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Monday, January 29, 2024

The ABCs (Plus Folic Acid, Iron and More) in Prenatal Vitamins

 By Dr. Robert Wool


A nutritious diet is always recommended for optimal health, but it’s even more important when you’re pregnant. For many women, however, it’s not always possible or easy to get enough of what you and your growing baby need from food alone. In this blog, we discuss the essential role prenatal vitamins, including folic acid, iron and more, play in a healthy pregnancy.


Essential Folic Acid

Of all the vitamin and mineral supplements recommended during pregnancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) is perhaps the most crucial because it plays a significant role in the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.


In fact, if you’re planning to become pregnant, we recommend you start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid at least a month before you start trying to conceive. The neural tube, which forms the early brain and spinal cord, is one of the first structures to develop, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.


Important Iron

Because iron is necessary for healthy red blood cell production, it’s also a key ingredient in prenatal vitamins. Your blood volume will increase by about 45% during pregnancy, so your body needs the extra help.


If you don’t get enough iron, you may develop anemia, a condition that can leave you feeling extremely tired and weak, and have an impact on your baby’s growth and development.


A, B, C, D and More

Beyond folic acid and iron, prenatal vitamins typically include:

·         Vitamin A, which helps with visual health, immune function and fetal growth and development

·         Vitamin B complex, which helps with baby’s brain development and more; for example, B3 can help ease morning sickness and nausea, and B5 with leg cramps 

·         Vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia and helps boost your immune system

·         Vitamin D and calcium, which aid in the development of baby’s teeth and bones


Minerals, such as zinc and iodine, are also helpful to your and your baby’s overall health.


Talk to your provider about your overall eating habits so you can choose a supplement that will work for your individual needs. Don’t take supplements beyond what your provider recommends, however, as some vitamins that are beneficial in the right amount can be dangerous in higher dosages.


If you experience side effects, such as nausea or constipation, talk to your provider about that as well. Your provider may have strategies you can try, or recommend a different vitamin.  Prenatal vitamins come in different forms (such tablets and capsules) and formulations, so there are options.