Most women will pay more attention to nutrition and diet during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. While eating an optimal diet of whole foods is best, most doctors will recommend prenatal vitamins for expectant mothers in addition to a healthy diet. These pregnancy vitamins will help cover gaps in nutritional planning, and also compensate for extra nutritional needs an individual woman may have.
Pregnancy vitamins include supplemental doses of folic acid, calcium and iron. This trio of vitamins and minerals is in increased demand by a woman’s body during pregnancy. Folic acid is essential for the neural development of a fetus, and deficiencies can cause medical issues. Ideally, Amcal pregnancy supplements will begin before pregnancy, since most neural tube defects occur in the first four weeks of pregnancy. Many women do not know that they are expecting until much later. Risks are higher for women who have already delivered a child with neural tube defects. These women should discuss folic acid dosages with their doctor, to ensure that their pregnancy vitamins are adequate.
Calcium is also a crucial component of pregnancy vitamins. A developing fetus will require large amounts of calcium for its own bone growth. If necessary, the body will rob calcium from bones of the mother in order to supply the required calcium for the baby’s developing bones. In order to protect the mother’s bones from damage and calcium loss, supplementation is recommended. On average, pregnancy vitamins will include 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium, such as Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold.
Iron deficiency anemia is not uncommon in expectant mothers. The average woman will see an increase in blood plasma volume of just under 50 percent and red blood cells increase by 20 to 30 percent. Blood iron, or hemoglobin, is responsible for carrying oxygen to the organs of both mother and child. Pregnancy vitamins usually have around 17 milligrams of iron. Iron levels are routinely checked at prenatal doctor’s visits, and a physician may recommend additional supplementation or even iron injections. In these instances, while the iron levels found in pregnancy vitamins may not be enough to treat the worst cases of prenatal anemia, the extra iron along with other vitamins and minerals will still be beneficial.
Other essential vitamins and minerals commonly found in pregnancy vitamins include iodine, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Iodine is necessary for healthy thyroid function. Pregnancy hormones and demands can stress the thyroid gland. An iodine deficiency can lead to sever mental disability and deafness, and in the very worst cases, stillbirth or miscarriage.
Vitamin D is normally synethesized by the body from sunlight. However, pregnant women living in northern climates will benefit from prenatal vitamins with extra vitamin D, as few are able to get the required hours of sunlight necessary. Vitamin B12 is another vitamin that supports the development of a healthy nervous system. Like folic acid, another B vitamin, deficiencies of B12 can cause neural defects. Vegetarians are at particular risk for B12 deficiency, as are those with pernicious anemia. Pregnant women in these risk categories should ask their doctors if their B12 levels are adequate and if additional supplementation beyond pregnancy vitamins is recommended.