Should I Take Prenatal Vitamins Before Pregnancy?

M. Walker

If possible, prenatal vitamins should be taken before pregnancy. This will not only prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, but it will also reduce the risks of some developmental problems that might occur during the very early stages of pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy reduces the risks of neural tube defects, low birth weights, and preterm deliveries.

Prenatal vitamins can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

For women who are trying to conceive, preparing their body for pregnancy often includes taking prenatal vitamins. While prenatal vitamins are similar to regular multivitamins, they include extra calcium and folic acid, which will benefit both the baby and the mother. Calcium is especially important for the mother’s health, as she will need stronger bones to support the extra weight associated with pregnancy. Many women also feel stronger and healthier, have more energy, and notice better skin, hair, and nails as a result of taking prenatal vitamins. For the growing baby the main advantage of starting prenatal vitamins before pregnancy is that the increased levels of vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy will be present in the body before conception, allowing the baby to benefit from these nutrients throughout the duration of the pregnancy.

Prenatal vitamins promote health for both the mother and growing baby.
Prenatal vitamins promote health for both the mother and growing baby.

Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, are developmental problems with the spinal chord and brain. These can be prevented by making sure to take enough folic acid and vitamin B, both of which promote healthy brain and spinal chord development. Most neural tube defects arise within the first four weeks of conception, often before a woman even realizes that she is pregnant. If a woman has not been getting adequate amounts of folic acid and vitamin B, her baby bay be at greater risk of developing these conditions. By beginning prenatal vitamins before pregnancy, you can better ensure the healthy development of your baby’s nervous system and greatly reduce the risk of a neural tube defect.

Pregnant women should always consult their physician before taking vitamins or other dietary supplements.
Pregnant women should always consult their physician before taking vitamins or other dietary supplements.

Extra calcium supplements for bone development and omega-3 fatty acid supplements for brain development are other prenatal vitamins that women should ideally begin to take before they become pregnant. Brain development begins within the first month of pregnancy, so taking omega-3 prenatal vitamins before pregnancy will promote healthier initial brain development. Calcium will help with healthy bone and tooth development, strengthening the bones and teeth to help prevent bone and tooth problems later in life. Similarly, iron is necessary for proper blood and muscle growth, and taking more iron earlier in the pregnancy will greatly decrease the chance of early delivery and low birth weight.

Many women notice better skin, hair, and nails after taking prenatal vitamins.
Many women notice better skin, hair, and nails after taking prenatal vitamins.
Prenatal vitamins may cause constipation and indigestion in some women.
Prenatal vitamins may cause constipation and indigestion in some women.

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