Is It Safe To Use Prenatal Vitamins As A Beauty Supplement If You're Not Planning To Become Pregnant?

Celebrities like Mindy Kaling have attributed their thick, shiny hair to prenatal vitamins – even though they're not pregnant (via InStyle). But are these supplements really safe to take if you're not pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

Prenatal vitamins are a mix of certain vitamins and minerals that your baby needs for optimal growth, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The body needs an increased amount of some of these vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, such as folic acid, calcium, and iron. Your doctor might recommend a prenatal vitamin to you, since they're not all the same and don't all have the same ingredients and dosages.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends getting 600 micrograms of folic acid each day while pregnant. It's difficult to get this much from food sources alone, so it's recommended to begin taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before you plan to become pregnant. Other important supplements in a prenatal vitamin include B vitamins, DHA, choline, and vitamins A, C, and D.

The potential harm of too many unneeded supplements

But if you're thinking of taking a prenatal vitamin and you're not pregnant or planning to become pregnant, you might want to think again, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some people claim they can give you thicker hair and stronger nails, but this is not proven, and in fact, taking unnecessary amounts of certain supplements for a long period of time can cause harm.

For example, during pregnancy, it's recommended to take 27 milligrams of iron each day. But when you're not pregnant, women between the ages of 19 and 50 only need 18 milligrams per day. If you get too much iron, it can build up in your system and become toxic. Too much iron can cause diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and even death.

Too much folic acid when you're not pregnant can also be harmful (via Healthline). If you're getting folic acid in excess, one side effect is that you might not realize if you're vitamin B-12 deficient.

If you're not pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it would be wiser to focus on getting a balanced diet instead of taking prenatal vitamins when you don't need them. Prioritize a variety of lean proteins, whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, and low-fat dairy sources.