Dignity Health
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Consumers | National Institutes of Health
Prenatal vitamins: What's best for you? | Conditions, Treatments & Specialty | Geisinger