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Prenatal Vitamins: Side Effects, Benefits & Other Uses

If you are researching prenatal vitamins on the web, we are making a guess that you might be considering pregnancy, or you just found out that you are pregnant. Congratulations, how exciting!
A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need. But during pregnancy, you might be lacking in key nutrients. If you’re pregnant or hoping to conceive, prenatal vitamins can help fill any gaps and deficiencies.


What are prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are specifically tailored multivitamins that cater to mothers-to-be needs that are advised to take for their own health as well as for the health of their little munchkins. These vitamins recompense any nutritional deficiencies in your diet during pregnancy. these supplements contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, iron, and calcium content.


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Benefits of prenatal vitamins


Why do pregnant women need high levels of folic acid, iron,  vitamin D, and calcium?

Folic acid before and during pregnancy

Some women are at an increased risk for having a baby with an open neural tube defect Incorporate the following in your diet: green leafy vegetables which contain folate (the natural form of folic acid) and breakfast cereals and fat spreads with folic acid added to them. It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone, which is why it’s important to take a  folic acid supplement.
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Iron in pregnancy

If you do not have enough iron, it is likely you’ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anemia. Iron supplementation helps your body make blood to supply oxygen to the fetus. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts contain iron. Many breakfast bowls of cereal have iron added to them. If the iron level in your blood becomes low, your doctor will advise you to take iron supplements.

Vitamin D in pregnancy

You need 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight. It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s needs. Vitamin D can be gained by consuming some foods, including oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines), eggs, and red meat. Because vitamin D is not found in a variety of foods, whether naturally or added, it is difficult to get enough from foods alone. Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.

Vitamin C in pregnancy

Vitamin C protects cells and helps keep them healthy. It’s found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need. Good sources include oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, potatoes, etc.

Calcium in pregnancy

Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Taking calcium during pregnancy can prevent a new mother from losing her own bone density as the fetus uses the mineral for bone growth. Sources of calcium include milk, cheese, and yogurt, green leafy vegetables, soya drinks with added calcium, bread and any foods made with fortified flour, and fish where you eat the bones.


Which prenatal vitamin is best?

Prenatal vitamins are available over-the-counter in nearly any pharmacy. Your health care provider might recommend a specific brand or leave the choice up to you. Apart from checking for folic acid and iron, look for a prenatal vitamin that contains calcium and vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A,  vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, and iodine. In addition, your health care provider might suggest higher doses of certain nutrients depending on the circumstances.
But in general, avoid taking extra prenatal vitamins or multivitamins with dosing in excess of what you need on a daily basis. High doses of some vitamins may be harmful to your baby. For example, extra vitamin-A during pregnancy can potentially cause harm to your baby.


When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

Ideally, you’ll start taking prenatal vitamins before you try to conceive. In actual fact, it’s generally a  good idea for women of reproductive age to regularly take a prenatal vitamin. The baby’s neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy — perhaps before you even know that you’re pregnant.


How should I take prenatal multivitamins?


What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking prenatal multivitamins?

Many vitamins can cause serious or life-threatening side effects if taken in large doses. Do not take more of this medication than directed on the label or prescribed by your doctor. Before taking prenatal multivitamins, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions and all medicines you take.


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Do prenatal vitamins have any side effects?

Generally speaking, the vitamins and nutrients included in these supplements won’t cause detrimental side effects — if they did, pregnant women wouldn’t be encouraged and recommended to take them! Some common prenatal vitamin side effects are also common side effects of pregnancy. This means that sometimes you might not know if your prenatal vitamins are causing the side effects. Prenatal vitamin side effects may be even worse when you’re pregnant than when you’re not. But it is also likely some people may not get any vitamin side effects at all.
Below is a list of common prenatal vitamin side effects and some of their causes:
Digestive discomforts
-Stomach cramps
-Upset stomach
-Hard or small bowel movements
-Tarry or dark-colored bowel movements


Other aches, pains, and changes
Iron, calcium, iodine, and other minerals in prenatal vitamins can sometimes cause side effects including:
-Stomach bleeding
-Teeth staining
-Muscle weakness


These minerals can also be responsible for some effects that are also common in pregnancy:
-Sore teeth and gums
-Stomach irritation
-Fast or uneven heart rate
-Urinating more often
-Not being able to focus — also known as “pregnancy brain” because your body is super multitasking!
-Confusion (see above)
-Appetite loss
-More mouth-watering — or is eating for two just making you hungrier?


Other side effects that can happen when you’re pregnant may be made worse by prenatal vitamin side effects. These include:
-Headache pain
-Back pain
-Muscle pain
-Joint pain
-Strange or unpleasant taste in your mouth
-Dry eyes


Other risks:
Excess vitamin A can be toxic for you and your baby. Too much vitamin A can harm your liver and may lead to some birth defects in the baby. Tell your doctor if you’re taking or using any kind of vitamin,  medication, or creams. Avoid all vitamin A products while you’re pregnant, even skin creams. Check for vitamin A ingredients like tretinoin, isotretinoin, Retin-A, and retinol.
In fact, you can overdose on vitamins A, D, E, or K. These vitamins stay in your body for a long time and too much can be serious for you, and also harm your growing little one.


How can you manage prenatal vitamin side effects?

Try these tips to avoid or reduce side effects from prenatal vitamins:
-Take your prenatal vitamin regularly and in the exact prescribed dosage. -Avoid taking other multivitamins, vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies while you’re taking prenatal vitamins and especially when you’re pregnant.
-Don’t take a prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach — take prenatal vitamins with food or after a meal.
-Drink a full glass of water to wash down a prenatal vitamin and also before taking it.
-Swallow the prenatal vitamin whole. Do not chew, cut, break, crush, or open a prenatal vitamin.


The iron in prenatal vitamins contributes to constipation. To prevent constipation:
-Drink plenty of fluids
-Include more fiber in your diet
-Include physical activity in your daily routine, as long as you have your health care provider’s OK
-Ask your health care provider about using a stool softener


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The takeaway?

Remember, the benefits of prenatal vitamins overshadow the side effects — as long as you take them exactly as suggested. If you’re thinking seriously about becoming pregnant in the next few months, starting a prenatal vitamin should be at the top of your preconception to-do list. If you’re already pregnant, what are you waiting for? Begin taking one ASAP! It will help both you and your baby grow strong and healthy.

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