Posts Tagged ‘prenatal vitamin’

“I just found out I’m pregnant and I haven’t been taking folic acid. What should I do?”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Pregnant couple with providerThis is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. The good news is that no matter when you find out you are pregnant, you will still benefit from taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.

Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

Before pregnancy, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, or neural tube defects. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid. Your health care provider can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, or you can get them over the counter without a prescription – just be sure to check the label.

Folic acid is important before and during early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in your baby. However, a pregnant woman needs extra folic acid throughout her pregnancy to help her produce the additional blood cells her body needs. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and your baby, and is needed to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply.

If you have not been taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid up until now, perhaps you have been getting folic acid from food sources. Fortunately, in the United States, most grain products are fortified with folic acid (such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc.), so you are likely getting a certain amount of folic acid from your diet. Products that say “enriched” or “fortified” usually contain folic acid, but check product labels to be sure.

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally found in a food, it’s called folate. Foods that are good sources of folate are:

    • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
    • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
    • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit
    • Orange juice (From concentrate is best)

Folic acid is very important throughout your pregnancy, so even if you have been eating the foods listed, you should still take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org

Prenatal vitamins and autism risk

Friday, May 27th, 2011

vitamins-26377178_thmUse of prenatal vitamins before pregnancy and during the first month after conception may significantly reduce the risk of having a child with autism, according to a new study.

Researchers of the UC Davis MIND Institute interviewed approximately 700 families in California who have children aged 2-5 years who have been diagnosed with autism. They found that mothers who took the prenatal vitamins for three months before pregnancy or during the first month of pregnancy were only half as likely to have a child with autism as those who didn’t take them. For mothers who began taking them in the second month of pregnancy, there was no effect, however. This suggests that by the time most women learn they are pregnant, beginning to take the vitamins will provide little or no benefit in terms of autism. This underlines the importance of women taking prenatal vitamins when they’re just thinking about having a baby.

These findings appear to be especially relevant for genetically susceptible mothers and children. The study found an increased risk for women who had one of two particular gene mutations (MTHFR or COMT) who did not take prenatal vitamins early on (4.2 and 7.5 times greater risk, respectively)

This study, soon to be published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, is the first to report such findings. While the report is quite promising, further research is needed to confirm the results.

Vitamin D showing great promise

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Over the past year or two I have read several articles about vitamin D deficiency in adults and the link to a number of health problems.  Some researchers believe that decreased sun exposure (to help prevent skin cancer) and the growing obesity epidemic are the cause of vitamin D deficiency.  (This is yet another reason for trying to reach your ideal weight before you conceive.)

The current guideline for vitamin D consumption during pregnancy is 200-400 IU per day, which is found in most prenatal vitamins.  Up to now, a daily intake of 2,000 IU has been considered unsafe for anyone to take, pregnant or not.

A new study, looking at pregnant women in their second and third trimesters, says that daily high doses (4,000 IU) of vitamin D appear to significantly reduce risks of developing complications during pregnancy such as infections or preterm labor and birth.  The authors, presenting at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver,  B.C., also suggest that not enough vitamin D increases the risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy.

This is an exciting and promising study, although it needs to be confirmed by further research before a change in daily intake recommendations can be made.  But it may be a good idea for pregnant women to have their vitamin D levels checked and to have a conversation with their providers about how much vitamin D supplementation they should take.  Don’t bump it up yourself, though, without first having that conversation.

With all the current research on vitamin D, the Institute of Medicine is now debating changing its guidelines for vitamin D intake for everyone, including pregnant women.  Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted.

Extra calories and breastfeeding

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The number of calories a woman needs while breastfeeding depends upon how much body fat she has and how active she is. While women are often advised to consume about 500 extra calories daily while they are breastfeeding, research now shows that this could be too much for some women, while for others it could be insufficient.

Most breastfeeding women need to increase not only the calories they consume, but all the nutrients that make up their diet in order to satisfy the additional requirements of milk synthesis, though for some women the increase will be minimal. If her diet is balanced and varied, the increase in calories will automatically be accompanied by an increase in all the other nutrients. If you wish, you can continue to take your prenatal vitamin or another multivitamin to ensure that you are getting 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).