Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins

When a pregnancy occurs, most people will want to immediately find out what are the best and most healthy things to do for the baby. One of the things that you will be discussing with your doctor at the first office visit concerns a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement.

You will probably question whether you really need to take a supplement. Most doctors will say that yes, it certainly is something that is important for the growing and developing baby. Even if the expectant mother is very careful about the foods she eats, there are certain nutrients that are vital for the baby, so a supplement assures that the mother is receiving the proper nutrition.

Prenatal supplements have many of the minerals and vitamins that are needed, but there are a few things in which they lack. One of these things is calcium so drinking milk and eating dairy products such as yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheese, and so on, becomes extra important while you are pregnant. If you are lactose intolerant or can't digest dairy products for some other reason, ask the doctor about taking a separate calcium supplement.

As a side note here, I have been buying and using calcium chews in a chocolate flavor for a while now and it is certainly a more pleasant way to get a calcium supplement than swallowing the huge pills that I had before for a calcium boost.

Another thing that your prenatal vitamin probably won't be sufficient with is the Omega-3 fatty acids that you get in things such as fish. It is important to eat fish but you may also want to ask your doctor if you will need a separate supplement for those fatty acids.

Keep in mind that your prenatal vitamin should never replace eating properly. It needs to be an addition to a good diet. Be sure to eat protein and vegetables, fruits and dairy products, etc. Grains are also important at all times, but especially for healthy eating during a pregnancy.

There are a few nutrients found in prenatal vitamins that a mother-to-be probably doesn't get enough of from her daily food alone. These include iron and folic acid. Your doctor will be able to tell you how much of each you should have in your supplement. Don't be afraid to ask these questions if they do not come up during your doctor visit.

Folic acid definitely helps with the development and health of the baby. Having enough iron assures that you will not have to be facing a rather common problem in pregnancy that involves a temporary anemia. You need more iron during pregnancy than you need at other times, so be sure to get enough, both with the foods you eat and your prenatal supplement.

It is important to remember that your supplement during pregnancy is to replace any vitamins you may be taking daily at other times. Do not add a prenatal vitamin to any others that you are already taking. Take only what the doctor prescribes during these nine months.

Your doctor will most likely suggest writing a prescription for your prenatal vitamin. That is fine and a great idea especially if you have some kind of prescription coverage with your health insurance. If you feel that you can not afford a prescription, however, the doctor should be glad to tell you what nutrients to look for if you buy a generic prenatal vitamin over the counter. It is important to take the time to ask for special instructions, such as whether you may need more iron than a usual generic brand will provide. It is also a good idea to take your vitamins to the next doctor visit (if you didn't use a prescription) to have your doctor check to see if it does indeed contain all the vitamins and minerals that you should be having, and in the proper amounts for you.

It is really quite rare, but sometimes certain vitamins or minerals can cause nausea or other stomach upset. Iron seems to be one of the biggest culprits in causing this. If you feel that something isn't feeling right after you start to take your prenatal vitamins, by all means mention it to your doctor. He or she can certainly suggest an alternative way for you to get your nutrients without having to face all those months of extra sickness from your vitamin.