Pregnancy and you blog

Prenatal vitamins: Are they really necessary?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. February 9, 2011

I'd like to think that I have a perfect diet. However, I'm well aware of the M&Ms that pass my lips every day, and I could stand to eat more iron-rich foods. You're probably in touch with your own diet shortcomings, too. During pregnancy, though, you're likely to become more conscious of what and how much you eat. Enter prenatal vitamins.

I'm not sure of many pills larger than traditional prenatal vitamins. Here's a pregnant woman, fighting nausea and expected to swallow a pill the size of her thumb and then keep it down! Still, prenatal vitamins help you get enough folic acid, iron and other essential nutrients. If you're on a special diet — such as gluten free, vegetarian or vegan — or have other specific needs, your health care provider may recommend other nutritional supplements.

There's an important caveat, though. Prenatal vitamins aren't meant to replace the nutrients you get from food. They just make sure you don't fall short on key nutrients.

If you're having trouble taking prenatal vitamins — or keeping them down — it might help to take the vitamins at night or with a snack. You might also chew gum or suck on hard candy afterward. If the vitamins seem to make you constipated, remember to drink plenty of water. It might also help to include more fiber in your diet and get regular physical activity.

What have you experienced with prenatal vitamins? Please share!

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Feb. 09, 2011