Why Prenatal Vitamins Are So Important

Why Prenatal Vitamins Are So Important

Everyone’s been told about the importance of supplementing throughout pregnancy. But, with so many options on the market, many of us can end up taking the wrong type of supplement. To mark Spina Bifida Awareness Month, we’ve teamed up with Preconceive to find out why supplements are important, when you should start taking them and what to look out for on the ingredients list…


First things first, why are prenatal vitamins important?

“While a well-balanced diet from wholesome healthy foods provides your body and baby with necessary nutrients, most practitioners and GPs will still recommend supplements for expectant mothers,” explains pharmacist Shabir Daya. “This is to ensure the mother receives an adequate supply of nutrients on a daily basis, as our diets and vitamin intake vary from day to day.”

What are some of the most commonly prescribed supplements?

“The most important supplements during pregnancy are folic acid or folate, iron and calcium,” explains Shabir. “Folic acid is important for the development of the spinal cord and a lack of it may lead to spina bifida [a neural tube defect], where the spinal cord hasn’t closed. The neural tube is the structure that eventually develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Iron is also required to carry oxygen around the body, both in the mother and baby. Deficiencies in iron may lead to premature birth, anaemia and low birth weight. Inadequate levels could mean the baby drawing from the mother, resulting in anaemia for the mother.”

Which prenatal vitamins should pregnant women take?

The NHS says that, to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida in babies, women trying to get pregnant and during their first trimester should take 400mcg of folic acid daily. Cue Preconceive: a 400 microgram folic acid supplement, designed to prevent first occurrence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in women planning pregnancy. It’s taken once a day with water and food – at the same time. If there is a history of spina bifida within the family or you have epilepsy speak to your GP before supplementing because you may need a higher dose of folic acid.

Medical experts agree you should ideally take prenatal vitamins at least three months before conception.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

Medical experts agree you should ideally take prenatal vitamins at least three months before conception. This is because the neural tube starts to form early in pregnancy, closing at about four weeks post-conception, so a good supplement gives you and your baby the best chance of a healthy start in life, as well as minimising the risk of birth defects. Prenatal vitamins are also key: they prevent depletion of vitamins and mineral supplies. If you haven’t taken folic acid before you’ve conceived, make sure you start as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. 

Finally, are prenatal supplements the only way to boost your nutrients?

A healthy diet is important for ensuring your body gets vital nutrients, and prenatal vitamins are a great way to boost this. For example, whilst there are a number of foods that contain calcium needed for your baby to grow strong bones, teeth and healthy nerves, you may want to support your intake with a supplement. The same goes for folate found in veggies. “Vitamin B9 is found as folate in foods like broccoli, spinach and chickpeas” says Shabir, she goes on, “Folic acid is the man-made version of vitamin B9.”

If you’re keen to try Preconceive or want further information on spina bifida and how you can prevent it, visit Preconceive.co.uk.

Note: Preconceive 400mcg Tablets Folic Acid is used for the prevention of first occurrence of neural tube defects in all women who are planning pregnancy. Contains Folic Acid. Always read the leaflet.

 *DISCLAIMER: If you’re keen to try Preconceive or any prenatal supplement, it’s important to seek out advice from your medical practitioner to ensure you choose one that’s appropriate for you. Shabir Daya does not endorse any medicinal brands or products. 

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