Hopefully, you’re popping a prenatal vitamin every day to help keep yourself healthy and your baby’s growth and development on track. But you might be wondering—what exactly is in those pills, and why are they so important? Let’s have a look at the most common nutrients found in prenatals, and what each can do for your little one.
If you could point to a single, most-important nutrient for your baby—this is the one. Folic acid (or folate) is critical even before conception, as it greatly reduces the risk of serious birth defects that affect the brain, spine and spinal cord.
Another super-important nutrient, vitamin A is essential to the development of your baby’s heart, eyes, ears, arms and legs.
B-complex vitamins play a vital role in almost every aspect of your baby’s development, including:
- Brain and nervous system
- Eyes and vision
Plus, they offer a lot of benefits for you and your pregnancy, including:
- Improving digestion and easing nausea
- Reducing leg cramps
- Reducing fatigue
- Lowering the risk of preeclampsia
- Reducing the frequency and intensity of headaches
- Regulating pregnancy hormones
- Reducing stress hormones, depression and irritability
- Reducing the risk of pre-term labor and low birth weight
- Reducing hair loss and brittle nails
Besides helping both you and baby absorb the calcium in your diet, vitamin D also helps support both of your immune systems, muscles and nerves.
Vitamins C and E
These antioxidants support the production of collagen, a protein that forms the building blocks of your baby’s bones, skin, cartilage and tendons.
During pregnancy, you need almost double the amount of iron, because it helps your body to make extra blood to carry oxygen to your growing baby. Extra iron will also help prevent anemia in your own body, which can make you even more fatigued and irritable.
Extra zinc during pregnancy can reduce the risks of low birth weight, pre-term labor and complications during labor.
Iodine (which is different from the iodide in iodized salt) is important for yours and your baby’s thyroid, nervous system and hormone regulation.
Sodium, potassium and magnesium
These electrolytes keep both you and your baby hydrated, helping to support proper development and functioning of the nervous system and muscle groups. Magnesium also helps prevent pre-term labor and, as a bonus, can stave off those awful nighttime leg cramps.
DHA/omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3s are vital for healthy development of your baby’s brain, heart and eyes, and they help reduce the risk of pre-term labor.
Calcium is essential to help build your baby’s bones and teeth—and, if you don’t take extra calcium, your growing baby will take it right out of your own bones.