By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Step 1: Buy a prenatal multivitamin.
Step 2. Take it daily.
That’s all there is to it, right?
Think again. Healthy Child Healthy World busts five common myths about prenatal vitamins.
Myth #1: I only need to take prenatal vitamins when I get pregnant.
Start taking a prenatal vitamin daily before you get pregnant, throughout your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding.
Key developmental milestones, such as the closure of neural tubes, happen in the first weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. And vitamins pass through breast milk to support growing babies.
Skipping prenatals during these stages means that you and your newborn miss out on essential vitamins.
Myth #2: All prenatal vitamins are basically the same.
Although the variations are slight, brands of prenatal multivitamins may include different vitamins as well as different doses.
Check the label on your prenatals for these key ingredients and the recommended daily allowances:
- Folic acid (400-800 micrograms)
- Iron (27 milligrams)
- Calcium (1,000-1,300 milligrams)
- Iodine (150-220 micrograms)
- Vitamin D (15 micrograms or 600 international units)
Selenium, copper, zinc and vitamins C, A and E are crucial as well. Take the amount your doctor recommends, and don’t overdo it.
Myth #3: A multivitamin contains all the vitamins I need.
You may need vitamin supplements before, during or after your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you are expecting twins or multiples, if you have a family history of birth defects or if you have any restrictions in your diet. Vegetarians, for example, may need more B12.
The most common supplement is an omega-3 fatty acid such as DHA or EPA, which promotes healthy fetal brain development but isn’t typically included in a multivitamin. Talk to your doctor about a separate supplement of 250 milligrams and how much seafood you eat and what kind. Eating one to two servings of wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout or Atlantic mackerel is a great way to get optimum levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury. Mercury harms the development of a child’s brain and nervous system, so avoid high-mercury species such as tuna, shark and swordfish.
Women with anemia may need an iron supplement.
While breastfeeding, your baby may be deficient in vitamin D, so talk to your pediatrician about a supplement. (Babies don’t need vitamins unless specifically recommended by a doctor.)
Myth #4: Vitamins will make me feel healthy and strong.
Taking prenatal vitamins may make you feel sick. Nausea and constipation are common side effects, so take your vitamin with food or before bed, drink plenty of water and stay active.
If these steps don’t help, talk to your doctor about your symptoms, then try taking another brand. If you really can’t tolerate a multivitamin, consider taking folic acid on its own, especially before you get pregnant.
Myth #5: Taking prenatal vitamins means I don’t need to worry about my diet.
Prenatal vitamins do not cover 100 percent of your vitamin needs. And some vitamins are best absorbed into the body through food. A nutritious diet also helps women maintain a healthy weight to support their baby’s growth.
Bonus: modeling healthy food habits will help set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating.