Health & News

Q&A: Prenatal Vitamins

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Whether you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or already have a little one on the way, prenatal vitamins should be on your shopping list. 

So what do you look for and when should you start taking prenatal vitamins? We asked Dr. Anna Jimenez, Medical Director at FamilyCare Health and a family physician with expertise in maternal and child health. Here’s what we found out.

What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that you can take before, during, and even after a pregnancy. They contain more folic acid and iron than a typical multivitamin, which will support the health of both you and your baby. Even when you take prenatal vitamins, you still want to eat a healthy diet. Make meals with plenty of whole grains, unprocessed foods, and colorful fruits and vegetables. Try munching on bell peppers or snap peas with hummus, or enjoy a sweet treat like fruit over yogurt.

Can I take prenatal vitamins before I’m pregnant?
Yes! Think of it as a “pre-prenatal vitamin.” The best thing is to take a vitamin with folic acid, which will help your baby’s brain develop. It will also reduce the chance of neural tube defects, which are birth defects to your baby’s brain, spine, or spinal cord. The first 28 days are very important for your baby’s development, but often women learn about their pregnancy later than that. If you’re trying to get pregnant, start taking a prenatal vitamin, or even a multivitamin.

What if the prenatal vitamin makes me feel queasy?
Sometimes the increased iron and minerals in a prenatal vitamin can make women feel sick to their stomachs. Avoid taking vitamins first thing in the morning and on an empty stomach. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t take a prenatal vitamin! Focus on a healthy diet, and take a multivitamin instead. 

Can I take more than one type of prenatal vitamin?
You shouldn’t need to. Many people don’t know that you can overdose on vitamins. As with all medications, talk to your doctor about what plan is best for you.

Do I need a prescription to get prenatal vitamins?
No, you can get them over the counter. Most insurance plans will cover the cost, including FamilyCare Health. In fact, FamilyCare Health will cover the cost even before you’re pregnant, that way you have plenty of time to get ready for the baby. If you have questions, call us at 503-222-2880.

What should I look for in prenatal vitamins?
Seek out a prenatal vitamin with the below nutrients:

  • 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
  • 400 IU of vitamin D
  • 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 70 mg of vitamin C
  • 3 mg of thiamine
  • 2 mg of riboflavin
  • 20 mg of niacin
  • 6 mcg of vitamin B12
  • 10 mg of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of zinc
  • 17 mg of iron
  • 150 micrograms of iodine

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