Expectant mothers are often prescribed a prenatal vitamin supplement by their doctor. Some doctors also recommend taking prenatal vitamins if you are planning to conceive. Using the supplements before getting pregnant can help to prevent certain birth defects. However, if you are already eating a nutritionally balanced diet, that diet should realistically provide all of the vitamins and nutrients that you and your baby need.
That is not to say that you would not benefit from taking prenatal vitamins as there are other things to take into account when pregnant apart from diet. One is if you are suffering from morning sickness which will obviously deplete important nutrient levels. Some mothers elect to continue taking prenatal vitamins throughout their pregnancy and also while they are breastfeeding their newborn.
Prenatal Vitamins and Diet
It is important to remember that, like any vitamin supplement, prenatal vitamins are just that - supplements. They do not and should not be taken in place of a nutritionally balanced diet. Apart from anything else, all vitamin supplements require the nutrients found in food to be correctly absorbed by the body. It is not good practice to rely on vitamins for all of your nutritional needs. It is more important to eat a healthy, well balanced diet than it is to take pills, no matter how beneficial they may be.
One of the most important elements in a pregnant women's diet is Calcium. However, prenatal vitamins do not have the recommended daily allowance of calcium for an expectant mother. The recommended intake of calcium when pregnant is between 1,200 and 1,500 milligrams each day to ensure that the baby will develop properly. Pregnancy supplements only have about 250 milligrams of calcium which is a significant shortfall.
Not every prenatal vitamin is the same. In fact some may not benefit the expectant mother as much as they claim to. Studies have shown that a pregnant woman’s body does not always absorb all of the nutrients provided by the vitamins.
One such nutrient, which helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, is Folate. Folate is extremely important in the baby’s prenatal development. Only three out of nine vitamins on average actually provide the amount of folate shown on the bottle label. This is not to suggest that the supplements do not have the vitamin, it is just not absorbed by the woman’s body.
A simple way to find out if the prenatal vitamins you have will be absorbed into your system is to put one of the vitamins into a cup of water for ten minutes. If the vitamin dissolves or becomes very soft, it will be absorbed into your system. On the other hand, if the vitamin remains hard, it will more than likely pass through your system without depositing many of the nutrients that it carries.
Some argue that it is better to take a prenatal vitamin prescribed by a doctor but this is not necessarily the case. While prescribed vitamins are ideal, many of the very same supplements are available in health food stores and without a prescription. The most important thing to consider is the ingredients in the vitamins.
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor when deciding which prenatal vitamins are best for you. Some prescribed vitamins are more potent than over the counter types and can bring on unwanted side effects such as nausea.
Finding the right prenatal vitamin may take a little research, but the benefits are great. However, it is very important to keep eating a healthy, well balanced diet as no supplement can ever replace good nutrition.
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