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Why Prenatal Vitamins Matter

It is common sense that eating a healthy diet is the very best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. During pregnancy, getting enough folic acid or folate is critical to your baby’s brain and spinal cord development.

Foods high in folic acid or folate include leafy green vegetables; beans, peas and nuts; and enriched breads, cereals and grains, but it can be difficult getting enough from diet alone. That’s where prenatal vitamins can be a critical supplement to help ensure your baby’s health.

Why Prenatal Vitamins MatterFolic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent brain and spinal cord defects in your developing baby, including spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida occurs when a developing baby’s spinal column does not fully close to protect the spinal cord. This causes the nerves that control leg movements and other functions to not work. Babies born with spina bifida often have lifelong disabilities. Anencephaly is a condition where the developing baby’s brain does not fully develop. Babies with anencephaly die shortly before or just after birth.

If you are of an age where you are able to get pregnant, you need 400-800 mcg (micrograms) of folate daily. Talk with your AOA doctor about folic acid if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant; if you are breastfeeding; if you’ve previously had a child with a brain or spinal birth defect; if you have a family member with spina bifida; or if you have spina bifida and want to get pregnant.

In addition to folic acid, prenatal vitamins contain more iron than everyday multivitamins. Iron supports your baby’s growth and development and prevents anemia, which occurs when your blood doesn’t have adequate red blood cells.

Besides folic acid and iron, prenatal vitamins provide extra calcium, vitamin C, zinc, copper, vitamin B-6 and vitamin D. They are an essential supplement to a healthy diet, not a substitute for good nutrition.

Learn more about prenatal vitamins: