By Dr Rita Bakshi
Being a mother is a great feeling. We know that post delivery of the baby, the mother has a lot of responsibilities, but the prenatal phase is important as well. The health of the baby depends on the mother. The preparation of the arrival of the baby actually starts even before the conception. Yes, it’s true!
Consuming a healthy diet is always a good idea but most diets, even the best ones, are unable to provide all the nutrition that is required for the birth of the baby. This is where the need of prenatal vitamins arises.
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that comprise of essential vitamins and minerals that a mother requires before and during her pregnancy. A prenatal vitamin helps in filling nutritional gaps in the diet of the prospective mother as these vitamins are power packed with folic acid, iron, iodine and calcium. These vitamins are vital for the proper growth and development of the foetus.
When should one start taking prenatal vitamins?
It is essential that a woman starts taking folic acid at least one month before she starts trying to conceive. This is advised because the first few weeks of pregnancy are very crucial for the health of the foetus as that’s when the baby’s neural tube begins to form. Consuming folic acid and other prenatal vitamins timely can actually help in reducing the risk of birth defects. Also, it is essential that the mother takes a prenatal vitamin after consulting her doctor as there are several and different types of vitamins targeting different problems.
Do prenatal vitamins have side-effects?
A lot of women face side-effects of prenatal vitamins, which generally differ from person to person. Some face extreme nausea while may suffer from constipated. Other side-effects can include diarrhea, stomach upset, lower appetite, cramps or even changes in the colour of the stool. It is recommended to communicate the side-effects that the expecting mother might be facing to her doctor.
Who else should take prenatal vitamins?
It is not essential the only expectant mothers should consume prenatal vitamins. People with an unbalanced diet, malnutrition or dietary insufficiencies must take these supplemented vitamins.
Women pregnant with more than one baby, those who are vegan, have had surgery for weight loss, smoke, drink alcohol, abuse illicit drugs and have lactase deficiency are advised to consume vitamins.
What if the mother misses taking a dose or forgets to take them?
It is important to take prenatal vitamins every day. But it’s okay if the expectant mother somehow forgets to consume them. Missing out on prenatal vitamins is no big deal if the prospective mother consumes a rich and a fibrous diet during her pregnancy. However, many women think that if they missed their vitamin one day, they can consume two tablets the next day. But, this is not at all advisable as this can have severe side-effects.
To help boost the chances of a healthy baby, it is important to develop healthy eating habits and a regular exercise routine. The balance of the two can definitely be a game changer.
(The writer is Senior Gynaecologist and IVF Expert, International Fertility Centre.)