Essential Tips on Taking Prenatal Vitamins

Mid adult Caucasian pregnant woman is smiling while reading label on bottle of prenatal vitamins in local pharmacy. Expecting mother is learning about side effects and benefits of prenatal vitamins and supplements. Customer is standing in aisle and deciding what to purchase from large variety of options. Pharmacist is working in background.

As a mama to a five year old and a one-month old, prenatal vitamins have been a staple in my cupboard for quite some time. They have accompanied me through pre-conception, pregnancy and lactation. In fact I’m taking them right now. Well, not right now – I took them this morning. And I’ll take them again tomorrow.

Growing another human is no small feat. Even if you eat bushels of kale and organically raised salmon and low-fat dairy products, it’s almost impossible to avoid a gap in your nutritional intake during the nine months of gestation and beyond. Prenatal vitamins help to ensure that all of your – and your baby’s – nutritional needs are being met.

Walk into the average drug store or supplement shop and you’ll be faced with prenatal vitamin overload. There are many to choose from – but which one is best? There are lots of things to consider when looking for a vitamin that’s right for you and your baby. Be sure to check in with your OB or midwife before starting a new supplement, and when you start combing the vitamin aisles, it helps to keep these four things in mind:

1.  Don’t forget the folic acid

Folic acid can help prevent birth defects in your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Look for prenatal vitamins that contain at least 600 mcg of folic acid. And since most birth defects folic acioccur in the first four weeks of pregnancy, it’s important to have folic acid in your system before you conceive. Thinking about getting pregnant? Start taking a prenatal vitamin today!

Pills with b9 folic acid element. Dietary supplements. Vitamin capsules. 3d
Look for prenatal vitamins that contain at least 600 mcg of folic acid

 2.  Note the recommended serving amount

Many prenatal vitamins require taking more than one tablet to reach the serving amount. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable taking four tablets a day or would it be easier for you to take a one-a-day prenatal vitamin? Check labels for serving amounts.

3.  Do DHA

DHA is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for fetal brain development. Look for prenatal vitamins that contain DHA and check in with your provider to see if it’s necessary to take an additional DHA supplement.

4. Eat Right.

Prenatal vitamins are not an excuse to eat poorly. Supplements are designed to fill in the gaps in your nutritional intake – but they can’t beat the real thing. If gummy bears and cheese doodles are your fantasy meal, pregnancy is not the time to succumb to your cravings (though a treat from time to time is more than OK). Your prenatal vitamin(s) can only do so much. Think of it like you’re part of a team: Team Healthy Baby. You eat right, exercise and get enough rest and your vitamins will do the rest.

Marisa Belger is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and mama. When not running around with her five-year old boy — or preparing for the birth of his little brother — she writes about parenting, natural beauty, wellness and green living for publications like Natural Health, Prevention and TODAYShow.com, or collaborates on books like Josh Dorfman’s The Lazy Environmentalist.