Thursday, June 19, 2008

Prenatal Vitamins...Do You Really Need Them?

Prenatal Vitamins...DO You Really Need Them?
by Keith M. Henry

Prenatal vitamins have become very popular among some women because it is believed that they help prevent birth defects. It is probably a good idea to supplement with prenatal vitamins because during pregnancy, both the mother and the child have increased needs for certain nutrients like folic acid and iron during this time and prenatal vitamins will prove helpful. Women who are pregnant often find that their doctors prescribe a prenatal vitamin. However, evidence has emerged that even for those women that are planning to conceive can benefit from prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins could prevent potential nutritional deficiencies during this crucial time.

Most Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to make up for nutritional deficiencies in a mother's diet, and contain supplements such as vitamins, zinc, iron, and calcium. Perhaps most important, they contain folic acid, which reduces the risk of serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Prenatal vitamins could very well prove to play a vital role in a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, due in large part to the great defiencies now found in most of our food. However, prenatal vitamins are not meant to be your sole source of nutrients. They are meant to supplement, or prevent certain nutrient deficiencies. Eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet will go a long way toward ensuring the health of both mother and infant.



DHA is a fatty acid that is crucial for baby's brain development from the earliest stages of pregnancy through the breast feeding years. DHA is a type of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids belonging to omega 3 families. There are two types of essential fatty acids - omega 3 and omega 6 families. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that appears to be important for brain, eye, and heart health. The typical American diet is usually deficient in DHA.


Iron is a mineral and is another important nutrient in pregnancy. Most prenatal supplements will include iron in their mixture. During the third and final trimester of pregnancy the baby will draw large amounts of iron from the mother. It will obtain this iron from the stored levels in the mother's body.


Folic acid is a must during pregnancy. It is plentiful in dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and whole grains, among other foods. It cuts the risk of birth defects in babies, and is almost always found in prenatal vitamins.

Folic acid has been proven crucial for a baby's neural tube development, especially during the first trimester when women are most likely to suffer from nausea and vomiting. In fact, some recommend women should start taking about 400 micrograms of folate at least a month before they start trying to conceive.


Calcium is certainly important in the development of a new baby. Calcium, 400 mg/day, and magnesium, 300 mg/day, help protect the mother's bones and can help prevent pre-eclampsia. Chromium, 200 mg/day, helps control the mother's blood sugar, and look for the following B vitamins: B12, 120 mg/day; B6, 20 mg/day, and B5, also known as pantothenic acid, 20 mg/day. CALCIUM - A supplement that contains 2-300 mg calcium is just a start toward reaching the recommended 1200 mg daily. However, anything beyond 250 mg of calcium (or 25 mg of magnesium) should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron.

With regard to prenatal vitamins, they are not all created equal. Most of them try and pack as much as possible into their vitamins, but they must be careful not to promote excess of what may amount to be toxic levels of fat soluble vitamins...for instance Vitamin A instead of beta-carotene, vitamin A's precursor. The best prenatal needs to provide what mother and child needs, at just the right amounts, as well as avoiding amounts that avoid toxicity.

About the Author:
Keith Henry is a Medical Missionary Herbalist, and Naturopatheic Doctor Candidate

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