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Prenatal Vitamins: Necessity or Snake oil

Posted by Deepali Patni, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. on May 4, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Congratulations, you’re having a baby! Now begins a lifetime of choices that you’re not only making for yourself, but for your new little one as well. While some decisions will be easier than others, choices regarding your baby’s health can be tough, especially if you’re getting conflicting information. 

Essential Vitamins

You know by now that eating a healthy diet of protein and green, leafy vegetables is important when you’re pregnant, but do you know why? Physicians want you to eat these types of foods during pregnancy because they contain vitamins and minerals that are medically proven to help your baby’s prenatal health. Prenatal vitamins contain vitamins and minerals found in these foods (folic acid, iodine, iron and calcium, among others), so they cover any gaps in your diet if you’re not exactly eating what you should be every day.

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Why Taking Prenatal Vitamins Matters

First, let me say that prenatal vitamins do matter. Doctors all over the world recommend that pregnant women take a good prenatal vitamin every day to help assure your baby will grow strong and healthy. In fact, taking prenatal vitamins is something you should do as soon as you decide that you’re going to attempt a pregnancy. Taking an adult multivitamin every day will not help you achieve the same results. Prenatal vitamins have more folic acid, calcium and iron than adult multivitamins, and here’s why: 

  •  Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects in your baby, which include serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Iron is important because it helps support the baby’s growth and development. It also helps prevent anemia.
  •  Calcium is necessary, especially during the third trimester, for helping your baby’s rapidly developing bones. 

When you’re looking for a prenatal vitamin, look for one that contains folic acid, calcium and iron. Vitamins that also contain vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper and zinc are also good to look for. Talk to your physician to see what they recommend. It’s possible that they might suggest a specific brand or additional vitamins depending on your lab tests and diet. 

Consider the Source

There’s no shortage of anti-prenatal-vitamins chatter on the Internet. My advice is to get your medical information from a physician you trust. It is their job to give you the best, most current information and advice regarding your child’s health, and they are far more knowledgeable about the science of medicine than an individual writing their own personal opinion online. If you surf the Internet for medical information, always consider the source. Have you checked the author’s credentials? Where do they work? What is their experience? What site is this information on and is there any confirmed medical research to back it up? When in doubt, the best thing to do is ask your doctor. 

Patni_Deepali.pngDr. Deepali Patni is a board-certified Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Downtown at The Shops at Houston Center 4 and Woman’s Center locations. Her clinical interests include well-woman care and gynecological surgery.

 

 

Topics: pregnancy, calcium, folic acid, iron, prenatal vitamins

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