Originally published in September 2012
The short answer is Yes! You should start taking prenatal vitamins early.
When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
I recommend all women start taking prenatal vitamins well before they start trying to conceive.
And certainly once they stop using contraception.
You never know how long it will take to get pregnant. So start the prenatal vitamin of your choice today!
What are the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins early?
The benefit of starting vitamins early is that some very important nutrients, particularly folic acid, will be up to par during the first few weeks of your pregnancy. Even before you get the positive pregnancy test.
If you wait until you find out that you’re pregnant, you may miss the window of time where the extra nutrients are the most beneficial!
Some people maintain a diet that contains all the vitamins and minerals they need, and more. However, most of us don’t, and thus supplementing is necessary.
Prenatal vitamins by no means guarantee that you will have a healthy baby. But they certainly do help set you on the right track.
Let’s break down the most important components in your prenatal vitamins and how they can help you and your developing baby.
What are the most important prenatal vitamins?
Some very important physical development occurs in a fetus within the first few weeks of a pregnancy.
In fact, by about week 4 after conception, the neural tube — which develops into the spinal cord and brain — has already formed! This means that, if you wait to start prenatal vitamins, you may miss the window of time where they are of the most benefit.
Folic acid supplementation decreases the risk of neural tube defects. The minimum recommended amount is 400 mcg daily. However, most prenatal vitamins contain 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid.
As your pregnancy progresses, the benefits of getting enough folic acid continue, as it is important for maintaining the proper growth rate of your baby. Research has shown a 50% decreased chance of preterm delivery for women who take folic acid daily for at least 1 year before conceiving.
Iron helps your body maintain its oxygen-carrying blood cells, thereby helping to prevent anemia. As you can imagine, with a baby on board, your body will require even more blood cells than normal.
Prenatal vitamins can provide you with the amount of iron that is sufficient for what most women need during pregnancy. Also, by preventing anemia, iron supplementation decreases the risk that you will have a preterm or low birth-weight infant.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Again, many women do not get enough calcium and vitamin D from their diets. Thus the supplementation found in prenatal vitamins is helpful.
These nutrients play an important role in the formation of the baby’s bones and teeth. And they can benefit you before conceiving in their ability to help improve your bone health.
In addition, there is some evidence to suggest super low vitamin D levels could be associated with infertility.
Have you been taking prenatal vitamins during the days and months you’ve been trying to conceive? What has been your experience in getting prepared prior to your first few weeks of pregnancy?
TAGS: prenatal vitamins, prenatal care, pregnancy, pregnant, birth, first trimester