Taking Your Prenatal Supplements Is More Important Than You Think

What you need, and why you need it.

Nothing is more important than the health of your baby. Whether you’re trying to conceive or 3 trimesters in, your vitamin and supplement regimen is the most important part of your nutrition. It’s hard to get all the nutrients your baby needs from your diet, even if it’s close to perfect. So what’s the problem? It’s really easy to miss your pills. You had to rush out in the morning, or just didn’t feel like getting up from the couch. Some of us just forget. One study showed pregnant women adhered to prescribed supplements only 68% of the time. The health benefits of taking your supplements during and after pregnancy are much bigger than you think. Here’s what you need and why it matters.

Folic acid, 400 mg daily
Taking folic acid regularly reduces your baby’s risk for neural tube defects by 50–70%. The neural tube, including the brain, spine, and spinal cord, starts forming very early on, often before you find out you’re pregnant. Many nutritionists recommend to start a folic acid regimen while trying to conceive. It also reduces the risk of other defects like cleft lip, autism, and certain heart defects.

Vitamin D, 10 mg daily
We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, so it’s hard to get enough of it as a baby growing inside a mom’s belly! It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, keeping bones and teeth strong. Children with a healthy amount of vitamin D can avoid rickets, a bone development disease caused by softened bones.

Iron, 30 mg daily
According to the CDC, you should start your first iron supplement the day of your first prenatal appointment. When pregnant, you have 50% more blood than usual. That’s a lot of oxygen to carry around. Placenta and your growing baby need the extra iron, especially in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Taking iron supplements regularly can prevent preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality.

Calcium, 1000 mg daily
Your baby needs calcium to grow strong bones, as well as healthy nerves and muscles. Even though your prenatal supplement contains calcium, it’s likely not enough — calcium is a bulky mineral and usually doesn’t fit in a multivitamin. Aim for 1000 mg a day but in small 100–200 mg doses throughout the day. Also stay on track with your vitamin D supplements since they’re necessary to absorb calcium.

Vitamin C, 85 mg daily
We love vitamin C because it builds collagen and keeps our skin looking fresh. But did you know that it also keeps your baby healthy too? Sounds like a win-win. Some researchers found that vitamin C deficiencies in newborn babies can impair mental development. In most cases, If you’re breastfeeding, aim for 120 mg a day.

Keeping track is key
If you’ve spoken to a doctor about your supplement regimen, he or she is treating you and your baby assuming you’re 100% adherent. In addition, missing supplements could affect the health of your baby at very sensitive stages of development. Double dosing, as a result of forgetting if you took it already, can be dangerous. Especially for vitamins found naturally in our diets like vitamin A, high doses can cause birth defects and liver toxicity. Luckily, it’s easy to stay on track with the tools and resources out there, like Baby Center and WebMD. But before you head to Vitamin Shoppe, speak with your doctor.

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By Ali Zaman, Growth at HERO

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