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ABCs of Prenatal Vitamins

By Jade Malcolm, APRN January 10, 2024 Posted in: Maternity Care

You might know prenatal vitamins have folic acid to prevent birth defects. But many other ingredients also help to support a healthy mom and baby. Here’s what’s in that daily vitamin, and why each ingredient is essential for mom and baby. 

Prenatal Vitamin Ingredients

Folic Acid

Folic acid is one of the most important ingredients in a prenatal vitamin because it helps prevent neural tube defects in a baby (brain and spinal column abnormalities/deformities). Although found in some foods, it is hard to get enough folic acid through diet alone.

Iron

Iron helps with anemia that can be common during pregnancy, supports fetal and placenta growth during pregnancy and offsets blood loss associated with delivery.

Calcium

Calcium helps support a baby’s growing skeletal system and protects the pregnant woman’s body from bone loss.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps with bone development and can have an impact on a pregnant woman’s blood pressure, mood, brain function and immune system.

B Vitamins

B vitamins help create red blood cells, proteins, and RNA & DNA, and can contribute to the energy women feel during pregnancy. Vitamin B deficiencies contribute to hair loss, fatigue, anemia, digestive problems and a weakened immune response.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps with development of fetal eyes, ears, limbs and heart.

Vitamin C & E

Vitamin C and E help make collagen (found in cartilage, tendons, bones and skin) and boosts the immune system.

Iodine

Iodine helps with a pregnant woman’s thyroid hormone production, which helps with development of baby’s nervous system and brain development.

Magnesium

Magnesium, sodium and potassium (electrolytes) help maintain hydration and proper functioning of a pregnant woman’s nerves and muscles. Magnesium also helps support adequate blood flow to the brain.

Zinc

Zinc helps prevent low birth weight babies and premature delivery due to zinc deficiencies brought on by rapid cell growth that occurs with a developing pregnancy.

Choline

Choline is needed for baby’s brain development, and helps with proper liver function and placenta function. Because choline is also passed to baby in breastmilk (which can lower mom’s levels), continuing to take a prenatal vitamin during breastfeeding is helpful. 

If you have any questions about vitamins or other pregnancy issues, reach out to your provider. 

Jade Malcolm, APRN
Jade Malcolm, APRN

Jade Malcolm, APRN is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner with CHI Health.

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