If you're growing a baby, you've probably been told by your doctor, sister, cousin, aunt, neighbour and favourite mum-influencer that taking daily vitamins is good for pregnant women. But, do you actually know why prenatal vitamins are important?
In short, taking prenatal vitamins is the easiest way to give you and your baby a boost of all the vitamins and minerals you both need to survive and thrive during pregnancy.
Just like your belly, we know your to-do list is ever-growing, but you should definitely add taking prenatal vitamins to the top of it. But, there are so many supplements on the market, so knowing what kind to get can be tricky.
From why you need to take them to when you should take them and even a certain brand with the best ones, we are giving you the rundown on all things prenatal vitamins.
Why take prenatal vitamins?
A pregnant woman needs to have more specific vitamins, minerals and nutrients than usual in order to support her health and the health of the foetus.
You may not be getting enough of these nutrients in your day to day diet. This is because nutrition deficiency during pregnancy can lead to certain severe defects in a baby's development.
Nutrition deficiency before you even conceive and during pregnancy can pose a risk to your baby’s growth and development and lead to birth defects in the extreme case.
Kin's dietitian Stacey Turner on how to find the right prenatal for you.
Some of the extras we need to grow a healthy baby
Did you know that folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy? Basically, a lack of folic acid can cause damage to your baby's neural tube, affecting its brain and spinal cord.
But folic acid comes from fruit and leafy greens, right? Correct, but while you might assume you get enough folic acid from a healthy diet, eating bulk berries and spinach won't cut it during pregnancy.
This is because your folate requirements actually increase by 50% during pregnancy! To add to that, one in three people have difficulties absorbing folic acid. So, even if you're getting enough, your body might be saying, "no, thank you."
It seems rude, right? But, this is because folic acid is actually a synthetic form of folate, the vitamin found in fruit and veg, and sometimes our systems want au natural nutrition.
When you’re pregnant you’re actually making more blood to carry nutrients and oxygen to your baby. This increase in blood volume means that you need more iron - your requirements increase by 50% during pregnancy.
This along with changes in taste and food preferences (especially if you’re grossed out by red meat means it can be especially difficult to get enough iron in your day to day diet.
During pregnancy, your thyroid is more active than normal, meaning that it needs to produce more hormones to support the growth and development of your baby.
Iodine is the key to unlock the factory that makes these hormones. Generally we get most of our iodine from iodised salt or kelp and seaweed - but not all of us are guzzling seaweed all day!
So how on earth do we get in these essential vitamins and minerals? Enter, our Next-Gen Prenatal.
Specially formulated with methylated folate, this is a more bioavailable form of folic acid which is crucial for the development of your baby's brain and spinal cord. Forgoing prenatal vitamins doesn't cause birth defects but it does make sure that you’ve covered all your bases if your diet isn’t up to scratch.
More likely than not, your body will prioritise supplying all the adequate nutrition to bubs, so mum will be losing out. So, we need to make sure we are getting enough nutrition to share.
Prenatal vitamins and supplements are the easiest way to make sure you get all the key nutrients.
Packed full of iron to support healthy red blood cells, calcium for strong bones, omega three fatty acids, vitamin D and B vitamins, folate, and other nutrients, the list of health benefits from prenatals is endless.
And, as an added bonus, these prenatals won't make you feel sick or nauseous, which can be quite common with other prenatal vitamins.
What's the difference between a prenatal vitamin and a normal multivitamin?
If you're thinking about taking prenatal vitamins, you're probably wondering if any old supplement will do. While something is better than nothing, there is a difference between a prenatal and a plain old over-the-counter multivitamin.
The main difference is prenatal vitamins are formulated specifically for supporting foetal development, meaning you know they're full of folate, calcium, iron and all the other vitamins and minerals mum and bub need.
While a multivitamin might have a few of these things, it certainly won't have all of them in one specific form.
So it is far more straightforward to stick to a prenatal when you can.
How early should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
So now you know why you should take them, you're probably wondering, when to start taking prenatal vitamins? It might surprise you to learn that you should start taking prenatal vitamins before you even fall pregnant.
This is because preventing defects in the neural tube is one of the primary jobs of a prenatal.
So, as a baby's brain and spinal cord develop in the first trimester, often before women even realise they're pregnant, taking prenatals while trying to conceive ensures you're covered for this pivotal developmental stage.
Experts recommend taking prenatal vitamins for at least three months before you begin trying to ensure that when you do get pregnant, your growing baby is getting all of the vitamins and minerals it needs for healthy development.
Is it okay to switch prenatal vitamin brands?
Call us biased, but not all brands are created equally when it comes to prenatal vitamins. And, if you start on one but you're not totally happy with it, you can always switch to a different prenatal vitamin.
Getting a consistent dose of the minerals and nutrients within the supplement is far more important than the brand itself. But, don't switch too haphazardously.
We recommend talking to your healthcare provider about what specific brand and dosage would be best for you. This will ensure you avoid any potential problems from prenatal vitamin side effects, such as iron overdose.
Also, if you're looking to jump the supplement ship, check out prenatal vitamins here!
What happens if you don't take prenatal vitamins?
If you're thinking, "I didn't take prenatal vitamins," that is fine. We certainly aren't here to mum shame anyone. However, healthcare providers strongly recommend them for some very good reasons.
While you could still have a perfectly healthy baby without them, prenatal vitamins are one of the most effective and easy ways to support a healthy pregnancy.
So if you can take them, we would say do.
Can you take prenatals when you're not pregnant?
Yes, and no. As mentioned above, if you're trying to conceive, you should start taking prenatals before getting pregnant to prevent neural tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy.
However, if you're considering popping these pills when you're not pregnant because someone on the internet, somewhere (wrongfully) said they will give you thicker hair, then stop right there.
Taking excessive doses of vitamins and minerals found in prenatals can be harmful over long periods of time for non-pregnant women. Your body actually needs and uses up more of these nutrients during pregnancy preventing them from building up in your system over time.
But no baby means your system can become overloaded with minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium which can have some nasty side effects. So, only take them if you're actively trying to conceive or if you're pregnant.
Do prenatals make you gain weight?
Prenatal vitamins side effects do not include weight gain. In fact, there is no evidence to support this claim whatsoever.
So we are calling it fake news.
If you're growing a baby, you're going to put on weight; it is just a fact of (creating) life, so let's not get caught up on the number on the scales and enjoy this beautiful (be it challenging) time, extra kilos and all.
When should you stop taking prenatal vitamins?
Most healthcare professionals recommend keeping your prenatal vitamins up postpartum, but How long should you take prenatal vitamins? Well, it shouldn’t end as soon you give birth to your new bundle of joy.
Let's talk about postnatal vitamins.
After giving birth, you still need to top up your body's nutrient stores, and postnatal vitamins are one of the easiest ways to do so.
Like prenatal vitamins, postnatals also give mum more folic acid, omega three fatty acids, calcium, and other nutrients to ensure she compensates for what is lost in pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Kin's Postnatal Vitamins are a gentle daily supplement designed to support new mums and ensure you get all the nutrients you need. We recommend taking these for at least six months postpartum.
In short, you should start prenatal vitamins at least three to six months before conception and continue taking prenatal vitamins for your entire pregnancy. After giving birth, you should switch to postnatal vitamins for at least six months to support you in the postpartum period.