Are prenatal vitamins really necessary? The answer is Yes. It’s tough to get all the nutrients you and your baby need, even if you eat a broad range of foods, including meat, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Most women can benefit from taking a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement, preferably before they start trying to conceive. Think of it as an insurance policy to make sure you’re getting the right amount of certain crucial nutrients during pregnancy. Taking a prenatal vitamin is even more important for women with certain diets and dietary restrictions, health issues, or pregnancy complications. This includes women who are vegetarians or vegans, are lactose-intolerant or have other food allergies, smoke or abuse other substances, have certain blood disorders, have certain chronic diseases, have had gastric bypass surgery or are having twins or triplets.
Is there something in a prenatal supplement that I can’t get from food?
There are two crucial nutrients, folic acid and iron, are always included in prenatal vitamins because most pregnant women don’t get enough of them from food alone:
Folic acid: Getting enough of this B vitamin can reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly by 50 to 70 percent. Folic acid may also reduce the risk of other defects, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects. Taking folic acid may even lower your risk of preeclampsia. Your body absorbs the synthetic version of folic acid better than the natural one found in food, so even if you eat a balanced diet, a supplement is strongly recommended.
Iron: Most women don’t get enough of this mineral in their diet to meet their body’s increased need during pregnancy, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Avoiding iron-deficiency anemia can cut your risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality. A new study also indicates if you want a smarter baby you should take iron and folic acid during pregnancy.