Myths about prenatal vitamins

Myths about prenatal vitamins

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, you’ve probably heard about the importance of prenatal vitamins. However, you may have also heard some myths or false information about them as well.  We’ve compiled the most common myths about prenatal vitamins and parsed out the facts and fiction so you feel confident about your health.

Myth 1: Prenatal vitamins are critical for a healthy pregnancy

Although prenatal vitamins are often recommended if you’re trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding, taking prenatal vitamins isn’t a necessity, even under these circumstances. Take into account factors like your diet and your body’s specific needs when deciding whether you should take them. Certain vitamins are important to have when trying to conceive, such as folate and iron. You may be able to get this through your diet alone. Tracking your diet can help you figure out if you have a nutrient imbalance and need to supplement in some way. If you have concerns about whether taking prenatal vitamins is right for you, don’t be afraid to ask your primary care provider.

When should I start taking a prenatal?

Studies suggest that taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy helps prevent early developmental issues in the baby when you do get pregnant. Folic acid, calcium, and iron (three of the nutrients that are present in a prenatal) are beneficial for this prevention process. It’s suggested that you start supplying the proper nutrition for pregnancy early by taking a prenatal at least one month before becoming pregnant. 

Are prenatal vitamins good for you?

Prenatal vitamins are designed to provide the extra nutrients your body needs for a healthy pregnancy. You need extra calcium in pregnancy to prevent a decrease in your bone density and the extra iron may prevent anemia. Other nutrients, like folic acid, are beneficial for the development of your baby. However, too much of a good thing can be a problem. If you’re experiencing nausea or constipation, both common in pregnancy, one possible cause is an imbalance in nutrients. If you aren’t sure what’s causing your discomfort, you can always chat with your primary care provider.  

What other options are there?

Taking prenatal vitamins isn’t the only way to promote a healthy pregnancy. You need a larger amount of some nutrients, but it’s easy to over-compensate by taking too much. Instead of taking prenatal vitamins, you can take separate supplements of select nutrients like folic acid or calcium. It could be helpful to ask your primary care provider to help you sort through the options.

Myth 2: It’s always safe to take a prenatal

Are prenatal vitamins safe?

In most cases, taking prenatal vitamins won’t do much harm. Most side effects, such as nausea or constipation, are minor discomforts. Some supplements and medications don’t interact well when you take them at the same time as your prenatal vitamins, however. Make sure you check to see how certain supplements and medications might interact with one another. If you are concerned about any major risks due to the medications you take, we suggest asking your primary care provider to help you create a timetable that includes notes on proper use.  

What happens if you miss a day of prenatal vitamins?

Although you should try to remember to take your prenatal, missing a day isn’t a reason to stress. The lapse of missing one day of supplements won’t derail your health or the development of your baby because your diet will still provide most of the nutrients needed in your pregnancy. Of course, it’s not advisable to miss too many days. No diet is perfect, so the supplemental vitamins and minerals still serve a valuable purpose. Prenatals may help fill in any nutritional gaps. 

Myth 3: Prenatal vitamins prevent birth defects

There’s a correlation between taking prenatal vitamins and the likelihood of birth defects, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove it one way or the other. There are many factors, including your age and weight, that contribute to the development of your baby. Issues that arise are likely to have multiple factors weighing in.

Vitamins and birth defects

Studies suggest that prenatal vitamins can help decrease the risk of having a baby with low birth weight and other developmental disabilities. Providing the proper nutrition is helpful, though not the only determining factor. Birth defects can occur when you provide either too many or too few nutrients to your baby. Developmental and intellectual disabilities may result from too much vitamin A. Folic acid aids in the proper development of the brain and spinal cord, so too little folic acid may lead to disabilities like neural tube defects. Iron helps transport oxygen to your baby, and an iron deficiency can lead to slower developmental growth or early birth. 

If you have specific questions about if you should be taking prenatal vitamins, we suggest speaking with your primary care provider.

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