When To Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins [2022]

Nikhil Goswami

Consuming the right vitamins and minerals is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One way to ensure you get the appropriate doses of these nutrients is through supplements. When pregnant, taking these prenatal vitamins goes a long way in keeping you and your developing fetus safe and healthy.

Throughout the term of your pregnancy, your baby depends on you for all these vitamins and minerals, and whatever you take goes to the baby first. So, what you put in your body is a huge determinant in the outcome of your pregnancy.

As prenatal multivitamins are so important, you need to know when exactly you should take them. Should you start before getting pregnant so your body is ready to feed the baby these vitamins? Or should you wait to get pregnant and then start taking the vitamins? We answer these questions and more in this article. Keep reading to find out.

Importance of Taking Prenatal Vitamins 

You should take prenatal vitamins for several reasons, and the most significant reason is to ensure the good health of you and your baby. It also helps with disease control. While your baby needs the nutrition to grow and develop properly, you also need the key vitamins for yourself. 

Here are some of the benefits of taking these supplements:

  • Folic Acid

You must take folic acid if you plan on getting pregnant or already are. It helps prevent birth defects that affect the spinal cord and brain. A neural tube defect occurs very early on during pregnancy, and in some cases, they occur before the mother even learns of the pregnancy. This is why we recommend that you start taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid if you could get pregnant to avoid neural tube defects.

  • Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D play a significant role in bone health during pregnancies. The vitamins help prevent the loss of bone density, and this is important because your baby requires calcium from this bone density to develop its own bones.

  • Iodine

Iodine is an essential nutrient during pregnancy because it aids thyroid function. An iodine deficiency can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, deafness, mental disabilities, and stunted growth.

  • Iron

Iron helps double your blood volume, providing more oxygen for your fetus, thereby increasing your overall health. It also helps to prevent anemia, a condition caused by a low number of red blood cells.

When to Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins

The best time to start taking a prenatal multivitamin is as soon as you start trying to conceive. Generally, when a doctor wants to date your pregnancy, they would start from your last menstrual period. This means by the time you find out you are pregnant; you could be five to six weeks into your pregnancy. Therefore, to be on the safe side, start taking prenatals before getting pregnant.

Some professionals recommend you start around three to six months before trying to conceive.

However, as you know, not all pregnancies are planned, and if you fall in this category, you haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, you might already consume the right amount of nutrients found in any prenatal multivitamin. Your nutritional needs are most likely met if you have a balanced diet filled with vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and beans.

But, it would be best if you started taking them as soon as possible. Your baby’s significant development occurs during the first trimester, which is the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. During this period, the fetus’s brain and spinal cord are developing, and these vitamins are essential to help with that.

Furthermore, it would be best if you did not stop after giving birth. As a breastfeeding mother, we advise you to continue taking these vitamins because your baby can still receive other nutrients through breast milk to increase their health.

If you are not considering getting pregnant, but pregnancy is still a possibility, we suggest you take folic acid daily. With a folic acid supplement, your body will have what it needs if you get pregnant without having excess prenatal vitamins you do not require at that moment.

Do Prenatal Vitamins Help With Conception? 

The idea that prenatals boost your fertility is a myth. These nutrients do not increase your chances of conceiving. With that said, they significantly increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy. They help to reduce the chances of birth defects and miscarriages, and they also help to prevent pregnancy complications such as premature birth or low birth weight. 

Does It Ever Get Too Late to Take Prenatal Vitamins?

You can never be too late to the party when taking prenatals. However, it is best to take them as soon as possible. Nonetheless, you can always start taking prenatals at any point during your entire pregnancy. So, endeavor to look into purchasing these vitamins as soon as you find out you are pregnant. You can also try prenatal gummies to achieve the same. 

Can You Combine Your Daily Multivitamin With Prenatal Vitamins?

It is not completely safe to take your daily prenatal vitamin and multivitamin. You need to take the recommended daily dosage to get the best results from the supplements. Coincidentally, prenatal vitamins and multivitamins have several similar components, such as Vitamin A, so you want to avoid taking a double dosage of these vitamins daily. You should be aware of what vitamins you should take

While some vitamins are harmless and you can take over your recommended daily dosage, some could have adverse side effects if you exceed your daily limit.

If you are uncertain about what you should be taking and what you shouldn’t, ensure to communicate with your healthcare provider and devise a plan. This plan should take into account what is essential for your body. For example, if you have a history of anemia, having extra iron in your system can go a long way in keeping you and your baby safe.

When Is the Best Time in the Day to Take Prenatals? 

There is no best time to take prenatal vitamins; all that matters is that you take them consistently and in a regulated manner. However, most people take prenatals in the morning before their daily activities. 

With that said, we recommend you take them in the mornings. Taking them in the morning won’t make them more effective, but it is easy to forget certain things as you go about your day.

Is There a Best Form of Prenatals?

Prenatals come in all shapes and sizes you can choose from. You can find them as tablets, capsules, or even gummies. Their shapes and sizes do not matter because if you compare the list of ingredients in these products, you will find that they are all pretty similar. Therefore, there are no bad choices regarding what form you take them in.

Nevertheless, when taking these vitamins, it is important to look closely at the product’s ingredients to ensure it meets all your body’s needs. This is because some products contain ingredients that others do not. For example, prenatal vitamins that come as gummies do not contain iron because a kid might see them and ingest them thinking they are candy, and too much iron is terrible for children.

When Can You Stop Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

If you are not going to breastfeed after giving birth, you can return to your daily multivitamin. However, if you plan on breastfeeding, we suggest you continue taking prenatal vitamins until you stop. The vitamins can help your baby keep developing even after birth.

But, choosing to return to your daily multivitamin as you breastfeed is acceptable. All you need to do is optimize your nutrition to accommodate your baby’s needs. 

The most important thing is that you and your baby are getting the appropriate amounts of vitamins. If you think optimizing your daily multivitamin would be too confusing, you can stick to prenatals for a while longer. After all, these supplements are already optimized for babies.

Which Is the Best Prenatal Vitamin?

Your doctor may recommend a certain brand or ask you to choose for yourself. Either way is fine as long as you make the right choice with the right ingredients. You can find prenatals at most pharmacies.

Folic acid and iron are two of the most important nutrients when taking prenatals. Other key nutrients you should look for are calcium and vitamin C. You might also want to source products containing zinc, iodine, vitamin E and vitamin B.

Furthermore, every mother is different and what you require differs from other mothers. This is why your healthcare provider may suggest you purchase prenatal vitamins with a higher dose of certain nutrients. This all depends on your circumstance and health history. 

For example, suppose you have given birth, and your baby’s neural tube had a defect. In that case, your health care provider may suggest you purchase an additional supplement with a higher level of folic acid. However, do not try to ingest extra folic acid without your doctor’s knowledge; it may negatively affect you and your baby.

Generally, you should avoid taking prenatals in excess. Here is a recommended dose for nutrients found in these vitamins:

  • 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid
  • 3 to 4 mg of thiamine
  • 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium
  • 70 to 80 mg of vitamin C
  • 400 to 500 IU of vitamin D
  • 17 to 27 mg of iron
  • 2 to 3 mg of riboflavin
  • 10 to 12 mg of vitamin E
  • 150 to 170 micrograms of iodine
  • 20 to 30 mg of niacin
  • 6 to 8 mcg of vitamin B12
  • 15 to 20 mg of zinc

These are just standard doses; your doctor may prescribe something different for you.

Are There Any Other Nutrients You Need to Know About?

You should consider Omega-3 fatty acids. These are a type of fat that naturally occurs in fish and help fetal brain development. These nutrients also help to lower the risk of premature births and birthing an underweight baby during pregnancy.

Therefore, if you are not a fan of fatty fish or other food containing high omega-3 fatty acids, you might need to get a recommendation of omega-3 fatty acids from your health care provider in addition to taking prenatals.

Another nutrient to look out for is choline. Your body makes choline on its own, but in small amounts, so most of your body’s supply comes from food. You can find this nutrient in beef, pork, fish, chicken, and eggs. Unfortunately, many women neglect to focus on getting choline which is also essential to a baby’s brain development.

Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

Besides the case of overdosing on certain vitamins if you pass your daily limit, taking prenatals does not have any serious adverse side effects. However, iron in these supplements can lead to constipation. Therefore, to avoid constipation, you can do the following:

  • Consume high amounts of fluid
  • Add more fiber to your diet
  • Try and work out, but ensure to get the go-ahead from your healthcare provider.
  • Consider using a stool softener, but not without the advice of healthcare providers.
  • If all else fails, reach out to your doctor, and ask for other options.

Another side effect of taking prenatals many expectant mothers face is nausea.

What Should You Do if Prenatal Vitamins Make You Nauseous?

Several pregnancies come with nausea, and unfortunately, prenatal vitamins, an essential part of a baby’s development, are a causing agent. While most people do not experience nausea taking these vitamins, specific individuals develop various degrees of nausea. 

In most cases, the cause of the nausea is iron. Pregnancies require a daily dose of 27mg of iron, so if you experience nausea from prenatals, ensure your product does not contain higher than this amount. If you still feel nauseous, you might need to stop taking prenatals or speak to your doctor.

If you experience nausea, we recommend taking your prenatal vitamins at night because nausea is usually lower during this period. Alternatively, you can switch to gummies (an option without iron supplements). However, gummies have extra sugar, which might be bad for you if you have gestational diabetes.

Finding a solution for this nausea might take some trial and error before figuring out what works for you. Here are some things you can try:

  • Take prenatals right before you go to sleep. That way, you go straight to bed, which might help you not feel nauseous because you will already be asleep.
  • Try them with or without food because some body systems prefer supplements on an empty stomach and others don’t.
  • Stay hydrated. This includes before and after you take the prenatals.

Just keep trying until you eventually find out what works for you. However, if you have tried several brands and methods, and nothing works for you, contact your doctor and see what they say. They might suggest other brands and methods or even ask you to stop and switch to a specific diet.

If nothing works for you, do not be discouraged, every pregnancy is different, and many others like you cannot take these supplements.

What Should Your Diet Include?

If you are going with the diet option, stick to whole foods with healthy fats, such as salmon, almond butter, olive oil, and avocado. You should also eat foods rich in iron, such as beef, spinach, eggs, and chicken. Folates are also essential, and you can find them in peanuts, broccoli, sunflower seeds, breakfast cereals, and dark leafy greens.

Vitamins and fiber are also good for you. Make sure to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables like mangoes, carrots and apples. Roughages like cabbage and dairy products like yogurt also help with bowel issues. 

A healthy diet also does with plenty of water and healthy fluids. Reduce your intake of carbonated, caffeinated and sugary drinks. If you are of childbearing age and would like to have a child, you can start paying attention to your diet early on.

Do All Pregnant Women Require Prenatals?

Proper nutrition is the most important thing during your pregnancy. It helps to keep you and your growing baby healthy, which is why you need important supplements, minerals, and vitamins. Ideally, a healthy balanced diet should be enough to provide your fetus with all it needs (except folic acid); however, professionals recommend taking prenatals regardless.

Prenatals ensure that you and your baby get exactly what you need during pregnancy. 

Therefore, all expectant mothers should take these supplements at least until they give birth. After giving birth, you can return to your daily multivitamin or stick to your healthy diet. If you are ever in doubt, speak to your doctor about how to move forward with these supplements.

Are Prenatals Strictly for Pregnant Women?

While most prenatal vitamins were specifically designed for pregnant women, others can take them. People at risk of malnutrition are encouraged to take them. The doctor would recommend prenatals and refer the person to a dietitian. Below are the categories of people who run the risk of malnutrition and can benefit from prenatals:

  • Expectant mothers with more than one baby
  • Teenagers
  • Vegans
  • Those who underwent weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery)
  • Those with conditions that affect their ability to absorb necessary nutrients. An example is Crohn’s disease
  • People with lactase deficiency
  • Heavy smokers or drinks
  • People who abuse illicit drugs

These groups of people mentioned above can safely take prenatals to boost their health and increase their nutritional levels.

Are There Any Additional Benefits of Prenatals? 

Numerous people, even celebrities, swear by prental vitamins. They believe these vitamins help to keep their skin healthy and bright. They also believe taking a prenatal vitamin keeps their hair long and luscious. A major reason for this belief is because prenatals contain biotin, an important B vitamin.

Rumors about the power of biotin on hair, skin, and nails have been circulating for a long time, which is why people worldwide opt for biotin supplements. However, peer-reviewed studies have not been able to prove that biotin has any beneficial beauty effects. Therefore, the idea that biotin actually does anything to skin, hair, or nails is completely inconclusive.

Although we mentioned that prenatals do not increase your fertility, some researches indicate taking prenatals may boost your odds of getting pregnant. However, this does not mean you can increase fertility by taking a pill. The idea behind this is that prenatal vitamins contain nutrients that help regulate the systems in your body, making pregnancy possible.

Therefore, to actually increase your chances of getting pregnant quicker, you should consider taking prenatal vitamins, exercising right, limiting risk factors like drugs and alcohol, and eating healthy. By combining these factors, you significantly increase your chances of conception.

What Should You Look Out for in Prenatal Vitamins?

There are various options for prenatals on the market, and you can easily pick one and start using them. However, there are key factors you need to consider before buying a product, and those include:

  • Brand Verification

You need to make sure that the brand you are choosing to buy from has verification from certified organizations. These verifications prove that the ingredient and health claims made by the product’s manufacturer are true.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate any dietary medication or supplements, including prenatal vitamins. Therefore, you need confirmation from other bodies like the U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention or the Office of Dietary Supplements.

  • Prescription or Over-The-Counter (OTC)

Look at the key ingredients in the products you want to purchase, such as iron and folate, and ensure they have the recommended amounts. You do not want to take a prenatal vitamin that has either too much or not enough of what you need. 

It might interest you to know that some insurance companies cover a percentage, or sometimes, all the costs of buying prenatals, which saves you money.

Keep in mind that OTC prenatals are not cheap, so if your insurance provider covers them, we suggest you collect a prescription from them instead of purchasing these vitamins.

Few Wellness Tips on Taking Prenatal Vitamins

Taking a prenatal vitamin can lead to an upset stomach, and morning sickness, among others. Luckily, there are measures you can take to limit these effects.

  • Switch to Other Prenatal Vitamins

Sometimes, the answer is just as simple as switching to another brand. In some cases, the prenatals manufacturer formulated their product in a way that does not work with your body’s system. However, before switching brands, consult your doctor.

  • Try Different Forms

Prenatals come in various forms, such as beverages, gummies, capsules, and protein shakes, and ingesting them a certain way might aid the digestion process better than another. So, if you were taking a capsule, you can switch to gummies and give that a try.

Also, you can try breaking the vitamins into smaller doses. For example, if you are taking a tablet, you can break the tablet in half and take the halves 12 hours apart. Conversely, if you are taking three gummies, you can take each gummy six hours apart. This way, your system is not overwhelmed with these nutrients. In time, your body might get accustomed to the nutrients, and you might be able to handle taking a single daily dose at once.

  • Drink Lots of Fluids

It goes without saying that water is a vital part of any diet and a major key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, we suggest you drink lots of water, and you should try and drink a large amount of water before and after you ingest the supplement. 

Furthermore, the large amount of water can help flush out your GI system if you struggle with constipation. Adding a fiber supplement to your routine is not a bad idea if your condition is severe; however, ensure to get a green light from your medical practitioner before going ahead.

Conclusion: When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

Pregnancy is a beautiful journey that many women embark on to bring life into the world. As a pregnant woman or a woman looking to conceive, you must do all you can to ensure you and your growing fetus are safe and sound. One of the best ways to do this is by taking prenatal vitals. However, it is not just about taking them; you also need to know when to start.

It would be best if you start prenatal vitamins a few months before becoming pregnant because it optimizes your body for pregnancy and helps you make a habit of taking these vitamins daily. By developing this habit early on, it won’t be hard to keep up with it when you eventually conceive. If you are already pregnant, it is best to start taking the vitamins as soon as possible.

Your baby needs these vitamins to grow strong and healthy, not to mention they keep you strong and healthy as well. So, if you want to enjoy the wonders of pregnancy, we suggest you begin taking your vitamins and ensure to take them regularly.


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