Pregnancy Q&A

What are prenatal vitamins and why do I need to take them?

They are specially formulated multivitamin and mineral supplements designed to support the increased needs of a pregnant woman and her growing baby. A prenatal supplement will contain many of the same nutrients found in a regular multi, but it will have higher amounts of folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to support the needs during pregnancy. The recommend dosage of femMED Pregnancy Before, During & After is one capsule 2 times daily with meals and femMED Pregnancy + Ginger is one capsule three times daily with meals. This will help reduce the risk of nausea and improve absorption and assimilation of the nutrients. Studies have shown that folic Acid, which is part of the Vitamin B family, can significantly reduce the risk of serious defects to the baby’s brain and spinal cord (e.g. spina bifida) occurring in the first four weeks of pregnancy. The evidence suggests that 70% of the defects of this type could be prevented if the mothers were to take a daily dose of folic acid. To be effective, folic acid should be taken before pregnancy occurs and continued into the pregnancy.

Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have found that taking prenatal multivitamins fortified with folic acid can reduce the risk of three common childhood cancers: leukemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma and can reduce the risk of a wide range of serious birth defects, including cardiovascular and limb defects, cleft palate, oral cleft, congenital hydrocephalus and urinary tract anomalies.

I am very careful to eat a healthy diet. Can’t I just supplement with folic acid?

Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to obtain the necessary level of nutrients from food alone. The mineral content in our soils has diminished over the years due to changes in agriculture. Pollution and pesticides, use of prescription medication, stress and certain forms of cooking can deplete vitamins and minerals. A quality prenatal supplement will contain all of the vitamins and minerals that should be a part of your regular diet and fill in the gaps where your diet falls short. Prenatal vitamins do not replace healthy eating, but rather they supplement an already healthy diet.

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

The first trimester is the time during pregnancy when all of the baby’s major organ systems are forming and developing. Evidence shows that the mother’s body will need adequate nutrition “on board” in order for the baby’s growth to be on track, especially when it comes to vitamins such as folic acid.

The baby’s neural tube will begin to close within the first month of pregnancy, during a time when few women even realize they are pregnant! For that reason, it is very important that you start taking prenatal vitamins 2-3 months before you begin trying to conceive.

When should I stop taking prenatal vitamins?

If you are planning to breastfeed, you should continue taking your prenatal vitamins until your baby is weaned.

What if taking prenatal vitamins makes me sick?

Many women who are bothered by nausea, stomach pain and even vomiting are often taking their daily prenatal supplement in the morning and find that taking their prenatal a little later in the day with a snack or meal helps.

Do I need any other supplements or nutrients in addition to prenatal vitamins?

Some women mistakenly believe that if they take prenatal vitamins, they don’t have to worry so much about their diet. However, one of the most important building blocks during pregnancy is protein. Prenatal vitamins do not include protein. You should be sure you have at least 60 g of protein or 6 oz of meat or other protein (such as nuts, seeds, beans, and soy) every day. Having a healthy pregnancy diet plan is one of the best ways to be sure your body is getting all necessary nutrients.

Some women may also need additional calcium and iron, especially in the later months of pregnancy when the needs for these minerals are greatest or if they are on special diets. Be sure to check with your health care provider to see if you need any other supplements.