Prenatals aren’t just for pregnant women—they can be a great addition to many women’s daily supplement regimens. Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends them for all women of child-bearing age, since the nutrients in prenatals are vital during the time even before you get pregnant. (Learn more about Dr. Low Dog’s recommendations for nutrition during pregnancy.)
Prenatals are generally high in iron, folic acid, and sometimes the biotin that is included in hair and nail formula vitamins. Because of these added benefits, some women elect to take prenatal vitamins even when they aren’t pregnant. Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider prenatals.
You’re trying to get pregnant
One of the main nutrients in prenatal vitamins is folic acid, which many women don’t get enough of in their diets. And folic acid deficiency has been linked to birth defects in some infants. Prenatal vitamins also commonly include the omega-3 fatty acid docoshexaenoic acid (DHA), which can help with brain development and vision. While fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, there is concern regarding fish consumption and mercury toxicity while pregnant, meaning pregnant women must rely on supplementation.
Another main difference between regular multivitamins and prenatal vitamins is that prenatals contain much more iron. If you have issues with anemia, this extra iron can help. The Mayo Clinic warns, however, that too much iron can be dangerous, so consult with your health care provider if you notice side effects after taking prenatal vitamins.
You’re vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions
Meeting all your dietary needs when your diet is restricted can be challenging. Getting B vitamins, for example, can be especially hard for vegetarians because the main dietary source of B vitamins is meat. Those with lactose intolerance, or who opt not to consume dairy, can benefit from the extra calcium and vitamin D in prenatal supplements.
You want a boost for your hair
Biotin, which is part of the B vitamin group, has been used to treat hair loss and disorders. Biotin is present in many cosmetics, shampoos along with prenatal vitamins, so improving the condition of your hair may be another reason to take prenatal vitamins when not pregnant. Even celebrities such as Mindy Kaling swear by the practice!
The time you spend breastfeeding is an extension of pregnancy, since the nutrition you put in your own body is still helping your baby’s development. Folate is a vital nutrient for infants, and if a lactating mother isn’t getting enough folate for both her and her baby, she may find herself at risk of deficiency as much of the folate produced will go to the baby through breastfeeding. Continuing to take prenatal vitamins while you breastfeed can help better nourish you and your baby.
Whether you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant or simply want to boost your vitamin intake, prenatal vitamins may be worth considering. And, as always, make sure to consult your health care practitioner before making any changes to your health care routine.