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To Take or Not ToTake Prenatal Vitamins

Allison Hutton


One thing common among the majority of women who are pregnant is the fact that, at some point, the thought of swallowing a horse-pill sized prenatal vitamin is repulsive. Many women, in fact, refuse to take prenatal vitamins at all. I am lucky in the fact that taking prenatals never bothered me a bit, not even with the nausea of morning sickness. That's one of the few, if not the only, affliction I have avoided during pregnancy. Oh yes, I forgotI was never stuck down with hemorrhoids. Other than that, I've run the gamut.

So, what is the answer to the prenatal debate? Are they really necessary, or can a woman get by just fine, eating a balanced diet? The answer to that depends on whom you ask. In a recent study, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that pregnant women not take any type of multivitamin, unless they smoked, were carrying multiple fetuses, drinkers, or vegetarians. If you don't fall into any of these categories, according to the N.A.S., then you have no need for multivitamins. However, the organization does recommend that all pregnant women receive nutritional counseling, so ask your doctor how you can obtain this type of service.

On the other end of the spectrum, many well-known organizations and publications are avid supporters of prenatal vitamins. In one article published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), one study showed that women (not taking prenatals) who gave birth to babies with neural tube defects (such as Spina Bifida) had a much less chance of giving birth to a 2nd child with a neural tube defect, when they took prenatal vitamins.

Regardless of your stance on this debate, I am sure we can all agree that we want the same outcome - a healthy baby. Of course, a prenatal vitamin isn't going to make up for an inadequate diet; but some believe it may provide a woman with vitamins and minerals that she may otherwise be lacking.

Of all vitamins available, either in foods or vitamins, the one that pregnant women appear to be lacking in most is Folic Acid. A woman's daily requirement for Folic Acid more than doubles in pregnancy, going from 180 to 400 micrograms. The best source of Folic Acid in foods is found in raw fruits and vegetables. Preparation and cooking can deplete this water-soluble vitamin; so eat these foods raw (or lightly steamed) whenever you can.

An important mineral during pregnancy is calcium. While found in prenatals, it can also be found in many foods. Some examples of calcium-rich foods are: yogurt, milk, hard cheeses, salmon, kale, cottage cheese, tofu, broccoli, sardines, custard and ice cream. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, you may be best served in taking a calcium supplement.

Iron is also a very important mineral, as it aids in the carrying of oxygen throughout the blood. Low iron can lead to anemia (been there, done that), which can cause extreme fatigue, among other things. Iron-rich foods include: Liverwurst, prune juice, ground beef (and other red meats) chick peas, raisins, molasses, kidney beans, spinach, lima beans, chicken, turkey and apricots. When my iron was low in my last pregnancy, I craved meat like never before. I am not an avid meat-eater, so that should have been a clue to low iron. I also know of women who have craved dirt - no joke. One woman could have easily picked up a handful of soil and ate it, while another would buy farm-fresh potatoes, and lick the dirt off of them. Although this sounds completely bizarre, it does happen. When your body is severely lacking in vitamins or minerals, it will try to let you know; either through cravings or physical symptoms. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you, and talk to your doctor if you suspect a deficiency.

If you want to take prenatal vitamins, but have difficulty getting them down, try taking them at different times of the day. You can also try to smash them into a power, and incorporate them into milkshakes, desserts, or other foods. Although I have never personally seen this, I have heard that prenatal vitamins do come in a powder form, which can be mixed with water, milk, or juice for consumption. If something like this interests you, ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Whether you choose to take prenatal vitamins or not, eat a well-balanced meal, and try to get the best nourishment you can. Your baby will thank you for it!

My name is Allison Hutton. I was recently introduced to the Baby Corner by Elizabeth Geiger, and have found it to be a wonderful resource for those trying to conceive, those who are expecting, and those who are already parents. I am a stay at home Mom to my beautiful daughter, Hannah, and wife to my wonderful husband, Daniel. After a long journey battling recurrent pregnancy loss, we welcomed our daughter into the world on St. Patrick's Day, 1999. Motherhood has been the most challenging, exhausting, and rewarding job I have ever had! In my "spare" time, I enjoy freelance writing about issues dealing with pregnancy, parenting, infertility, and women's health. I hope to provide some insight to pregnancy, as well as information that can be difficult to find on the web. I look forward to becoming a part of the Baby Corner, and hope to make a difference, no matter how small.

Allison is a contributing editor for The Baby Corner as well Editor of Pregnancy after Miscarriage at Suite 101.

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Guest Mar 14, 2014 08:17:11 PM ET

Folic acid is not important. Do you know why? Because its a synthetic version of folate. It was created in 1943. And too much will make you sick. How is that good for the baby?? What did women do centuries before folic acid? Before vitamins?? How did the human race survive? Eating a balanced diet is the way to go. Doctors couldn't pay me to take those pills. Ladies, do your research!

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