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Ask an OB/GYN: Prenatal Vitamins

How much do you know about prenatal vitamins? Obstetrician Amy McEntaffer, MD answers your questions on all things prenatal vitamins.

prenatal vitamin

When you are pregnant, there is a lot to think about — from eating a healthy diet and exercising, to maintaining the best prenatal care. A great way to ensure you and baby get the appropriate daily vitamins and minerals needed to support your pregnancy is to supplement your intake with prenatal vitamins.

What To Look For

During pregnancy, you need a variety of vitamins and minerals:

Folic Acid

Folic acid is critical during pregnancy. It has several essential functions, like preventing neural tube defects, supporting the development of the fetus and placenta, and aids in the formation of baby’s brain and spinal cord. It is recommended to take between 400-800 micrograms per day. You can also find folic acid in other sources, like enriched bread and pasta, peanuts, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, and beans.


In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin, you should ensure you are getting adequate levels of iron. Iron helps to make the extra blood that is needed by you and your fetus during pregnancy. Gummy prenatal vitamins typically do not contain iron but are fine to take — unless you have an iron deficiency. Typically, pregnant women need more than the 27 mg a day (found in most prenatal vitamins). You can achieve the daily iron recommendations by eating foods that are rich in iron, like beans, lentils, beef and turkey.


Calcium is important to the baby developing strong bones and teeth and can also be found in sources like milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D

Many people, particularly in Iowa, do not get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to promote healthy eyesight and skin in your baby and promotes healthy bone growth, and can be found in sunlight and fortified milk products.

B Vitamins

Not only can vitamin B6 help suppress pregnancy nausea, but it also helps to form red blood cells, and can be found in beef, pork, ham, and bananas. Vitamin B12 helps maintain baby’s nervous system, and can be found in meat, fish, poultry, and milk.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to keep mom’s immune system running strong, while developing baby’s bones, teeth, and healthy gums.

When Should I Start Prenatal Vitamins?

It is a good idea for anyone of reproductive age to take a prenatal vitamin, even if you aren’t expecting. The benefits of a prenatal vitamin can take effect even before you know that you’re pregnant.

You should only take the recommended amount of your prenatal vitamin, according to the package. If you are deficient in one vitamin or mineral, your obstetrician may recommend an additional supplement. Once you start taking a prenatal vitamin, you should stop taking any additional multivitamin to stay within the recommended amount.

Common Side Effects

Despite all the benefits taking a prenatal vitamin can bring, they can contribute to several side effects — like constipation, nausea and bloating. Speak with your obstetrician if these side effects persist.

For all of your pregnancy questions, The Iowa Clinic OB/GYN providers are here for you. Visit our website or call 515.875.9290 to learn more.

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