Doctors always recommend a healthy pregnancy diet that takes care of all nutritional requirements during your pregnancy. But even when you follow the diet plan to the‘t’, there is bound to be a shortage of some vitamins and minerals, especially because you have a greater requirement of some of these vitamins when you’re pregnant. This need is fulfilled by prenatal vitamins- an essential part of your prenatal care. These prenatal supplements ensure that you meet your nutritional requirements and deliver a healthy baby. Nutritional shortcomings may lead to certain birth defects in the baby, a pre-term delivery or low birth-weight. The vitamins help to reduce the risk of all these possibilities.
How do prenatal vitamins help the baby?
Prenatal vitamin pills contain vitamins and minerals like folic acid, iron and calcium, among others. These nutrients are essential for the healthy development of the fetus, especially it’s brain, spinal cord, bones and teeth. But how does each of these nutrients specifically help the baby? Let’s find out-
Folic acid plays a vital role in the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. It helps prevent birth defects of the neural tube, which later form the central nervous system of the baby. A factor to consider here is that the neural tube develops during the first 30 days of pregnancy. That’s before most women know that they’re pregnant. Hence, it is important that you start your folic acid supplement before you conceive. Doctors recommend a daily dose of 400 micrograms. Apart from the early stages of pregnancy, folic acid also helps in rapid cell growth through the 40-week term. Appropriate and sufficient intake of folic acid safeguards against birth defects such as spina bifida.
Iron is an important part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to you and your baby’s cells. It prevents anemia and reduces the possibility of pre-term delivery and low birth-weight. During pregnancy, the iron requirement of your body is three times more than normal, which your pregnancy diet would not be able to supply. Prenatal vitamins contain enough iron to fulfill your iron needs for the day, which is about 27 mg.
Calcium, as we all know, is necessary for the optimum development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Your baby’s bones grow and strengthen most during the third trimester, and this is when calcium and Vitamin D levels must be sufficient in your body. Most prenatal vitamins contain calcium and Vitamin D. However, it is important that you continue intake of calcium-rich food during your pregnancy even when you’re taking prenatal vitamins. We do want that baby to be as strong as an ox, don’t we? So drink milk and take your vitamins.
Omega-3 Fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in fish, and they’re important for the development of your baby’s brain. In case you do not eat fish, your doctor may recommend Omega 3 supplements to ensure healthy brain development.
Prenatal vitamins also include other Vitamins like Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision. But make sure to keep the dosage in check. Excessive intake of Vitamin A can cause birth defects. Always follow your doctor’s advice on taking vitamins and the dosage that is required. If you were taking supplemental vitamins before pregnancy, stop taking them once you find out you are pregnant and start your prenatal supplements after consulting with your doctor. Remember to thank your vitamins when you finally deliver a strong, healthy baby.
Disclaimer: This information should be used only after confirming with your doctor. You must talk with your healthcare provider to know which vitamins would be right for you.