No love or bond is stronger than that of a mother to her child.
So it’s no wonder our maternal instincts kick in early, even before you can hold them in your arms.
That being said, before you’ve conceived you want to keep your child as far out of harm’s way as possible.
Knowledge and good decisions are the main ways to safeguard both of you.
We need to be extra cautious about what we put into our bodies, especially when we’re trying to conceive, have a baby on the way, or are breastfeeding.
Prenatal vitamins are one way to help foster a healthy full-term pregnancy.
But are they safe?
Let’s take a look at the safety of prenatal vitamins.
So, Are Prenatal Vitamins Really Safe?
This is an extremely important question and the answer is: Yes!
Prenatal vitamins are indeed safe for you and your baby.
Not only are they safe but also they protect and nurture your little bundle of joy.
They are an exceptional way to bridge any nutritional gaps that may be lacking from your diet.
Optimal nutrition through diet and supplementation can create a definite supply of crucial vitamins and minerals needed by mom and baby.
These vitamins help ensure the proper growth and function during this critical, yet delicate time in your pregnancy.
They also protect against devastating birth defects and harmful deficiencies.
Some of these include preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), small birth weight, impaired growth, and defects affecting the spinal cord, spine, and brain.
Let’s take a further look into this topic…
Prenatal Supplementation And Vitamin Deficiencies
Vitamin deficiencies are a major concern during pregnancy because they directly affect the health of mom and baby.
There’s a common myth that babies are “parasites”.
This is far from the truth.
Nutrients go to the mother first and then to the growing fetus.
If there’s not enough to go around, the baby is the one who goes without and suffers the consequences.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises most women during pregnancy to take a prenatal vitamin supplement to help certify that they are getting an adequate level of folic acid and other essential nutrients.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reported nationally representative data of 15,030 individuals that showed the risk for a vitamin deficiency or anemia was most prevalent among women from 19 to 50 years of age (spanning the most common age range for deciding to have a baby) (41%), and women who were pregnant or breastfeeding (47%).
Individuals who didn’t consume a dietary supplement were at the greatest risk of any vitamin deficiency (40%), in contrast to those who took a full-spectrum multivitamin or multi-mineral supplement (14%).
This shows that women already have a higher risk of vitamin deficiency, especially while pregnant or breastfeeding.
However, those who took a supplement with vitamins and minerals had a significantly lowered risk of deficiency or anemia.
Folic Acid Deficiency
Folic acid is something to pay close attention to during pregnancy.
As early as 1965, it was theorized that neural tube defects (NTD) and folate deficiency were correlated.
The theory was accurate and studies continue to show this relationship.
For this reason it’s highly recommended all pregnant women supplement with folic acid.
During 1991, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocated that women who had a previous pregnancy that resulted in NTD should supplement with 4,000 micrograms of folic acid per day as they begin planning a future pregnancy.
A year after, the U.S. Public Health Service advised all women capable of becoming pregnant to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day via diet, fortified foods, or supplements to prevent NTDs.
Later, during 1998, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggested women of childbearing age to supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in addition to their normal dietary intake of folic acid.
In 2009, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines that further established these findings and suggestions.
Currently, both the CDC and U.S. Public Health Service recommend that all women 15-45 years old should have a daily folic acid intake of 400 micrograms in order to prevent serious birth defects.
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency may include:
- Tender tongue or mouth sores
- Continued fatigue, irritability
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
In addition to folic acid supplements, folate from food is very beneficial during pregnancy.
Folate rich foods include:
- Spinach, 1 cup cooked – 263 mcg
- Lentils, 1 cup cooked – 358 mcg
- Enriched white rice, 1 cup cooked – 195 mcg
- Broccoli, 1 cup cooked – 168 mcg
- Orange juice, 1 cup – 110 mcg
- (2) slices enriched bread – 34 mcg
Vitamin D Deficiency
The effects of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy are elevated risks of C-section, preeclampsia, liver disorder (intrahepatic cholestasis), preterm labor, low birth weight, and gestational diabetes.
Women who are obese are also more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
In 2011, the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published a study that showed women who supplemented with 4,000 IU/day of Vitamin D during pregnancy had the highest benefits of avoiding harmful infections and preterm birth.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency aren’t always easily detectable but some include:
- Achy muscles
- Pain in bones
Along with proper supplementation, great sources of vitamin D include:
- 8 ounces low-fat milk, fortified with vitamin D: 2.5 mcg (98 IU)
- 3 ounces canned pink salmon: 11.6 mcg (465 IU)
- 8 ounces orange juice, fortified with vitamin D: 2.5 mcg (100 IU)
- 1 cup fortified cereal, 1 – 1.3 mcg (40 – 50 IU)
- 1 large egg yolk – 0.9 mcg (37 IU)
The CDC explains the highest occurrence of nutritional deficiency is iron deficiency.
They state it’s especially common in women that are pregnant.
Iron-deficiency anemia that takes place within the first or second trimester is related to a 2x greater chance of preterm delivery and a 3x greater risk of having a low-birth weight baby.
Supplementing with iron has been shown to lower the chances of a mother having iron-deficiency anemia while pregnant.
Iron deficiency has also been linked to maternal depression and perinatal mortality.
The recommended daily amount of iron for pregnant women is 27 mg during the first trimester and 30 mg for the second and third trimester.
Some potential signs of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Chest pain
- Weakness, fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Quickened heart rate
To help get an adequate amount of iron, some beneficial foods are:
- Whole Grain Total Cereal, ¾ cup – 22 mg
- Enriched white rice, 1 cup cooked – 8 mg
- Beef, 3 ounces cooked – 3 mg
- Lamb, 3 ounces cooked – 2 mg
- White meat chicken, 3 ounces cooked – 1 mg
- Cheerios, 1 cup – 10 mg
Vitamin B Deficiencies
A lack of adequate Vitamin B while pregnant may lead to abnormalities in the baby and side effects in the mom such as digestive issues, decreased immune function, excessive hair loss, anemia, exhaustion, and reduced muscle strength.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are linked to a number of issues including preterm birth, high blood pressure, low and very low birth weight, still birth, and neural tube defects.
The recommended amount of vitamin B12 during pregnancy is 2.6 micrograms per day.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiencies aren’t always easily recognized but some include:
- Poor balance
- Memory loss
- Tingling feet
- Shortness of breath
- Lessened sensation of touch
Vitamin B12 foods to pair with your prenatal vitamin are:
- 4 ounces salmon (cooked) – 3.25 mcg
- 4 ounces shrimp (cooked) – 1.69 mcg
- 4 ounces Venison (cooked) – 3.6 mcg
- 4 oz lean beef tenderloin (cooked) – 2.92mcg
Other sources include milk, eggs, poultry, and fortified milk alternatives such as soymilk.
Tips For Using Prenatal Vitamins
- Stick to one solid prenatal vitamin
Don’t go out and buy multiple different brands of prenatal vitamins and volley between one.
Find one prenatal vitamin that works best for you and your baby and get into the daily regime of taking it every day.
Some exceptions are if you need additional amounts of a specific nutrient and your diet and/or supplement isn’t covering it, such as omega-3 fatty acids (DHA).
- Be mindful of amounts
More is not always better when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
Balance is key when it comes to nourishing and protecting yourself and baby.
Too much of a certain nutrient can be harmful.
We want just the right amount to optimally support growing baby and ourselves.
For exact recommendations on what your prenatal should contain, or what amounts of vitamins and minerals you need from your diet, check out our Complete Guide To Prenatal Vitamin Ingredients.
- Go for natural products
The more natural, the better.
Check the ingredients and bottle to see if it’s GMO-free, soy free, gluten free, and yeast free.
It should be free from all harmful substances such as artificial ingredients, colors, and additives.
There should be no pesticides and herbicides and heavy metals present.
- Diet first and then supplements
It should not be the other way around.
Food should be your first source of nutrients followed by a prenatal vitamin to fill in any gaps.
- Properly deal with difficulties
Prenatal vitamins are incredibly important but sometimes they are hard to swallow (literally).
They can also cause an upset stomach, mostly because of the iron content.
Pair this with morning sickness and it seems like a real challenge to get your daily dose of vitamins.
If you’re having these problems, try taking the prenatal vitamin at night and with food.
This should help and you’ll likely end up sleeping through any queasiness or stomach upset.
Also, opt for a form that works best for you such as a gummy, chewable tablet, or powder.
The safety of your baby is #1.
When it comes to prenatal vitamins, they are not only safe but they also safeguard you and your growing baby.
They help cover any nutrient gaps you might have in your daily diet.
Vitamin deficiencies are scary and lead to severe complications.
Prenatal vitamins help combat many of those issues.
Pick your prenatal vitamin with care and educate yourself with the proper nutrients and recommended daily amounts.
With everything going on around and inside you, a prenatal vitamin gives you some solid reassurance and peace of mind.
If you need help deciding the right prenatal supplement for you, take a look at our current list of the 10 best prenatal vitamins!