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Prenatal vitamins: What to take and when

Find a prenatal vitamin with ingredients that support you and your baby before, during and after pregnancy.

June 24, 2024
Close up of a pregnant women's body laying on a couch holding pills and a glass of water.

A well-balanced diet helps you get the nutrients you need to stay healthy throughout your life. However, during pregnancy, you may need even more to support your baby’s growth and development. That’s where prenatal vitamins come in. 

What type of prenatal vitamin should I take?

Prenatal vitamins are simply supplements that can provide the additional support you and your baby need. They’re incredibly easy to find, available over the counter at pretty much any supermarket or drug store. With so many options, though, it can be hard to know where to start. 

Really, it’s about choosing what works best for you. While most women take prenatal vitamins in tablet form, there are situations where gummies may be the right option for you. If you have trouble swallowing pills, for example, it’s better to take a gummy prenatal vitamin or a prenatal vitamin in liquid form rather than none at all. 

Over the counter versus prescription 

While it’s possible your doctor will write a prescription for a prenatal vitamin, it isn’t necessary. Plenty of over-the-counter options are of equal quality and are just as effective. However, it is important you chose a prenatal vitamin that comes from an established manufacturer and has the recommended vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium (1,000 milligrams). Your baby needs calcium in utero to grow teeth and bones. Research shows that low levels of calcium during pregnancy can increase your risk of preeclampsia, a blood pressure condition. 
  • Folic acid (600 micrograms). Folic acid is also called folate. It’s a vitamin that’s especially important in early pregnancy because it helps ensure healthy brain and spine development for your baby.
  • Iodine (220 micrograms). Low iodine levels can affect your baby’s brain development. Iodine deficiency when pregnant can lead to conditions such as hypothyroidism, which affects how your thyroid makes hormones.
  • Iron (27 milligrams). Iron helps your body make blood — and you need more blood during pregnancy to support you and your baby. Low levels of iron can result in anemia, leading to weakness, tiredness and other symptoms. 
  • Vitamin D (600 ius). Vitamin D supports tooth, bone, skin and eye development, decreases your risk of preeclampsia and has been shown to prevent preterm births and infections.

Your care team will be ready to walk you through your pregnancy step by step, starting with answering any questions you have at your first prenatal appointment, including helping you confirm whether your prenatal vitamin has the most helpful ingredients.

Need pregnancy care but not sure where to start? Search for OB/GYNs near you. 

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

You might consider taking a prenatal vitamin as part of pre-pregnancy care — even before you conceive. But certainly, it’s important to start taking one as soon as you realize you’re pregnant.

A prenatal vitamin can be helpful from the start, especially folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent brain and spine defects that can develop early in your baby’s development. We call these neural tube defects. Folic acid within the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy is crucial.

After you deliver your baby, your doctor likely will tell you to keep taking your prenatal vitamins for a specific timeframe. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll likely continue taking them until you stop. 

How can a doctor help?

Your pregnancy provider is your go-to resource throughout your pregnancy and beyond. HCA Florida Healthcare has a team of expert OB/GYNs and midwives to answer all your questions — from prenatal vitamins to labor and delivery care. We also have classes and events to help you prepare for birth and after delivery. 

As one of the largest healthcare providers in the state, our extensive network is home to everyone from OB/GYNs and midwives to high-risk pregnancy doctors and neonatologists. Find an OB/GYN  here. 

June 24, 2024

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