Prenatal vitamins are supplements that you take before and during pregnancy. They help your baby grow strong in the womb. Prenatal vitamins provide nutrients for women and their children. Prenatal vitamins don’t replace a healthy diet, but they can give your body some extra nutrients. Once the woman reaches childbearing age, it might be time to start taking prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are similar to other multivitamins but have different amounts of nutrients for mothers who are pregnant.
Prenatal vitamins contain more iron than standard multivitamins, but not so much to be toxic. They also contain more folic acid and other B vitamins, which may reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida. Thus far in pregnancy were not found any negative effects from taking prenatal vitamins. As compared to nonpregnant women, pregnant women have much higher nutritional needs, especially for folate (folic acid), vitamin D, calcium, and iron. They should be encouraged to eat foods high in those nutrients. In turn, they require a daily intake of 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid from fortified food or a supplement containing folic acid.
Prenatal vitamins meet that need and help ensure adequate intake of these key nutrients for pregnant women, but because the women, and the pregnancy itself, differ significantly from that of other adult women. The main reason to take prenatal vitamins is to meet increased nutritional needs during pregnancy with the aim of helping pregnant women have a healthy baby. Prenatal vitamins may improve the health of both mother and baby by helping to prevent certain birth defects (most notably neural tube defects like spina bifida).