The answer to this question seems to depend on whom you ask. Some say prenatal vitamins are essential; others blow them off completely. In the middle are those who believe prenatal vitamins should be taken by only some women (smokers, vegetarians, etc.). Here are some thoughts and suggestions about this unresolved subject.
Some experts cite studies where women who took prenatal vitamins gave birth to babies who were no healthier than those babies born to women who did not take a prenatal. Others contend that the risk of birth defects, particularly neural tube defects, is higher among women who do not take prenatal vitamins.
Some nutritional and medical experts think supplementation is a good idea during pregnancy, but they do not stress prescription prenatals. And then there are medical professionals and other experts who claim that the so-called need for prenatal vitamins is driven by the supplement industry. So as you can see, there are lots of opinions out there!
Even skeptical experts agree on the importance of folic acid supplements, though. Because the evidence is so overwhelming regarding the effects of folic acid deficiency, and because folic acid is not necessarily ample in the average diet, this is one supplement that nearly everyone agrees on.
Many pregnant women find that prenatal vitamins simply make them sick. The pills are enormous, and even non-pregnant individuals can get nauseated from taking so many vitamins at once. This is one major reason why some women simply give up taking vitamins during pregnancy.
Some sources claim that prescription prenatal vitamins are not bio-available – that is, they are not absorbed by the body very well. This begs the question afresh as to the necessity of these supplements.
There have been doctors who advised their pregnant patients to eat fortified cereal for breakfast instead of taking a pill. There are cereals available with 100% of the USDA of all major vitamins and minerals, and many pregnant women find this easier to stomach.
You can also compromise by purchasing your own prenatal vitamins instead of relying on prescription ones. Some prenatals come in food-based forms or capsules, which may be more bio-available.
Some commercially available prenatal vitamins involve anywhere from 3 to 6 tablets or capsules a day. While this may seem burdensome, some women find that being able to spread out the vitamins throughout the day is easier on the stomach. Also, when the supplements are in multi-pill form, you can adjust your vitamin intake accordingly.