Your Prenatal Vitamin Primer
I didn't start taking prenatal vitamins until after I found out I was pregnant. Will my baby be OK?
Since nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, there are no doubt many women in the same boat. The March of Dimes and healthcare providers for women of childbearing age have long been trying to spread the word of how important it is to take prenatal vitamins with folic acid prior to conceiving (or even in general in case of unintended pregnancy). According to the Duke University Center for Human Genetics, neural tube defect occurs in about one in 1000 live births in the United States. Even as NTD is one of the most common birth defects, not taking prenatal vitamins before conception doesn't mean it will automatically strike you. So what do you do now? Start by taking a good look at your diet and talk with your healthcare provider about the best nutritional plan and necessary follow-up for your pregnancy.
I have morning sickness and it's hard to keep the prenatal vitamins down. What should I do?
Those prenatal vitamins can really do a number on the stomach. If you've got this problem you should mention it to your doctor or midwife; perhaps she wouldn't mind your taking the vitamins just before bed so that you can sleep through its side-effects. It may also help to take your vitamin with food—try in general to get your nutrition from food rather than only from vitamins, Dr. DiLeo cautions. Some physicians will prescribe an extra dose of vitamin B-6 to help combat nausea. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before taking extra vitamins, however.
How long do I have to take prenatal vitamins?
According to Dr. Diane Bales, an associate professor and human development specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Georgia in Athens, women should not only take folic acid when trying to conceive, but also during pregnancy and into breastfeeding. As noted, the folic acid helps develop the neural tube, which later becomes the baby's brain and spinal cord and which begins developing during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. But to boost Baby's brain, she recommends continuing after birth. Folic acid helps with the manufacture of red blood cells and with the development of fast-growing cells, like those in the brain in an infant.