Should I take a multivitamin if I am trying to get pregnant?

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Vitamins and minerals are naturally occurring substances needed to perform essential chemical activities throughout the body. The body can manufacture some, but most are acquired from food. Vitamin and mineral supplements can be also be taken as a supplement either individually or packaged as a multivitamin.

Prenatal vitamins are recommended for women who are pregnant because they contain vitamins and minerals that can protect against certain deficiencies. Folic acid, for instance, is a vitamin that can protect the developing fetus from certain neurological deformities such as the neural-tube defect spina bifida.

There are multivitamin preparations specifically formulated for pregnancy, but you can select a standard multivitamin while you are trying to become pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women take 400 mg. of folic acid a day. In fact, all women who could possibly get pregnant should take folic acid because many pregnancies are unplanned, even occur while using birth control. And these birth defects occur within three to four weeks after conception, before most women realize they are pregnant.

Ask your pharmacist to recommend a non-prescription formulation that contains enough folic acid.

As soon as pregnancy has been achieved you can switch to the formulation your doctor prescribes.

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes, and use a prenatal formula from your doctor. In fact, it may be the most important time of your life for using a Multivitamin and Mineral formula (MVM) because by the time you find out you’re pregnant, the child’s development has already started and you don’t want to miss any nutrients during this crucial first trimester development period.

Proper nutrition is vital to a healthy pregnancy and often poor diet is the main cause of multiple micronutrient deficiencies. Not only does it affect the status of the fetus, but the mother as well. Inadequate nutrient intake can cause complications and deformities in the child. The nutritional status of the mother must be sufficient to fulfill the needs of her baby and to maintain her own health starting at conception. Iron, folic acid and calcium are three of the key nutrients often deficient in women’s diets. Folic acid (folate) is a B vitamin required for the manufacture of blood cells, the genetic material DNA and RNA, and proper cell division. This nutrient is especially important during the first trimester as a deficiency in this vitamin is associated with an increase in neural tube defects and other malformations, which form early in the fetus. Extensive research has found that adequate intake of folic acid leads to fewer malformations, especially neural tube defects (approximately an 80% reduction). According to the CDC, folate and folic acid supplementation among women of reproductive age is still lacking, especially in specific ethnic groups. Everyone should always be taking a daily MVM but switch to a prenatal MVM formula when pregnant or trying to conceive. After the baby is born, be sure to talk to your doctor about when to switch back -- they may want you to also use the prenatal while breastfeeding, depending on your iron status.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
YES!! I believe that many women in the pregnancy-bearing ages should take half a multi in the morning and half at night as prepregnancy nutrition is important to your future baby and half of all pregnancies are unplanned. So if you are trying to get pregnant or not, a multivitamin, especially a prenatal vitamin is a great idea. The vitamins and minerals to pay closest attention to are
  • Vitamin A, helps with cell development and brain growth. But keep in mind that too much of a good thing can be bad. Too much vitamin A can lead to certain birth defects, so check labels to make sure you’re not getting more than 100% of your daily value (about 15,000 Us).
  • Vitamin B6, helps your baby’s nervous system develop properly, but also helps minimize morning sickness, preeclampsia, and other complications during delivery. Shoot for 3 milligrams (mg) twice a day.
  • Vitamin B9, also known as folate, helps reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and decreases Junior’s risk of cancer in his early years. You want 400 micrograms (mcg) from supplements so that you’re getting 800 mcg total per day.
  • Calcium + Magnesium; calcium ensures that your baby’s bones are strong and ready to support him as he teeters around. You want 600 mg twice a day. Take with 200 mg magnesium each time so you don’t get constipated.
  • Iron; a mom transfers about 1,000 mg of iron to a growing baby and increases her total number of red blood cells by 20% to 30%, so shoot for 20 mg twice a day.
  • DHA, the active omega-3 that helps form and protect neurons in the brain (both yours and Junior’s), so shoot for 600 to 900 mg per day.
  • Zinc; low levels of zinc have been shown to be related to increased birth defects, low birth weight, miscarriage, and even behavior problems down the road. Shoot for 10 mg twice a day.
  • It also is a good idea to make sure prenatal vitamins contain B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, biotin, C, D, E, magnesium, and selenium.
Talk with your doctor about which multivitamin is the best choice for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.