Prenatal vitamins are an important addition to a women’s routine since they help mom-to-be in having a healthy pregnancy and baby, and folic acid is said to be an important essential. Dr. Shannon Huff, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Arden, North Carolina, who is a member of the Ariosa Diagnostics Speaker’s Bureau, took the time to share a few important things to know for women who are starting to try to have a baby, and are looking to pick the perfect prenatal vitamin. Check out the following Q &A:
Q: How soon should women start taking prenatal vitamins? When should they stop taking them (when you are actually pregnant)?
A: Women should start taking prenatal vitamins even before the first trimester — as soon as they’re off of birth control or planning to have a baby. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the prenatal vitamins you select have an adequate amount of folate.
Prenatal vitamins are good for you even if you’re not pregnant, so women can continue to take them even after they’ve given birth. I recommend they continue to take them during breastfeeding as well. After completing breastfeeding, they can either continue to take prenatal vitamins or switch to a daily multivitamin, which will have less folate.
Q: How much folic acid is recommended and why do women need this?
A: The most important aspect of choosing a prenatal vitamin is selecting one with an adequate amount of folate. Women need folic acid to reduce the risk of neuraltube defects like spina bifida in the fetus. Often times, pregnant women don’t consume folic acid when it’s most important — during the first trimester of pregnancy when their child’s spinal cord is developing. The amount of required folic acid is 400 mcg daily for low risk patients. High risk patients require 4 mgs of folate daily; these are patients who have had prior infants delivered with spina bifida or patients on anticonvulsant medications.
Q: Are there side effects from taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid?
A: Nausea and constipation are the most common side effects. Prenatal vitamins contain iron, which is important to decrease anemia, but this can result in constipation. Some prenatal vitamins include stool softeners to counteract this side effect. Other prenatal vitamins come in capsule form, so you can spring open the capsule and sprinkle the contents into your food to help prevent nausea. It may also be helpful to take your vitamin at night to ease nausea.
And as delicious and easy to take as they may be, beware of gummy vitamins, because they tend not to have any iron in them. One of the most common reasons I see anemia in patients during their second trimester is because they’re taking gummy vitamins.