Why you may need a prenatal supplement, from the USDA
During pregnancy, your need for several vitamins and minerals — including folic acid and iron — increases. It’s difficult to get all that you require from food alone, considering your growing baby’s needs as well as your own. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects — called neural tube defects — in a baby’s brain or spine. Folic acid is important for any woman who could become pregnant.
Most prenatal supplements contain 600 micrograms or more per day of folic acid, the amount recommended for pregnant women.
Moms-to-be need extra iron for the increasing amount of blood in their bodies. Iron helps keep your blood healthy and able to carry oxygen to your cells. Plus, your baby needs to store iron to last through the first few months of life.
Too little iron can cause anemia. If you have this condition, you might look pale or notice paleness under your nails, and feel very tired. Your healthcare provider will check for anemia during your pregnancy with blood tests.
Most prenatal supplements contain 27 milligrams per day of iron, the amount recommended for expectant moms.
Supplement Dos & Don’ts
• Take a prenatal supplement instead of individual vitamins or minerals. This ensures that you and your growing baby get balanced amounts of the vitamins and minerals you need. A high dose of some nutrients in a supplement — particularly vitamin A — can be harmful to your baby. Too much vitamin A from supplements can cause birth defects.
• Don’t take dietary supplements or herbal products on your own. Scientists have not determined the possible risks to your baby if you take most herbal or botanical supplements. For this reason, avoid them when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Not all “natural” products are safe, and they are not tested or regulated as drugs and medicines are.
• Take the supplements your healthcare provider recommends. Follow your provider’s advice about taking any additional supplements or herbal products. Taking too much of a dietary supplement can have harmful effects.
• Discuss any supplements you are already taking with your healthcare provider, including herbal or botanical, to protect against taking too much. Also, tell your provider about any other medicines you are taking, to see if there could be interactions of your supplement with these medicines.