Great question because the answer, unbeknownst to many expectant women, is NO!
The goal is naturally to eat well during your pregnancy and when you are breast feeding to be sure that you provide your child with essential nutrition for growth and development while not compromising your own health.
Some expectant moms could miss key nutrients required during pregnancy and lactation especially when morning sickness is an all-day event and doesn’t go away in the first trimester as it can for many women.
Your healthcare professional may have recommended that you begin taking a prenatal vitamin to be sure you are both well nourished.
Which one should you use when there are so many different options on the shelf?
Prenatal vitamins are usually found over the counter in a drug store or supermarket with the other nutrition supplements. When I had a baby, my doctor provided my prenatal supplement and I didn’t have a choice.
Today there are many products on the market and it is important to pay attention to the nutrition facts panel on the label to be sure your selection contains the nutrients you need.
Important Nutrients During Pregnancy
Adequate nutrition during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in your baby as well as ensure proper growth and development. Folic acid and iron are essential for these issues and can be difficult to get enough unless you focus on them.
Calcium and vitamin D are also important in developing strong bones in your growing baby.
All Prenatal Vitamins Are Not Created Equal
What should be in your prenatal vitamin? Different brands are formulated with some but not all of the nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Some don’t have any iron because this can be constipating or upset your tummy. Manufacturers know tummy discomfort could steer your purchase but it may not be helping you fully nourish you or your baby. You can become anemic if you don’t get enough iron and the baby’s growth could be compromised. To reduce the likelihood of constipation and still get the iron you need drink plenty of water, include fiber sources in your diet and stay active.
Be sure the prenatal vitamin contains iron, folic acid, calcium and vitamin D. Your vitamin should also contain standard nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc and copper.
A vitamin that includes omega 3 fatty acids would also be helpful but not all prenatal vitamins provide this so be sure you eat at least one serving of fish a week (the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend two servings of low mercury fish a week).
As for any of us, multivitamins should not be a substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Be sure to make the most of your meal intake by including good food sources of vitamins and minerals each day by eating nutrient dense foods.
Ask your doctor if you have any specific questions about prenatal vitamins, experience difficulty while taking them or if you have increased needs based on your individual health.