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Common Myths About Prenatal Vitamins

The Scoop About Prenatal Vitamins

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Updated May 19, 2014

Pregnant Woman looking at medication
Photo © Stockbyte/Getty Images

Prenatal vitamins are a hot topic these days. Everyone is touting the benefits of using them prior to getting pregnant to help prevent certain birth defects and continuing them during pregnancy and breastfeeding for continued protection from nutrition deficiencies. However, despite all of the attention these little pills get there are a lot of fallacies as well.

Myth: Taking prenatal vitamins will be adequate no matter what your diet is like.

Reality: This is false because the goal of prenatal vitamins is to supplement your diet not to replace it. In fact, prenatal vitamins work better when you are eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods. There are also known deficiencies in prenatal vitamins, for example calcium. The levels of calcium in the average prenatal vitamin is 250 mg. A pregnant woman needs about 1,200 - 1,500 mg of calcium daily to help her and the baby adequately grow.

Myth: All prenatal vitamins are alike.

Reality: Again false because recent studies showed that out of 9 prescriptions vitamins only 3 actually released the amount of folate that they claimed to contain. This means that even though they really contained the folate the body didn't absorb it.

Myth: Prescription vitamins are better than non-prescription vitamins.

Reality: Nope. Not all vitamins are created equally and many vitamins that are available by prescription are also available over the counter. What is more important are the ingredients in the vitamins and how well they absorb into your body. Many times prescriptions are written so that the cost of the vitamins will be picked up by insurance companies.

When you're trying to decide which prenatal vitamin is right for you, talk to your doctor or midwife about their recommendations and keep some things in mind:

  • No prenatal vitamin will contain all of the calcium you need.
  • Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects, be sure that you're using a prenatal vitamin or a multi-vitamin with under 10,000 IU.
  • Too much iron in a prenatal vitamin will not be absorbed properly.
  • The taste and texture of vitamins do bother some women. If you can't keep your prenatal down, consider switching brands.
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