Everyone knows they need vitamins to stay healthy, and many of the vitamins we need come right from the foods we eat. But when you're pregnant, your health needs change. While you may not technically be eating for two, your vitamin needs absolutely change, because the vitamins you eat need to nourish your baby as well as you.
At Serrano OBGyn in San Antonio, Texas, Christopher Serrano, MD, recommends prenatal vitamins as part of regular pregnancy care for expectant moms — and sometimes, for women who aren’t pregnant, too. Here’s why.
The extra demands of pregnancy
All moms-to-be know that once their baby arrives, their baby will depend on them and their partner for all their nutritional needs. But that dependency actually happens long before birth — almost right from the moment of conception.
Your baby will receive all of their nutrients directly from you, which means you need to take extra care to ensure you’re getting enough of the right nutrients to support not only your own health needs, but your baby’s, too. On top of that, pregnancy puts additional strains on your body, resulting in extra nutritional needs. Prenatal vitamins are specifically designed to meet all of these needs.
Preventing developmental problems
While general nutrition is essential, there are some nutrients that play an especially critical role in your baby’s health and development, such as folic acid, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.
One of the B vitamins, folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. The neural tube is the very early developmental stage of the spinal cord. Folic acid is so important for preventing neural tube problems that the CDC recommends this particular supplement for all women of child-bearing age.
Vitamin D and calcium
These nutrients are both important for helping your baby’s bones and teeth grow healthy and strong.
Iron delivers plenty of oxygen-rich blood to you and your baby. Low levels of iron have been associated with increased risks of preterm delivery and preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication that often causes high blood pressure.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These acids are found in fatty fish, and they offer lots of benefits for people of all ages. For developing babies, omega-3 fatty acids aid in brain and eye development. (On your vitamin label, you may see “DHA,” which is a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid.)
Getting your body ready for pregnancy
In addition to recommending prenatal vitamins for women who are already pregnant, Dr. Serrano might recommend vitamins or supplements for women who plan on becoming pregnant. By taking vitamins before pregnancy, you can help your body prepare for pregnancy and get a head start on the added demands pregnancy will bring.
Prenatal vitamins may also be a good choice for women who aren’t planning to get pregnant just yet. That’s because the neural tube begins developing within the first few weeks of pregnancy — often before a woman even knows she’s expecting. So if you’re sexually active — even if you’re on birth control — you might consider prenatal vitamins in case you get an unexpected pregnancy.
Don’t take vitamins on your own
Prenatal vitamins can be a great way to supplement your nutrition, but they’re not for everyone. Before you start taking any vitamin, it’s important to ask your doctor if it’s right for you, especially prenatal vitamins or any supplement that includes high amounts of specific nutrients.
Taking too much of a specific vitamin or mineral can cause the excess to build up in your tissues, increasing the risk of serious medical problems. If you’re pregnant, those problems could affect your baby, too.
Learn more about prenatal vitamins
If you’re pregnant, you’re planning on becoming pregnant, or you just want to learn more about prenatal vitamins or other nutritional support for women, Dr. Serrano can help. To learn more, call 210-761-5309 or book an appointment online with Serrano OBGyn today.