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Prenatal Vitamins…DO You Really Need Them?

Posted Aug 26 2008 12:16am
by Keith M. Henry

Prenatal vitamins are a hot topic among many women these days and many of them are talking about the benefits of using them before getting pregnant. The reasoning is that prenatal vitamins may help prevent some birth defects. Prenatal vitamins, in my opinion, should probably become part of the diet plan for expecting mothers. Pregnancy greatly increases the need for some nutrients and it can be hard to meet these needs through diet alone. Iron and folic acid are two such nutrients. Pregnancy is a time when both mother and baby are growing quickly. This rapid growth increases the demand for all nutrients, and the development of the baby and placenta are directly influenced by the mother’s nutritional status. Doctors will often prescribe a prenatal vitamin to a pregnant patient, but some evidence suggests that vitamins are beneficial for women who are planning to conceive. The consistent use of prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and breastfeeding is advisable to reduce or avert the chances of nutrition deficiencies.

Most Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to make up for nutritional deficiencies in a mother’s diet, and contain supplements such as vitamins, zinc, iron, and calcium. Perhaps most important, they contain folic acid, which reduces the risk of serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Prenatal vitamins could very well prove to play a vital role in a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, due in large part to the great defiencies now found in most of our food. However, prenatal vitamins are not meant to be your sole source of nutrients. They are meant to supplement, or prevent certain nutrient deficiencies. Eating a healthy, varied and balanced diet will go a long way toward ensuring the health of both mother and infant.



DHA is a fatty acid and is necessary for a baby’s brain development. It is needed by the child from the very earliest stages of pregnancy throughout the time of breastfeeding. DHA belongs to the omega -3 family of fatty acids and is essential, especially in pregnancy.


Iron is an important mineral, and most prenatal will have 30 to 40 mg. If a woman is anemic, she should talk to her health care provider about whether she will need more. Additionally, a natural practioner may recommend a different type of iron supplement. During the third trimester of pregnancy, the baby will use a tremendous amount of iron, which comes from the mother’s stored levels.


Folic acid is a must during pregnancy. It is plentiful in dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and whole grains, among other foods. It cuts the risk of birth defects in babies, and is almost always found in prenatal vitamins.

Folic acid has been proven essential to a baby’s neural tube development during the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy. This is the time when the mother is most likely to experience nausea and vomiting. Folic acid is regarded as so important that it is often recommended that women start taking folate, 30 days or more prior to attempting to conceive.


Calcium is certainly important in the development of a new baby. Calcium, 400 mg/day, and magnesium, 300 mg/day, help protect the mother’s bones and can help prevent pre-eclampsia. Chromium, 200 mg/day, helps control the mother’s blood sugar, and look for the following B vitamins: B12, 120 mg/day; B6, 20 mg/day, and B5, also known as pantothenic acid, 20 mg/day. CALCIUM - A supplement that contains 2-300 mg calcium is just a start toward reaching the recommended 1200 mg daily. However, anything beyond 250 mg of calcium (or 25 mg of magnesium) should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron.

With regard to prenatal vitamins, they are not all created equal. Most of them try and pack as much as possible into their vitamins, but they must be careful not to promote excess of what may amount to be toxic levels of fat soluble vitamins…for instance Vitamin A instead of beta-carotene, vitamin A’s precursor. The best prenatal needs to provide what mother and child needs, at just the right amounts, as well as avoiding amounts that avoid toxicity.

About the Author:
Keith Henry is a Medical Missionary Herbalist, and Naturopatheic Doctor Candidate.Check out Prenatal Vitamins for the Prenatal Vitamin He recommends. These Prenatal Vitamins even include herbs and supplements for pregnancy.

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