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Prenatal Vitamins – Food For Every Pregnant Woman

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When a woman gets pregnant, she is advised to ‘eat well’ as she is eating for two. The good things that a pregnant woman is advised to eat includes prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are vitamin supplements that cover for the nutritional deficiencies that a mother may have.

Although quite similar to regular multivitamins, prenatal vitamins are specially formulated vitamin supplements that contain higher concentrations of those nutrients that are considered essential for pregnant women. These nutrients are iron, calcium and folic acid. 

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins also contain other vitamins and minerals but in lesser amounts. For example, prenatal vitamins contain minimal quantities of vitamin A as it adversely affects the growing fetus when taken in excess.

Importance Of Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are crucial for pregnant women who breastfeed their babies. In addition to reducing the risk of defects in neural tube, prenatal vitamins facilitate the blood to carry oxygen both for the mother and child. It prevents weakening of bone density, helps receive other essential nutrients, and helps normal formation of DNA.

Constituents of Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins consist of essential vitamins such as folic acid and minerals such as calcium. Some of the must-include prenatal vitamins are –


Calcium prevents pregnant women from losing their bone densities. It is seen that most pregnant women suffer from weakening bone density as the baby uses the calcium for growth of its bones.


Calcium facilitates growth of healthy tissues in the fetus. One can take calcium supplements or eat foods rich in calcium such as milk.


Iron facilitates the blood to transport oxygen. Iron improves blood circulation in the baby as well as the mother. Iron constructs hemoglobin. During first trimester, the baby feeds on the iron stores of the mother. Hence pregnant women should have ample supply of iron for her as well as the baby. Iron also decreases chance of premature birth. 

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Folic Acid

Folic acid prevents defects in the neural tube. Neural tube defects have adverse impact on the spinal cord and brain. Neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida generally develop within the first month of conception. Detecting neural tube defects at the right time is crucial since many women do not happen to know that they actually got pregnant within this period.

Folic Acid

Hence neural tube defects are more common in unplanned pregnancies. Folic acid also boosts cell replication and normal DNA synthesis. Recommended daily dose of folic acid is 400mcg. Women should start taking folic acid supplements before conception and continue them up to 12 weeks after knowing that they are pregnant. Some of the good sources of folic acid are beans, nuts, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, etc.

For women who have had given birth to a child with neural tube defect earlier should consult her physician about the dosage. At times, such women are recommended as high as 4000mcg of folic acid starting as early as one month before pregnancy and continuing till the first trimester. However, dosages may vary as per complexity of the cases.


Some prenatal vitamins also contain DHA, which is a chain of polyunsaturated fat called Omega-3 fatty acids. DHA helps in development of brain in the fetus. It also reduces post-partum depression in mothers.

Composition of Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins for pregnant women must include folic acid (400mcg), vitamin D (400 IU), calcium (200mg to 300mg), vitamin C (70mg), niacin (20mg), vitamin B12 (6mcg), vitamin E (10mg), iron (17mg), zinc (15mg), thiamine (3mg), and riboflavin (2mg).

Side Effects

Certain prenatal vitamins tend to aggravate symptoms in nauseous pregnant women. In such a case, one should talk to their physician. The physician would alter the prenatal vitamin. Generally, prenatal vitamins that are in liquid or chewable form are better than the ones that need to be swallowed.

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