A mother's needs for micronutrients increase substantially during her child's early development. Prenatal supplements are designed to make sure you get everything you need.
You probably know that your body needs more energy, or calories, during pregnancy. But did you know that you also need more micronutrients? That means more vitamins and more minerals!1
Ideally, all mothers and mothers-to-be would get all the nutrition they need, including vitamins and minerals, by eating a varied diet of whole foods. But, because this often isn’t possible, taking a multivitamin/multimineral supplement is important when preparing for pregnancy.1
What prenatal vitamins and minerals do I need?
When choosing a prenatal supplement, make sure it contains all the vitamins and minerals that are especially important during pregnancy. These are the ones you should be on the lookout for:2
If you're unsure about what to take, ask your healthcare professional or pharmacist to help you choose a supplement.
When should I start taking prenatal vitamins and minerals?
Supplements designed for pregnancy should be started before you even become pregnant. A key reason for this is that folic acid taken both before and during pregnancy can prevent birth defects – especially conditions called “neural tube defects”, such as spina bifida.3 And that’s why you should start taking prenatal supplements when you first start trying to conceive.
Will taking prenatal vitamins and minerals help me conceive?
While prenatal vitamins and minerals will help support you and your baby, they aren’t designed to help you become pregnant.4,5 If you want to give yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant, it’s a good idea to see your doctor and ask for a preconception check-up. This involves checking for any health conditions that might affect your chances of conceiving.
Do prenatal vitamins and minerals have side effects?
Taking prenatal supplements as recommended by your healthcare professional or pharmacist will generally have either few or no side effects.6
The iron content in prenatal supplements can be a cause of constipation, and some women experience nausea if they take prenatal supplements on an empty stomach.6 So it’s a good idea to take prenatal vitamins and minerals with food to prevent the possibility of nausea.6
If you do experience any side effects from taking prenatal supplements, speak to your healthcare professional. They’ll know what to do to make sure you’re getting what you need.
1. Healthline. Nutritional needs during pregnancy. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/nutrition#1 Accessed February 2019.
2. Healthdirect. Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy. Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/vitamins-and-nutrition-in-pregnancy Accessed February 2019.
3. Healthdirect. Folate and pregnancy. Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/folate-and-pregnancy Accessed February 2019.
4. Grajecki D, et al. The effect of micronutrient supplements on female fertility: a systematic review. Arch Gynecol Obstet 2012; 285(5): 1463-1471.
5. Modern Fertility. Should we all be taking prenatal vitamins? Available at: https://modernfertility.com/blog/vitamins Accessed February 2019.
6. MedicineNet. Prenatal vitamins side effects and types. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/prenatal_vitamins/article.htm#should_all_pregnant_women_take_prenatal_vitamins Accessed February 2019.