What’s the Deal with Prenatal Vitamins?
By Kristen Dunleavy
Last weekend was my 31st birthday, and I celebrated like any other 30-something would. And by that I mean pretending it was, in fact, my 21st birthday all over again and eating and imbibing way too much on very little sleep. After my debauched weekend filled with one too many shots of Fireball and birthday cake, I was delighted to realize that my liver was still functional. I wanted to keep it that way, so I headed to the grocery, stocked up on a zillion juice-able veggies and basically any product that contained the word “detox.”
I also decided to re-up my vitamin intake, as I’ve been slacking pretty hard as of late. I grabbed a multivitamin formulated especially for women, along with some milk thistle to help promote my liver’s continued functionality. NOW I was back in business!
Part of the reason I suck at remembering to take vitamins is because I just don’t know WHAT to take to begin with. I know a lot of women who take prenatal vitamins who have no intention of getting pregnant, just because they’re jam-packed with so many nutrients most women need anyway.
But what is the actual difference between prenatal vitamins and, say, a regular women’s multivitamin? I did some research to find out.
Calcium: Prenatal vitamins are a great calcium supplement, containing about 200-300mg. However, women should be getting a total of about 1,000 mg of calcium daily – so prenatal vitamins will give you an extra boost, but a balanced diet should provide the rest.
Iron: Women between ages 19 and 50 need about 18 mg of iron daily, and pregnant women need 27 mg. Now, getting TOO much iron in your diet isn’t good, because it can eventually build up in your body and become toxic. However, if you’re a vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions that prevent you from getting enough iron, prenatal vitamins could be a great solution.
Folic acid: Many women’s vitamins contain folic acid, as there is evidence that it prevents certain birth defects. A recent study also found that women who take folic acid significantly reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure. Prenatal vitamins contain an extra boost of folic acid that proves helpful if you’re not eating enough green leafy vegetables, fruits and dried beans – but those things are delicious so I have no idea why you wouldn’t be!
Remember, prenatal vitamins, like any other vitamins, are dietary SUPPLEMENTS – they are meant to supplement an already healthy diet. You can’t just binge on pizza, pop a vitamin and expect to feel awesome. It doesn’t work that way!
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Do you take prenatal vitamins even though you’re not pregnant? Tell us in the comments!