Why Doctors Recommend Prenatal Supplements
If you’ve ever been pregnant—or know someone who was—you have probably heard about prenatal vitamins also referred to as prenatals. These supplements are emphasized as an important part of a healthy pregnancy.
Taking a prenatal vitamins can help keep you and your baby on track toward optimal health, ensuring you get the nutrients you need to help with development.
What Are Prenatal Supplements?
First things first, what exactly are prenatals? They are vitamins specially made with pregnancy and fetal development in mind, so they’re formulated with hefty doses of vitamins that are necessary for proper growth.
In most cases, prenatals are prescribed or recommended by your OB-GYN once your pregnancy has been confirmed. If you’re trying to conceive, your doctor may also recommend a daily prenatal vitamin earlier. Getting these supplements in your body from earlier can help promote a healthy pregnancy for both you and your child.
What Do Prenatal Supplements Contain?
As is the case with most medications, the contents of prenatal supplements vary among different brands and formulations. Your OB-GYN may prescribe a specific type of prenatal vitamin or may suggest finding one with certain ingredients. In some cases, these supplements can be found over-the-counter for purchase.
Prenatal supplements contain a number of vitamins and nutrients, but there are two of significant importance—folic acid and iron.
Folic acid or folate, which is a type of B vitamin, is known to help prevent what are known as neural tube defects. These defects cause abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord of a fetus early in the pregnancy before women know they are pregnant, so taking folic acid if you might get pregnant is important. In addition, some research has shown that taking folic acid can also help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.
In addition to taking a supplement containing folic acid, you can also increase your intake of this vitamin (in the form of folate) in fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens, lentils and orange juice.
Unlike folic acid, iron isn’t a vitamin. It’s what’s known as a mineral. You need iron at all times to help promote proper blood production, but you need even more of it during pregnancy.
In fact, you need twice as much iron during pregnancy because your body needs to make enough blood to carry oxygen to your baby. In addition to supplements, you can get more iron through food sources, including leafy greens, lean beef, poultry, seafood and beans.
Speak with your doctor for a personalized prenatal supplement recommendation.