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Should expecting mothers take prenatal vitamins?

Women's Care
Mar 9, 2017

As an expecting mom, you are most likely doing everything you can to ensure your baby is born as healthy as possible.

Proper diet, exercise and weight are important. But let’s be honest. It’s not always easy with a busy schedule to eat properly. One option to help expecting moms out is a prenatal vitamin. 

“Talking about a prenatal diet, you have to eat more food, but we don’t always eat as we should,” says Delphine De Mauro, BSN, RN, IBCLC with St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Mary Telfair Women’s Hospital. “You really want the food you eat to be high in nutritional value and knowing that we don’t always do that, a prenatal vitamin ensures you are getting all the nutrients you need.”

The majority of doctors say it’s a good idea during pregnancy to take a prenatal vitamin to help cover any nutritional gaps in mom’s diet. Prenatal vitamins contain many vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, iron, iodine and calcium that are particularly important for an expecting mother.

De Mauro notes that vitamins and minerals are especially vital in the first trimester. She goes on to add that if you are a woman actively trying to get pregnant, most doctors recommend starting a prenatal vitamin regiment now.

Which prenatal vitamin to take?

Shopping the vitamin aisle at your neighborhood pharmacy or grocery store can be overwhelming. There are dozens of brand names. Some include folic acid. Some are organic. The options go on and on.

De Mauro always recommends talking to your OB before starting to take any vitamins or about any supplements you are currently taking.

She also suggests talking to your doctor about folic acid. Research has shown that getting between 400 and 600 micrograms of folic acid a day before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects to the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

De Mauro says a majority of prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, but she still recommends talking to your doctor about the quantity of folic acid you need to supplement.

“We are now recommending to moms to supplement folic acid during pregnancy,” De Mauro says. “We didn’t used to do that many, many years ago, but we are seeing less incidents of spinal cord and neurological injuries today, and we think it’s because of the folic acid supplements.”

After pregnancy

Beyond pregnancy, De Mauro also recommends prenatal vitamins for breastfeeding mothers.

“Moms will ask me after delivery what they should do with leftover prenatal vitamins,” De Mauro says. “I say, ‘Take them.’ When mom is breastfeeding, she needs to keep up that healthy diet.”

Again, De Mauro recommends mothers talk to their doctors about any supplements to take following delivery. She also adds to check with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is getting enough vitamins through breastfeeding or bottle feeding. 

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