When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

Ideally, you'll start taking prenatal vitamins before conception. The baby's neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord, develops during the first month of pregnancy — perhaps before you even know that you're pregnant.

What if the vitamins are tough to swallow?

If you have trouble swallowing standard prenatal vitamins, you might try the chewable variety — or ask your health care provider about other options.

How long should I take prenatal vitamins?

It's best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. Your health care provider might recommend continuing to take prenatal vitamins after the baby is born — especially if you're breast-feeding.

Do prenatal vitamins have any side effects?

Some women feel queasy after taking prenatal vitamins. If this happens to you, take your prenatal vitamin with a snack or before you go to bed at night.

In other cases, the iron in prenatal vitamins contributes to constipation. To prevent constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Include more fiber in your diet
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine, as long as you have your health care provider's OK
  • Ask your health care provider about using a stool softener

If these tips don't seem to help, ask your health care provider about other options. He or she might recommend another type of prenatal vitamin or separate folic acid, calcium with vitamin D, and iron supplements.

Apr. 20, 2012 See more In-depth