Prenatal Vitamins Explained:
A Supplement For You and Your Baby-To-Be
Prenatal vitamins consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals that complement a well-balanced diet during your pregnancy. This ensures that you and your baby receive an adequate supply of nutrients for healthy maternal and neonatal well-being and development. Your daily prenatal vitamin helps to fill any gaps in nutrition that can occur with even the best balanced diet.
During pregnancy, there is an increased need for such nutrients as folic acid, calcium, and iron, as well as a host of other vitamins and minerals.
Prenatal vitamins are especially important for women with dietary restrictions, certain health issues, or pregnancy related illnesses. Vegetarian and vegan diets, food allergies, eating disorders, and a history of stomach or gastric bypass surgery may require special consideration or additional supplementation during pregnancy, in addition to daily prenatal vitamin use.
There is no standardization in prenatal vitamin formulas in the United States. Each vitamin manufacturer can choose to make their product available by prescription or as an over the counter supplement. The dosage and combination of vitamins and minerals, including the addition of free fatty acids and herbs may vary between manufacturers.
If you choose an over the counter (non-prescription) prenatal vitamin, look for the “USP” label of approval on the container. The US Pharmacopeia (USP) is a reliable organization that checks and approves the safety and quality of non-prescription supplements in the United States.
For some patients, swallowing a large prenatal vitamin may be difficult or uncomfortable. The addition of calcium may increase the size of a prenatal vitamin, and some patients may prefer to take a smaller, non-calcium containing prenatal vitamin and a separate calcium supplement for ease of swallowing. Prenatal vitamins preparations are also available with a slick gel coating, or a chewable or liquid formulation that may be easier to swallow.
Prenatal vitamins are a supplement to your diet that provide essential nutrients both to you and your unborn baby. Prenatal vitamins complement but do not replace a well-balanced diet. Remember to include plenty of green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, fortified whole grains, and milk/dairy products in your everyday diet during your pregnancy.
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