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Are There Really Benefits To Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

Jun 19, 2008
Prenatal vitamins have become very popular among some women because it is believed that they help prevent birth defects. It is probably a good idea to supplement with prenatal vitamins because during pregnancy, both the mother and the child have increased needs for certain nutrients like folic acid and iron during this time and prenatal vitamins will prove helpful. Women who are pregnant often find that their doctors prescribe a prenatal vitamin. However, evidence has emerged that even for those women that are planning to conceive can benefit from prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins could prevent potential nutritional deficiencies during this crucial time.

The majority of prenatal vitamins on the market are designed to compensate for nutritional shortcomings. They generally contain supplements like folic acid, iron, zinc, calcium etc. These nutrients go a long way in preventing defects such as the risk of serious defects of the brain and spinal cord. Yet these supplements need to be combined with a good overall diet.

IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS FOR MOTHER AND CHILD:

DHA

DHA is a fatty acid belonging to the omega- 3 family, and it is very important for brain development. This nutrient is crucial for the baby from the very beginning of pregnancy through the time of breast feeding. It is essential to the body, but much more so during pregnancy.

IRON

Iron is a mineral and is another important nutrient in pregnancy. Most prenatal supplements will include iron in their mixture. During the third and final trimester of pregnancy the baby will draw large amounts of iron from the mother. It will obtain this iron from the stored levels in the mother's body.

FOLIC ACID

Folic acid, as many women already know, is absolutely crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects that can occur in babies. Interestingly it is found in several of the foods that we eat. It is found in dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, whole grain, etc.

Folic acid has been proven crucial for a baby's neural tube development, especially during the first trimester when women are most likely to suffer from nausea and vomiting. In fact, some recommend women should start taking about 400 micrograms of folate at least a month before they start trying to conceive.

CALCIUM

Calcium is certainly important in the development of a new baby. Calcium, 400 mg/day, and magnesium, 300 mg/day, help protect the mother's bones and can help prevent pre-eclampsia. Chromium, 200 mg/day, helps control the mother's blood sugar, and look for the following B vitamins: B12, 120 mg/day; B6, 20 mg/day, and B5, also known as pantothenic acid, 20 mg/day. CALCIUM - A supplement that contains 2-300 mg calcium is just a start toward reaching the recommended 1200 mg daily. However, anything beyond 250 mg of calcium (or 25 mg of magnesium) should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron.

Finally, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal... While most prenatal vitamins try to pack in as much as they can into the vitamin, they must be careful not to promote an excess of potentially toxic fat soluble vitamins. Vitamin A should be provided as water-soluble beta carotene at a level that won't cause vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin E should be included from an all-natural source and provided in a safe amount. Deficiencies in vitamin E in pregnancy have been linked to birth defects so having "just enough" is important. Vitamin K, another fat-soluble vitamin, which also needs to be provided in amounts that avoid toxicity.
About the Author
Keith Henry is a Medical Missionary Herbalist, and Naturopatheic Doctor Candidate.Check out Prenatal Vitamins for the Prenatal Vitamin He recommends. These Prenatal Vitamins even include prenatal herbs and vitamins.
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