A prenatal vitamin is recommended for women who are trying to conceive.
The prenatal vitamin ensures that a woman's body can provide the appropriate nutrients to a growing fetus. Ideally, women should get a completely balanced diet from food, but unfortunately many women don't. A prenatal vitamin is good insurance even if you do eat well.
A prenatal vitamin is specially formulated to provide the vitamins and minerals in the correct amounts to support a pregnancy. If you've been taking a regular multivitamin, that's great, but you should switch to a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive.
You can buy prenatal vitamins over the counter or you can get a prescription for them from your health-care provider. You might want to compare the prices of over-the-counter vitamins with your prescription co-pay to see which makes the most sense for you.
While you are trying to conceive, remember to tell your other physicians that you are trying to do so. For a certain time frame each month, you won't know if you are pregnant or not. During these days, you will want to avoid X-rays, certain drugs, and other treatments. Always request a pelvic shield for non-abdominal X-rays.
One of the key components of a prenatal vitamin, and one of the most significant ways it differs from a simple multivitamin, is folic acid (also known as folate). The CDC recommends that women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant consume 400 micrograms (.4 mg) of folic acid daily. Although folic acid can also be obtained through fortified cereal and leafy green vegetables, the most reliable way to obtain this key nutrient is through a prenatal vitamin.
Folic acid significantly reduces the risk of fetal neural tube defects that develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy. For this reason, all women who are trying to conceive need to ensure they get the right amount of folic acid, even before they think they might be pregnant.
Certain women may be at particular risk for having a baby with neural tube defects, particularly those who have a neural tube defect (or a partner with such a defect) or who have had a previous baby with a neural tube defect. However, there are many other circumstances where risk is increased. For those women, the dose of folic acid is higher at 4 mg per day. There is also evidence that preconception folic acid and prenatal vitamins may reduce the risk of having a baby with congenital heart disease.
Your prenatal vitamin will also make sure you get 30 mg of iron a day. Iron helps your body increase your blood supply during pregnancy. It is also essential because your baby needs to store iron to get him through his first few months of life.
If you don't get enough iron in your diet or through vitamins, you can become anemic. Anemia can make you feel tired and look pale. Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will check your blood to ensure you do not develop anemia. It is a good idea to build up your iron stores prior to pregnancy.
Some health-care providers now recommend that women trying to conceive and those who are pregnant take omega-3 DHA fish oil supplements. This nutrient is important for fetal brain development. There are over-the-counter capsules specifically designed for pregnant women. These are free of mercury, a contaminant that sometimes appears in fish from polluted waters.
Women over age 35 need to get 1000 mg of calcium per day during pregnancy. Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified orange juice are great sources. Prenatal vitamins also have calcium. If you are unable to obtain enough calcium in your diet (due to lactose intolerance, for instance), your doctor can prescribe a calcium supplement.