Do you stand in the vitamin aisle at the local grocery store wondering what you actually need?
Studies have shown that the average person doesn’t need multivitamins (or even individual vitamins) if they have a balanced diet. Adults with varied and nutritious diets get most of their vitamins from their food.
This means that someone in good health without a preexisting condition doesn’t need vitamins unless they have a nutritional deficit (for example, vegetarians and vegans may have trouble getting enough vitamin D and vitamin B-12).
But what about the non-average person? What are prenatal vitamins and why are they one of the outliers in this category?
Prenatal vitamins are considered important by medical professionals, but are they right for you? We want to help you figure it out.
Keep reading to learn all about prenatal vitamins so you can make an educated choice for your body.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are vitamins specifically made for people who have uteruses and are within their childbearing years. These are the years in which you’re likely to become pregnant. They last from puberty to menopause and the exact range of years varies depending on the person.
Prenatal vitamins contain a few things that people who are pregnant might need to supplement their diet. Some are present in normal multivitamins in some amount but they’re more concentrated in prenatal vitamins to account for the special needs of pregnancy and the nutritional deficits that can come from the fetus.
After all, you’re eating for two now.
Prenatal vitamins always have folate or folic acid. Folate is sparse in the foods that we eat and many sources of folate are from foods that have been fortified with it. While this is enough for the average person, a safe and healthy pregnancy requires more. We’ll discuss more on that later.
Prenatal vitamins can also contain iron, calcium, vitamin D, or iodine. Special prenatal supplements may contain a stool softener or other bonus nutrients.
There are different types of prenatal vitamins. Some are prescribed while others are over the counter products.
Do I Need Prenatal Vitamins?
So what does any of this mean for you? Not everyone needs to take prenatal vitamins but it’s possible that you’ve been recommended to take them. Why would that be? What kind of people need prenatal vitamins? Are they only for people who are pregnant?
Are You Pregnant Right Now?
If you’re pregnant right now, you should be taking prenatal vitamins. It’s likely that your doctor has already made this suggestion (or even enforced it). Why are they so important for you and your baby?
The developing fetus is draining you of some nutrients, so you’re going to need a boost! You’re also going to be feeling some excess fatigue and you’re going to need the strength and nutritional help to develop that baby!
Folate is the most important part. It’s a B-group vitamin that’s crucial for your new family member while they’re still in the womb. It helps you develop your baby’s nervous system.
Not taking enough folate can result in neural tube defects like spina bifida. You also risk low birth weight, slow development, and pre-term delivery. In other words, if you want the best chances of a healthy baby, you absolutely need prenatal vitamins if you’re pregnant.
Doctors suggest a minimum of 400 micrograms.
Do You Have The Ability to Get Pregnant?
So you’re not pregnant right now. Maybe you’re trying to get pregnant, or maybe you’re not pregnant at all but it is a possibility that you’d get pregnant and want to carry to term.
If you’re in either of these categories you consider taking prenatal vitamins. This is more true if you’re trying for a baby.
There’s a lot of development in the womb within the first two months of pregnancy. Many people have no idea that they’re pregnant during this time even if they’re trying to be.
Doctors recommend that if you want a pregnancy you should take prenatal vitamins for 3 months before you start trying.
This doesn’t mean that accidental pregnancies can’t happen, though, so what about those?
It’s useful to at least take extra folic acid if you have the potential for pregnancy. This helps you cover your bases without risking overdoing your vitamins.
Are You in a Risk Group?
Some pregnancies are at higher risk. Anyone who has a direct family history of neural tube defects should take care to get extra folate. Teen pregnancies, pregnancies with multiples, “geriatric” pregnancies, and pregnancies paired with preexisting conditions (such as Crohn’s or preexisting vitamin deficiencies) are in this group.
This group also includes people who are drug-dependent or going through recovery.
These people may need the best prenatal vitamins which are often prescription-strength. You can browse this website to see what some prescription prenatal vitamins have to offer, and you should consider asking your doctor about making the switch from over the counter to prescription.
Who Shouldn’t Take Prenatal Vitamins?
People who aren’t pregnant (or who don’t have a good possibility of getting pregnant) don’t need to be taking prenatal vitamins.
Too much of any vitamin can make you sick. There is such a thing as a vitamin overdose, and it can cause diarrhea, constipation, or even intestinal bleeding.
If you aren’t in need of those extra vitamins, you shouldn’t be taking them, especially at prescription strength.
Prenatal Vitamins: Are They Right for You?
If you’ve been searching “what are prenatal vitamins” you probably either know someone who’s pregnant, you are pregnant, or you’re trying to get pregnant. In this case, yes, you should be taking a prenatal vitamin.
Even if there’s the slightest possibility that a viable and wanted pregnancy is on the horizon, a prenatal vitamin will help to ensure your safety and the safety of your child.
Ask a doctor about prenatal vitamins today if you’re unsure or you’re interested in a high-quality prescription supplement.
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