Why take a prenatal vitamin?
Taking a prenatal vitamin is one of the key components of a healthy pregnancy. These components include appropriate weight gain, avoidance of harmful substances such as tobacco and alcohol, adequate physical activity, consumption of a healthy diet, and adequate vitamin supplementation. It is important to take prenatal vitamin before pregnancy as well. In a recent study only 25% of women knew it was recommended they take a supplement containing folic acid before pregnancy. (Canfield, 2006)
A systematic review of 13 randomized controlled trials addressing the effects of prenatal vitamin supplementation on pregnancy outcomes showed dramatic results. Babies of women who received prenatal vitamins during pregnancy had up to 30 percent reduction in risk of low birth weight compared to infants of women who received no vitamin supplementation. (Shah, 2009)
Prenatal vitamins are particularly important for smokers, adolescent mothers, vegetarians and vegans, women older than age 35, women with lactose intolerance, and women carrying a multiple gestation. Women in these categories may also benefit from consultation with a nutritionist specializing in pregnancy, in addition to taking a prenatal vitamin. Deficiencies of critical nutrients during pregnancy can result in poor pregnancy outcomes. Recent research suggests that women deficient in calcium and vitamin D are at increased risk for preterm birth. (Papandreou, 2004)
Other studies suggest that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased odds of primary cesarean section. (Merewood, 2009) Furthermore, 54.1% of black women and 42.1% of white women did not have enough vitamin D in their diet during pregnancy (Bodnar, 2007)
Iron deficiency is very common in pregnancy. In one study, 90% of women reported consuming less than 2/3 of the RDA. Furthermore, 22% of the women in the study were subsequently diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia (hemoglobin <12￼mg/L). (Swensen, 2001)
There is also evidence that adequate amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E during pregnancy may have a beneficial influence on a child’s cognitive and behavior development during the first 2 years of life. (Chen, 2009)
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