Women are advised to take prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated multivitamins that supplement a diet and often make up for any nutritional deficiencies in the mother's diet.
The most important ingredient in prenatal vitamins is folic acid, a B vitamin. Folic acid can reduce your risk of having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain and spinal cord, called the "neural tube."
While a daily vitamin supplement is no substitute for a healthy diet, most women need supplements to make sure they get adequate levels of these minerals.
In order to be effective, folic acid must be taken at least 1-2 months prior to conception. Because about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age get 400-600 micrograms of folic acid each day.
In fact, the FDA now requires that all flour products — such as bread, buns, and bagels — be fortified with extra folic acid. A woman who has had a prior child with a neural tube defect should discuss the appropriate dose of folic acid with her doctor before her next pregnancy.
Studies have shown that taking a larger dose (up to 4,000 micrograms) at least one month before and during the first trimester may be beneficial. Calcium during pregnancy can prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth. Iron helps both the mother and baby's blood carry oxygen.
While a daily vitamin supplement is no substitute for a healthy diet, most women need supplements to make sure they get adequate levels of these minerals. Not all prenatal vitamins are the same. You should take a prenatal vitamin that has about 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Supplements not to take in pregnancy
Not all supplements are completely safe for use during pregnancy. Here are supplements pregnant women should not take.
Colon cleansers – Colon cleansers often contain natural stimulant laxatives and diuretics like dandelion root and uva ursi. These supplements can contain harsh ingredients that may cause diarrhea, dehydration and severe abdominal cramping.
Fat burners – Fat burners are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, like all-natural supplements, so there is no strict control forcing supplement manufacturers to reveal a complete ingredient list or how much of each ingredient is included. Many fat burners contain massive amounts of caffeine and other stimulants.
Appetite suppressants – Pregnant women do not need to suppress appetite. Appetite suppressants often contain stimulants like caffeine and others that increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Thermogenics – The main aim of thermogenics is to increase body heat. This is achieved by increasing heart rate and blood pressure with – you guessed it – stimulants like caffeine.
Natural sleep aids – Your obstetrician may suggest a natural sleep aid for use during your pregnancy if needed, but combination supplements may include herbs that are unsafe for use during pregnancy.
There are safe and effective natural supplements that can be used during pregnancy and before pregnancy to increase fertility and prepare the body for pregnancy. Folic acid and most vitamins and minerals are safe for pregnant women, but it is extremely important to talk with your obstetrician before taking any over the counter medication – even a natural supplement that claims to be safe for pregnant women.