Research & Studies

Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy, during and After Pregnancy, Side Effects & Benefits

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What are prenatal vitamins? How good are prenatal vitamins before pregnancy or when not pregnant, during and after? Do they come with any side effects? Read to find not just the answers but more details about pregnancy vitamins

What are Prenatal Vitamins & what do they do?

Meaning/definition

Nutritional requirements are different with pregnant women. This is why a woman is always advised to get prenatal vitamins to supplement her diet. In spite of the enhanced diets expectant women take, it is not easy to measure up to the daily nutritional requirements. Prenatal vitamins come in to fill the nutritional gaps in a mother’s diet.

Prenatal vitamins are supplements that provide vitamins and minerals in deficiencies of either in a mother. However, prenatal vitamins target optimum growth and development of the fetus. To achieve this, the mother’s nutritional requirements have to be met.

 prenatal multivitamins / antenatal vitamins are the names that are thought to mean prenatal vitamins.

prenatal-vitamins-before-pregnancy-during-after-side-effects-benefits

Prenatal Vitamins

What are prenatal vitamins made of?

Prenatal supplements contain very many vitamins and minerals that are pertinent for the well-being of the mother and her baby. However, more emphasis is put on some. Folic acid, vitamin D, calcium and iron are mostly emphasized on.

A proper and effective prenatal supplement should contain:

  1. Iron – 17 mg
  2. Zinc – 15 mg
  3. Iodine -150 mcg
  4. Folic acid – 400 mcg
  5. Calcium – 250 mg
  6. Vitamin C – 70 mg
  7. Vitamin B1 – 3 mg
  8. Vitamin B3 – 20 mg
  9. Vitamin E – 10 mg
  10. Riboflavin – 2 mg

One supplement may not contain all of the above but under a doctor’s prescription, you can add up. (WebMd)

The first prenatal vitamin a woman is advised to take once she has been tested pregnant is folic acid. In fact, a deficiency of folic acid is serious especially before conception and 28 days after conception. During this periods, it is unlikely that you had plans for a pregnancy or if you did, you haven’t known you are pregnant.

During the first 28 days into gestation, there is a high risk of neural tube defects that may compromise the development of the baby. (See folic acid below)

Note that if you choose to use prenatal vitamins, track should be kept of the amount of supplement you are taking. This will enable your doctor advice you appropriately on any adjustments to make.

Who takes prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins benefit the following people best:

  1. Vegetarians
  2. Food intolerances
  3. Blood disorder and other chronic diseases.
  4. If you have undergone a gastric bypass surgery
  5. Women who abuse drugs
  6. A woman with previous pregnancy complications

Types

The types of prenatal vitamins depends on their content. Content points out to vitamins, fatty acids and mineral supplements.

Types of vitamins include thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin D and E that are really necessary in your prenatal vitamins.

Essential fatty acids include Decosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acids.

Minerals include calcium, iron, zinc and iodine

Some of the best brands you may get are;

  1. PNV-DHA. A soft gel of vitamin/mineral/fatty acid for postnatal and prenatal use.
  2. Brainstrong Prenatal – a vegetarian DHA supplement

NOTE:  The more vitamins and minerals you have the better. Keep on reading for more.

Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy or when not Pregnant -Effects & Risks

How useful/effective are prenatal vitamins when not pregnant

There has been a hot debate on whether it is right to take prenatal vitamins before pregnancy or while not pregnant. Clearly, the likely danger arising from taking these vitamins shows they are not as good as expected.

Women who have used the prenatal vitamins when not pregnant report that they are good for growth of long and healthy hair as well as strengthening of the nails.

The benefit that has been scientifically proven is that prenatal vitamins are good for mothers who plan on getting pregnant. This is because; they are good at preparing a good environment in the womb for growth of a healthy baby and a well-developed brain and spine.  In fact, these vitamins are made especially for expectant and lactating mothers. During pregnancy, the key target is both the mother and her baby.

So, what are risks and effect when not pregnant or before pregnancy?

There are risks that come with taking these prenatal vitamins especially if you are taking an overdose.

To begin with, the intake of much than necessary folate results to too many disturbing side effects. The effects are such as bloating resulting from digestion issues as well as production of unwanted gas. Usually, too much folate also results to appetite loss, inability to get enough sleep, unbearable bad taste of the mouth, deficiency of zinc, and also cases of depression. However, the above side effects are considered to be minor. The major effects include; numbness, pain in the mouth, feeling weak, seizure and continued fatigue.

On the other hand, too much folic acid above the RDA requirements is known to mask vitamin B 12 deficiency. Which means if you had megaloblastic anemia, you would not know and you would not get treated for it. Not good.

You should also beware of the high content of iron contained in the prenatal vitamins. AS much as iron is good for boosting the health of the expectant mothers, excessive intake of the same comes with negative effects; and more so if you are not pregnant. These effects include increased cases of nausea and vomiting, as well as constipation. These side effects, however, arise only in cases where people take more than required prenatal vitamins which leads to too much ingestion off iron in the body. You therefore need to be keen on the amount of prenatal vitamins you take especially in cases where you are not pregnant.

Even though prenatal vitamins are a good source of calcium, you should be careful especially if the sole reason you are taking them is to boost your calcium levels and not because you are pregnant. The assumption that prenatal vitamins provide sufficient calcium should be reconsidered since the content of calcium in these vitamins is too little to be enough as a sole source of calcium. Reliance on these vitamins for calcium is a risk and may lead to its deficiency and eventually many health complications.

The liver stores vitamins and in the case of excess vitamin intake causes hypervitaminosis. You could get your liver shut down due to toxicity. Such is seen with vitamin A (thiamine) toxicity.

You could prefer adjusting your diet so that you get the desired vitamins and mineral instead of going for the pills.

What do Prenatal Vitamins do and what are they good for? Uses & Benefits During & After Pregnancy

The vitamins and minerals that compose prenatal supplements are strategically included. They aid in the overall growth and development of the fetus and avoiding various birth defects. A vitamin / mineral is coupled to its importance as follows:

Folic Acid

Folic acid, vitamin B6 is one vitamin you shouldn’t miss. Always keep in mind that if you have plans of having a baby, folic acid should be at the top of your head. Folic acid is derived from various foods such as beans, nuts, citrus fruits and fortified foods. What’s more interesting is that synthetic folic acid is more absorbable than naturally-acquired folic acid. It is therefore important to include folic acid supplements in addition to dietary sources.

Neural tube defects may arise as a result of insufficient folic acid for you and the baby. During normal fetal development, the neural tube forms and closes and is responsible for the formation of the brain, skull, spinal cord and backbones.  Such defects encompass three yet rare but serious conditions;

  1.  Spina bifida – a condition in which the spinal column fails to close completely accompanied with nerve damage. Paralysis of the legs is a complication along with poor ability to walk and control the bladder.
  2. Anencephaly – in this case, the brain and skull do not develop as required. Occurs as a result of malformation of the upper neural tube. The forebrain and cerebrum lack and hence the baby is not able to think and coordinate.
  3.  Chiari malformation – the brain tissues extend into the spinal cord. The cerebellum which controls balance is affected.

Other effects whose prevalence is reduced include cleft palate, cleft lip and heart malfunction. Risks to pre-enclampsia are also reduced.

Piece of advice: If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect, consider stepping up your prenatal dose to up yo 4000 mcg at least one month before and during the first trimester. However, check with your doctor.

Iron

Moms-to-be assume they have enough of this mineral in their diets. This assumption might cost them largely. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of mineral deficiencies. It is associated with iron-deficiency anemia and this means that not enough hemoglobin is being synthesised. This could result in hypoxia (insufficiency of oxygen in some parts of the body). Low iron in the body and the baby are reasons for low birth weights, preterm delivery and infant mortality.

Calcium

Calcium is important in preservation of the mother’s bone density and integrity. During pregnancy, mothers have an extra weight and need to keep their bones strong. Calcium is required for the bone formation in the baby. This prevents low bone density in the newborn.

Iodine

This is a critical element for proper thyroid function of the mother during pregnancy. Deficiency of iodine affects the baby causing stunted growth. It also causes severe mental disability and loss of hearing. If you want to prevent still birth or miscarriages, have this in your supplement.

Zinic

Zinc contained in prenatal vitamins is what you as a pregnant mother needs to ensure proper weight for the baby to be born and to avoid any possible malfunctions. Underweight babies develop many health complications and therefore, you should take the prenatal vitamins to have the proper weight for your baby.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Additional supplements that are important but not frequently added to prenatal vitamins pills includes omega-3 fatty acids (Decosahexaenoic acid; DHA). These are normally added to the prescription if you do not take fish or other sources with omega-3. Omega-3 is particularly important for the cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina development of the baby. You should add that to your cart.

More Benefits

Quality breast milk

Prenatal vitamins are very important for lactating mothers since the nutrients in them are usually very crucial in making of quality breast milk.  Babies’ health is boosted by the nutrients in breast milk and therefore, to increase the content of breast milk, lactating mothers should put keen interest in taking prenatal vitamins supplements.

Reduce Nausea

You should take prenatal vitamins in cases where you want to reduce disturbing cases of nausea. Usually, in the first trimester, pregnant women have disturbing nausea cases and therefore, it is important to take prenatal vitamins that contain vitamin B6 to work on reducing nausea feeling.

Natural/organic Prenatal Vitamins vs Synthetic

Prenatal vitamins can also be classified to

  • Organic/natural/non-synthetic
  • Synthetic

Organic

These vitamins are got from food. In other words, to obtain these prenatal vitamins you should eat specific types of foods from which you get these vitamins as advised by the doctor.

Synthetic

Synthetic prenatal vitamins are synthetic chemical isolates made in a lab to mimic the vitamin benefits that organic vitamins offer. However, synthetic vitamins only provide isolated or fractionated pieces of the whole vitamin. This is because synthetic vitamins don’t contain the full benefit that nature intended.

Which the best?

Organic or natural vitamins are always preferred since they are known to facilitate easy absorption of the vitamins.

This is because they are got from food. Phytonutrients, and enzymes present in these food based prenatal vitamins are the reason for the improved state of absorption of the vitamins.

You should hence frequently feed on foods rich in prenatal vitamins as a pregnant mother since; unlike isolated vitamins, natural prenatal vitamins are gentler to the stomach and they are known to greatly reduce cases of nausea and constipation.

On the other hand, synthetic vitamins are shown to be nutritionally inferior to natural vitamins and can cause digestive issues which may be a sign of vitamin toxicity.

Gummy/Chewable Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins come in different forms such as capsules and tablets. They could also be in a form that allows for chewing rather than instant swallowing and that is what is referred to as chewable vitamins.

You could be one of the people who find it hard swallowing tablets. Chewable vitamins are easier to manage for you who don’t like instant swallowing of drugs. The benefits of using the chewable vitamins are that, with the periodic chewing and swallowing of the vitamins, they are well absorbed into the body.

Vegan prenatal vitamins

Vegans are people who do not feed on any animal products and they basically specialize on plant products for their diets. Vegan prenatal vitamins are hence vitamins that you should use if you are a vegan and are pregnant.

Like any other prenatal vitamins, the vegan prenatal vitamins are those made from plant products and basically target the vegans. They are made in such a way that they take care of the pregnant mothers who are apparently vegans.

Liquid prenatal vitamins

These are vitamins that are most advisable for pregnant mothers since they are in a form that allows for total absorption in the body of the mother and that of the child.

You should use liquid prenatal vitamins in your days of pregnancy since they are known to be of support to the nervous system as well as the immune systems.  That aside, you should take them to ensure the required energy standard of the baby are maintained and that the bones of the baby are healthy.

Prescription or over the counter (OTC)prenatal vitamin

Is there a difference between prescription and OTC prenatal vitamins? How do these vitamin supplements differ?

While people have over time thought that the prescription and over the counter vitamins are the same, there exists a big difference especially in terms of the amount of folic acid they contain. You should therefore be keen to note that prescription prenatal vitamins contain way higher folic acid as compared to over the counter prenatal vitamins.  The prescription vitamins contain 200mcg of folic acid more than those contained in over the counter prenatal vitamins.

According to FDA, here is a table showing the differences.

Prescription vs OTC Prenatal Vitamisn
Prescription Over the Counter
Prescribed by a doctor Drugs that do NOT require a doctor’s prescription
Bought at a pharmacy Bought off-the-shelf in stores
Prescribed for and intended to be used by one person  Not for one particular person. Anyone can buy the supplements
 Regulated by FDA through the New Drug Application (NDA) process.(USA)  Regulated by FDA through OTC Drug monographs(USA)

The most known benefits are derived from over the counter vitamins since they contain a high and not excess amount of iron which is needed by the pregnant mothers. In order to get sufficient iron and to avoid cases of anemia, you should be on the lookout for the different forms of over the counter prenatal vitamins that are available.

What recommended prenatal vitamins should i take?

We cannot say there are specific prenatal vitamins one should take. The doctor will most likely prescribe the best prenatal vitamins for you. In cases where you have no doctor to give you a prescription, there are key things you should look for in the best prenatal vitamins. These include;

  • Folic acid amounting to about 400mcg
  • 300 milligrams calcium
  • Thiamine amounting to 3 mg
  • 3mg riboflavin
  • Vitamin B12 amounting to 6mcg
  • 400 IU Vitamin D
  • Niacin amounting to 20milligrams

Can prenatal vitamins cause headaches?

Not once or twice have cases of headaches been reported by those pregnant mothers who take prenatal vitamins. You should realize the reason for this headache is mostly an overdose of the prenatal vitamins. Since there are vitamin supplements taken together with the prenatal vitamins, there may be an overdose of a particular nutrient the result of which is a headache for most people.

Prenatal vitamins side effects weight gain- Can they make you gain Weight?

As far as research is concerned, you should know that prenatal vitamins do not in any case cause weight gain. You notice that you gain weight when you are pregnant. Even that, the reason is not because you are taking vitamins. After all, the vitamins you take when pregnant are meant to fill in the gaps in the nutrition.

The probable reason you think that these vitamins are causing you weight gain is that the side effects of these vitamins include bloating and constipation. These side effects may result to abnormal swelling of your stomach and clothes may seem not to fit you anymore. That is what you could be confusing for weight gain.

Other Known Side Effects of Prenatal Vitamin

General Side effects

Even though there are very many benefits that come with the use prenatal vitamins, you should realize that their intake is not smooth for everyone. You should however note that these reactions vary for different people. You could be one of those experiencing the reactions that are not pleasant when you take the prenatal vitamins. Such side effects include;

  1. Problems in your bowel

Usually, most pregnant women require a lot of iron and so they take in prenatal vitamins to acquire sufficient amounts of iron. Sadly, some women are not favored by its intake. You should seek medical attention at the times you notice that there are reactions on taking these vitamins. The likely effects of too much iron are constipation and there have been cases of diarrhea that have been reported.

  1. Nausea and vomiting

This is the most common side effect that occurs to you as a pregnant mother once you take in the prenatal vitamins. You should visit the doctor if throwing up becomes too much of an issue so that you can determine what exactly is happening. Probably, your body cannot absorb the vitamins as well as required. 

Brand-specific side effects

Spring Valley prenatal vitamins side effects

Among the different brands of prenatal vitamins, the Spring Valley is considered to be part of the very best. The side effects that come as a result of taking these pills are nothing different from what would occur to any pregnant mother. These are such as nausea. Vomiting occurs to pregnant mothers and you should not let it be the reason you forego the many benefits you get from these vitamins. The other effect is the unpleasant odor but that is something one can put up with.

Vitamin code raw prenatal side effects

The major side effect associated with code raw prenatal vitamins is headaches. This is a disturbing headache that you could experience after taking these pills. There is need to seek medical advice just in case you are required to change the type of vitamins you are taking.[ix]

One a day prenatal vitamins side effects

Just like the above mentioned brands, one a day prenatal vitamins have similar side effects. The side effects include;

  • Discomfort in the stomach upon intake
  • Severe headaches
  • Unusually bad taste in the mouth

Vita fusion prenatal gummy vitamins side effects

There are side effects that result from intake of the gummy vitamins especially if the body cannot adjust to such medication. These side effects should be nothing much to worry you since you should note they are not permanent. These effects include;

  • Constipation
  • Stomach upsets
  • Diarrhea

However, there some side effects that could be so severe that you will need to seek medical attention. Such side effects include;

  • Dizziness
  • Rashes
  • Breathing problems
  • Swelling of the face
  • Itching of the throat

You should be on the lookout for such side effects since they require medical attention. Persistence of these effects may be harmful to the health of both the mother and the baby if not treated.

New chapter prenatal vitamins side effects

Many people have over time enjoyed the benefits of using the new chapter vitamins since they are known to be easily administered causing child development. You should however note that there are side effects that come with use of these vitamins and they include;

  • Nausea
  • Strenuous headaches or in other words, migraines

Risks of not taking prenatal vitamins when pregnant

What are the risks of not taking prenatal vitamins when pregnant or if you are an expectant mother?

  1. Autism – In a study, (Schmidt RJ), in which a greater risk of mothers having children with autism was linked to prenatal vitamin use showed that periconceptional use of prenatal vitamins may reduce the risks.
  2. Neural tube defects – this is a serious malformation of the neural tube that is responsible for the formation of the forebrain, cerebellum, spinal cord and backbone. Folic acid deficiency has been linked to anencephaly, spina bifida and chiari malformation. A meta-analysis conducted to evaluate the protective effect of folic acid-fortified multivitamin supplements showed that maternal consumption of these prenatal vitamins is associated with a lower risk for neural tube defects (Goh YI)
  3. Improper bone formation of the baby – calcium deficiency has been linked to poor bone growth and development of the baby. The baby may face a risk of having low bone density. This may be serious.
  4. Iron-deficiency anemia – this is linked to insufficient iron consumption. It affects both the mother and her baby adversely. The low levels of heme in both the baby’s and mother’s system may not be able to supply the whole body with oxygen. This leads to hypoxia creating a risk of cell death and even miscarriages. The mother may experience symptoms of confusion, fatigue, fainting and paleness of the skin.
  5. It is likely that vitamin D deficiency may lead to skeletal depletion. This depletion may probably extend into long-life effects with risks of skeletal fragility. Adequate vitamin D and calcium consumption will help manage any mild bone loss during pregnancy and lactation. (PubMed)

Safety Precautions Tips When Buying & Using Pregnancy Vitamins Pills or Multivitamins

You should be keen when making any decision on buying and the use of vitamin pills.

Precautions when buying

You should know what vitamins you require before deciding on what pills to purchase. Probably, it is necessary for instance to know the amount of iron your body requires versus how much you already have. This is in order to avoid purchasing vitamins with either too much or too little iron; both of which have consequences. Some dealers will want you to buy a vitamin pill that is expensive yet it may not be what you require. In that case, they are trying to boost their sales at the expense of your health. You need to be cautious when you buy these pills.

Precautions when using the vitamin pills

In terms of use, this is mostly on the dosage. You should not overdose any of these vitamins because we have already seen the associated side effects mentioned above such as headaches and stomach upsets. It is necessary that you follow the doctor’s prescription for best results. The doctor will not only guide you on the vitamin pills to use but will also shed light on how much of the vitamins will be beneficial to your body.

 

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