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Why Are Prenatal Vitamins Important?

Why are prenatal vitamins so important?
It is pretty well known that prenatal vitamins are important during pregnancy. I am sure you have also heard that it is important to start them when you are trying to get pregnant, and even after you deliver and are breastfeeding.So why are prenatal vitamins so important?  I like to look at them as a way to fill the gaps in your diet.  Eating a well balanced healthy diet is important during pregnancy. If you have ever been pregnant, you can attest that sometimes you don’t always eat exactly as you should.  For example, in my pregnancy I was extremely nauseous, and the only thing I could eat was donuts, Fritos and lemon heads! Hardly a well balanced healthy diet! No judging!  By taking my prenatal vitamin, I was able to fill the vitamin and nutrient gap the Fritos did not cover.

Prenatal vitamins are special because they contain a few extra vitamins and minerals that regular vitamins don’t have. Specifically, Iron, Calcium and Folic Acid.

Iron-  Pregnant women are susceptible to developing iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy.  Iron supplementation prevents this, and also has been shown to improve birth weights in babies.

Calcium- Calcium is an important nutrient that helps build strong teeth and bones. It also helps blood clot normally, muscles and nerves to function, and the heart to beat regularly.  It is important for both baby and mother.  On a side note, a Dr. Jill tip for increasing your daily calcium intake would be to take two tums daily. This will not only help your heartburn (a common complaint in pregnancy) but increase the amount of calcium you are getting.

Folic Acid- Folic Acid helps prevent neural tube defects (problems with the brain or spine).  The neural tube normally develops in the first 28 days after conception, before many women know they are pregnant.  That is why you hear to start taking the vitamins before you start trying, so that you can have adequate stores on board. If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect, your doctor may subscribe a very large dose of Folic Acid for you because you are at increased risk of it occurring again.

What is the difference between generic prenatal vitamins, over the counter prenatal vitamins and prescription prenatal vitamins.  Essentially there is no difference. Some prescription prenatals have anti-nausea meds in them, but they are all essentially the same. I tell my patients that I am happy they are taking the vitamin!  Occasionally I have patients that just can’t tolerate taking them.  I recommend children’s vitamins (double the recommended dose) and I add the extra Calcium, Iron and Folic acid.  Sometimes the prenatals can make you feel nauseous, and I recommend trying to take them after dinner and before bed. This seems to ease the nausea.

DHA is another more common supplement in PNV. Sometimes it is added in and sometimes it comes as a separate pill. It is an omega 3 fatty acid that is important in brain function.  DHA normally occurs in fish.

A combination of a well balanced diet and prenatal vitamins will help support a healthy pregnancy.

Tampa Bay Parenting 2014 Dr. Jill HechtmanJill Hechtman started her medical career at Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth Dominica. After medical school she started an anesthesiology residency in Chicago at RUSH University, where she met the love of her life, Dr. Jason Hechtman. After completing two years of Anesthesiology, Jill decided that she desired to be an OB/GYN, and transferred to Wayne State University for her four year residency in OB/GYN.  After completion, both Jason and Jill moved to Tampa. 

Since moving to Tampa, Jill has become the Medical Director of Tampa Obstetrics and is currently also serving as the Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa. She is the past Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brandon Regional Hospital and served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees for 2 years. She is a frequent face in local media as “Dr. Jill” and is also answers reader questions as our Dr. Mom. Jill was also recently appointed as a member of the Florida House of Representatives Medicaid Low Income Pool Council. She is also featured in various videos about pregnancy, which can be found on her website under “Patient Education”. One of her proudest moments was the birth of her daughter.  The two of them share a common interest in horses.

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