The Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins

by Aug 3, 2019

Eating a healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrients and minerals you need. But even you eat a balanced diet, you could still miss some key nutrients. It is always a good idea to take prenatal vitamin supplements while you are trying to conceive or during pregnancy, as dietary supplements to the mother’s diet.

What are prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are made for people who are trying to conceive or pregnant, usually containing multiple vitamins and minerals. The most essential ones are folic acid, iodine, iron, and calcium.

What do prenatal vitamins do?

Folic acid:

Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that helps cells to grow and develop, preventing neural tube defects in fetal growth, which develops in the first 28 days after conception, before many women notice their pregnancy.

Health men and women adults need about 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. It is suggested that women who could become pregnant take 400-800 mcg of folic acid a day through diet and supplements. Since half of the pregnancies are unplanned, to reduce the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects (NTDs), you should consider taking 400 mcg of the folic acid supplement every day for at least one month before pregnancy, continuing for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For women with sickle cell disease or had a pregnancy affected by NTDs before, they may need a higher amount of folic acid. Consult with your health care provider if the above conditions apply to you.

Don’t forget many natural foods contain folic acids, such as green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, and beans. Even so, you might want to take the supplements as a backup while you are trying to conceive.


Calcium prevents bone density loss for pregnant women, as the baby takes calcium for his or her own bone growth. It is recommended that an adult between 19 to 50 years old and pregnant women need 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium every day. Men and women above 50 need 1000 to 1200 mg a day. Prenatal vitamins are intended to supplement vitamins and minerals to your diet, they often contain 200-300 mg of calcium. You may not want to reply to prenatal vitamins solely to meet your calcium needs. Keeping a balanced diet is always important even with prenatal vitamins.


Iron is necessary to create new red blood cells and prevent iron deficiency anemia. Because pregnancy increases a woman’s blood volume, iron is essential. Iron also helps the blood to carry oxygen for both the mother and child. It is recommended pregnant woman requires 27 mg of iron every day, which is 8 gm more than women who are not pregnant.

Prenatal vitamins usually contain other vitamins and minerals, such as copper, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids. Remember a healthy diet with fish such as salmon is a great natural source of omega-3 fatty acids.

When should I take prenatal vitamins?

Always consult with your health care provider before taking prenatal vitamins. It is likely the doctor will recommend you take them if you are trying to conceive or pregnant.

In general, you should start taking folic acid at least 1 month before trying to conceive, continuing for the first trimester of pregnancy, to reduce the chance of certain birth defects. The first few weeks are a really important time for fetal development and health.

The health care provider may suggest you continue taking prenatal vitamins during breastfeeding. They serve as a supplement to your diet for lactating women who need nutrients to make milk.

You may also take prenatal vitamin even you are not trying to conceive. Since half o the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned and spinal cord and brain are developing at an early stage of pregnancy. you will want to consider folic acid early. Women at childbearing age may also eat more folic acid-rich foods as part of a healthy diet.

Is it ok to take prenatal vitamins if I’m not pregnant?

You might be tempted to take prenatal vitamins because some women claimed they promote hair and nail growth, but these claims are not medically approved. Prenatal vitamins are specifically for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. They are made for the common nutritional deficiencies during and after pregnancy.

Vitamin and minerals could reach excessive levels and cause side effects on your body. Too much folic acid could mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Too much iron is associated with constipation, diarrhea, or nausea. An excessive amount of Vitamin A could be toxic to a person’s liver.

The best way is to eat a balanced diet instead of taking pills. Natural foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, fish, and nuts are great choices.

Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?

Many women wonder about if the side effects of prenatal vitamins. Some women get constipation or nausea after taking prenatal vitamins. Talk with your OBGYN doctor if that happens to you. To help with constipation, you may also consider:

–          Drink more fluids

–          Eat more fiber in your diet

–          Exercise often

Consult with a health care provider if these symptoms don’t go away.


If you are trying to conceive and thinking about prenatal vitamins, evaluate your diet first. Many people who eat a balanced diet don’t need to take vitamin pills. A balanced TTC diet means a lot of lean meat, plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, unprocessed food, and low-fat dairy.

There may be a case that you have certain nutritional deficiencies in your diet. In that case, talk to your health care provider and take supplements that are specifically designed for the deficiency.

There are many factors to consider while trying to conceive. Finding out when you ovulate by measuring fertility hormones helps you to get pregnant faster. Check out how Mira helps you to get pregnant.

✔️ Medically Reviewed by Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOG

Banafsheh Kashani, MD, FACOGBanafsheh Kashani, M.D., FACOG is a board-certified OB/GYN and specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Eden Fertility Centers, and has been treatingcouples and individuals with infertility since 2014.

Dr. Kashani has conducted extensive research in female reproduction, with a specific focus on the endometrium and implantation.

Additionally, Dr. Kashani has authored papers in the areas of fertility preservation, and fertility in women with PCOS and Turners syndrome. She also was part of a large SART-CORS study evaluating the trend in frozen embryo transfers and success rates.

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