Having a baby is one of the biggest milestones in a woman’s life, but pregnancy also requires knowledge, caution, and new sets of healthy behaviors.
Let’s face it — not only does becoming pregnant require you to do a bit of research, but also a bit of planning.
As an expecting mother, you want to make sure that when you finally reach pregnancy, you have a healthy one. Besides, a healthy pregnancy means a healthy baby.
Diet, physical activity, stress level, and much more can affect your body and the baby’s, but what can also aid in experiencing a healthy pregnancy is taking supplements known as prenatal vitamins.
You might be familiar with the term, but still wondering what prenatal vitamins are. What are the different types of prenatal vitamins? When should I start taking prenatal vitamins? How do I find the best prenatal vitamins for me?
If you’re having any doubts or questions about them, then look no further.
We’re here to give you a rundown of what they do, who they’re for, when to start taking them, and to answer your important question “what are prenatal vitamins?”
What Are Prenatal Vitamins & What Do They Do?
Prenatal vitamins assist a woman’s body in producing the right nutrients and minerals needed before and during her first trimester. They do this through an important vitamin called Folic acid.
Folic acid is provided to the cells in your body because babies need this nutrient to grow and develop properly. Taking prenatal vitamins daily is the best way to ensure you get the right amount of Folic acid your body needs to get pregnant. According to Planned Parenthood, that “right amount” is 400 mcg.
Through taking prenatal vitamins, your cells will get the 400 mcg they need, but they do more than just help you reach pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can also lower the risk of your baby suffering from NTDs (Neural Tube Defects).
If a baby experiences an NTD, something could go wrong with the development of their brain or spine. The Folic acid included in the prenatal vitamins is what helps to prevent it.
The Different Types of Prenatal Vitamins
There are several types of prenatal vitamins, which can make it difficult when trying to decide which one to take.
Whether your doctor has prescribed you some or you’ve decided to try over the counter ones, it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body –and your baby’s.
The list isn’t too long, though. Prenatal vitamins can be divided into 3 specific types.
- Vegan and Organic Prenatal Vitamins
- Prescription Prenatal Vitamins
- Over the Counter Prenatal Vitamins
Each has its own characteristics, ingredients, purposes, and specificities. After reading a bit about each one, you’ll get a step closer to finding out what the best prenatal vitamins are for you.
Vegan and Organic Prenatal Vitamins
If you’re a dedicated vegan, it’s important to know that some prenatal vitamins are made from animal sources. However, there’s a quick and easy solution to this problem.
Vegan and organic vitamins are made entirely from plant-based sources. To prove it to you, they are also certified as being organically made.
While there are many advantages to choosing vegan and organic vitamins, you can’t have pros without cons. Since they’re vegan, these vitamins don’t come in capsules like most other vitamins. This is because the material that capsules are made of is gelatin, which has animal ingredients inside.
Instead, vegan vitamins come in the form of tablets. However, these tablets mean there is limited protection of the sensitive ingredients due to the lack of a secure gelatin coating. Don’t get discouraged, though — there are some vitamins that allow you to choose from the plant-based version or the animal-based version. If the vitamins you’ve chosen allows this, the right option for you as a vegan is Vitamin D2 (also called “ergocalciferol”).
Prescription Prenatal Vitamins
Many women choose to consult their doctor or nurse when considering prenatal vitamins.
While it’s a great idea to receive an expert’s advice on this type of situation, you can still take prenatal vitamins without getting a prescription for the same value. Just because you have a prescription doesn’t necessarily mean your prenatal vitamins will be of better quality or more effective than the ones you can buy over the counter.
If you feel like you’re a “special case”, then chances are it’s probably best to seek expert opinion and get a prescription. Examples of these special cases are if you’ve had a bad pregnancy in the past, such as experiencing an NTD or sickle cell disease. Plus, with a prescription, your insurance might cover part of or all of the cost — something to think about.
Over the Counter Prenatal Vitamins
Like previously mentioned, you don’t need a prescription to start taking prenatal vitamins. After all, the prescription or brand name isn’t what effects the quality or effectivity of the supplements. Instead, the ingredients they’re made out of is what makes the vitamins effective and trustworthy.
When looking for over the counter prenatal vitamins, it’s important to look for the following ingredients:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B
- Folic Acid
You can find over the counter vitamins at grocery stores, drug stores, and supercenters. One of the best things about getting your vitamins over the counter is that they are usually the most cost-effective unless your prescription is covered by insurance.
However, something to be aware of with over the counter prenatal vitamins is that while most of them are just as effective as prescription vitamins, some brands use lower quality ingredients, such as mineral salts and synthetic vitamins.
When to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
The decision of when to start taking prenatal vitamins can be a tough and confusing one to make, especially if you haven’t received a prescription or recommendation from your doctor.
Since the cells of your body need sufficient amounts of Folic acid daily in order to develop a baby, it’s important to start taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy. Not only will it help you get pregnant faster (because your body is ready), but it will also give you the best chances of a healthy pregnancy, such as reducing the risks of birth defects.
How early before pregnancy are you supposed to be taking them, though? According to Planned Parenthood, you should start taking prenatal vitamins one month before trying to get pregnant.
While taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy is crucial, it’s important to keep taking them throughout the entire pregnancy.
What are the Best Prenatal Vitamins for Me?
If you’re still struggling to determine what the best prenatal vitamins for you are, consider talking to a professional to get personal advice about your situation — who knows, you might need a prescription. Your doctor, nurse, or midwife can make the best recommendations.
If you’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs or sickle cell disease in the past, you might need more Folic acid than what’s typically included in even the best over the counter prenatal vitamins.
If so, the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor.
Do you think you’ve found the right vitamins for you?
Share in the comments below!