When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

Pregnant woman in white dress looking at pill pot.
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Prenatal vitamins are well known to be a good thing to help your pregnancy. This little pill can pack a big punch when it comes to having a healthy pregnancy. So, the big question is when do you start taking them for the healthiest pregnancy possible?

Start Before You Are Pregnant

Ideally, you would start taking prenatal vitamins before you were even pregnant. This allows you to ensure that you are the healthiest possible before you ever conceive.

Taking them while you're trying to conceive is always great and can help try to prevent birth defects. If you have had a preconception check up, your midwife or doctor has probably already suggested that you begin taking prenatal vitamins. They may have even given you a prescription or suggestion for which brand to buy.

"I saw the signs up at my doctor's office when I was there about something else," remember April. "It just said something about taking folic acid as a way to have a healthy baby, even if you weren't planning a pregnancy. I asked my doctor and she said it was a good idea for all women to take a vitamin, but that it didn't have to be a specific one for pregnancy. She showed me a list of what it should contain, including the folic acid. My regular vitamins fit the bill."

If You're Pregnant, Start ASAP

Don't panic - lots of people are not taking prenatal vitamins when they find out that they are pregnant.

All is not lost. If you have just found out that you're pregnant, you can start immediately to take the prenatal vitamins. If your appointment isn't for awhile, call your provider to ask them for advice. If they do not have a suggestion or ask you to wait you can find generic prenatal multivitamins at the local drugstore or grocery store.

"I didn't plan to get pregnant, but my birth control had other ideas, so when I turned up pregnant, I was panicked over the prenatal vitamins when my partner asked me about them," Reah remembers. "Thankfully the nurse called me in some vitamins when I made my first appointment. It was no big deal."

Many people were also taking a standard multi-vitamin before pregnancy. This vitamin is great to help you balance out all the vitamin and mineral intakes for non-pregnant people. And while it isn't the ideal pregnancy vitamin, because it has too little or too much of certain vitamins, it may provide a bit of protection for the time before you knew that you were pregnant.

If you have questions about your vitamins, be it about the content of the vitamin, or the timing, remember that there is a lot of flexibility. Talking to your doctor or midwife can help you ensure that you are getting everything that you need to have a healthy pregnancy. The prenatal vitamin is simply an insurance policy to help reduce some risks.

You are still ultimately responsible for a healthy pregnancy lifestyle, including exercise, diet, and your prenatal care. 

You might also be interested in:

De-Regil L, Peña-Rosas J, Fernández-Gaxiola AC, Rayco-Solon P. Effects and safety of periconceptional oral folate supplementation for preventing birth defects. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD007950. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007950.pub3

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