Learn when to start taking these, and why they're so important to your baby's health.
-Having a healthy baby starts well before birth, even before conception with a healthy lifestyle and prenatal vitamins. OB/GYN Dr. Suzanne LaJoie says, don't wait until you find out you're pregnant to start getting the vitamins your body and your baby will need. -Ideally, this is a conversation you're having before you get pregnant. So, if you're already pregnant, then, fine. You can start prenatal vitamins, but the important part of prenatal vitamins is the folic acid. And so, you really wanna start taking that before you are trying to get pregnant because the point of it is to prevent neural tube defects. And the neural tube closes very early. So, a lot of women, once they realize that they're pregnant, they've already passed the point where the neural tube has closed. -The neural tube is the baby's brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida, when the baby is born with a spine that is not closed, causing the exposed nerves to be damaged. -Most prenatal vitamins contain enough folic acid and the recommendation is really that all women in child-bearing age or fertile should be taking folic acid everyday anyway for this reason to prevent neural tube defects. -Folic acid is found in most women's multivitamins as well as in prenatal vitamins. Just to make sure your vitamin has enough- -You can just check the back and the dosage is 600 micrograms and you wanna make sure that that's in it. -The FDA now requires manufacturers to fortify enriched grain products like cereal, bread and pasta with extra folic acid and foods like dark green vegetables and citrus fruits are also a great natural source of folate, but experts say, these foods are no substitute for taking your vitamins. -I usually do recommend that women supplements rather than try to get it from food just because it's easier. -In fact, the body absorbs the synthetic form of folic acid better than folate found naturally in food. In addition to iron which helps both moms and babies, blood carry oxygen. Pregnant and nursing women should be getting plenty of calcium to help maintain bone density. -And multivitamins and prenatal vitamins, typically, don't have a whole lot of calcium in them. So, it's something that you do need to supplement. The dose is a 1,000 milligrams per day. Usually, they come in 5 and 600-milligram doses. So, you can supplement somewhat with diet and then somewhat with just a tablet, whatever is convenient. -A woman should also make sure she's leading a healthy lifestyle before trying to get pregnant. -It's important to make sure that you're eating correctly, that you're not having excessive alcohol intake, that you're exercising regularly, that you're drinking lots of water and you have a healthy lifestyle. So that, when you're going into the pregnancy, you're kind of optimizing everything. - -Even though they're called prenatals, keep taking those vitamins after your baby's born. -I usually recommend that women take supplements as long as they're nursing. So, if a woman's nursing from 6 months to a year, I'll usually recommend that she continue her prenatal vitamin or a multivitamin with the calcium for that long. -To keep both mom and baby strong and healthy.