What Are The Most Important Ingredients In A Prenatal Vitamin?

For women who are pregnant, or looking to get pregnant, prenatal vitamins can be a great way to get the nutrients they need when their diet isn't enough (via the Mayo Clinic). They are readily available over the counter at just about any pharmacy, allowing you to choose the kind of vitamins you want unless your healthcare provider has a specific recommendation as to what you should be taking.

According to the March of Dimes, as your baby grows in the womb, it gets all the nutrients it needs from you, so having a surplus of vitamins for both you and your baby is a good thing. This is especially true if you are carrying multiples. However, you do want to be careful when selecting the right vitamins for your nutritional needs. For example, if you are a vegetarian or have certain food allergies, you may want to speak to your doctor in order to take a supplement that will give you and your baby all the nutrients you both will need during the pregnancy.

These prenatal vitamin ingredients stand out above the rest

There are a number of important ingredients in prenatal vitamins, but one of the most important is folic acid (via WebMD). Doctors recommend that women begin taking folic acid prior to conception and into the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, as it can help in avoiding neural tube defects that can affect the baby's brain and spinal cord. In addition to being in vitamin supplements, folic acid naturally occurs in green leafy vegetables, nuts, and citrus fruits. In addition, South Denver OB/Gyn & Midwives reports that docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid that is important in neural tube development.

The March of Dimes also cites calcium, iron, and vitamin D as key ingredients in a prenatal vitamin regimen. Most expectant mothers need at least 1,000 milligrams of daily calcium in order to support their baby's bone and teeth development, as well as to protect their own bones. Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption and for helping your baby's bones and teeth grow. Pregnant women also need twice as much iron every day as they did before they were pregnant. This mineral helps the body make blood, which will then carry oxygen to the baby.

While the side effects of prenatal vitamins are minimal, the Mayo Clinic does note that they can cause constipation in some cases. Be sure to drink fluids, eat a diet high in fiber and, with your doctor's consent, incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.