As a genetic counselor, one of my roles is to educate women about how to prepare their bodies for a pregnancy with the hope of reducing their chances for birth defects. Taking a multivitamin every day is one positive habit that could literally change lives.
Multivitamins have the power to prevent certain birth defects.
The key is to take them even when you’re not planning a pregnancy, since the baby starts forming in the womb before most women realize they’re pregnant. Since more than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, this message is especially important.
If you wait to take your vitamin until after you find out you’re pregnant, you’ve missed a window of opportunity since important structures such as the brain, heart and spine have already begun to form.
If you’re already pregnant and in the habit of taking a prenatal vitamin, you should continue taking a multivitamin after your baby is born.
There’s really no downside to taking a multivitamin every day. Vitamins are essential to help the body function properly.
Although eating healthy is of primary importance, a daily multivitamin can help fill nutritional gaps. And, it supplies babies with necessary nutrients during the very early, but critical, time of fetal development.
Folic acid is one of the nutrients in a multivitamin that has been proven to prevent birth defects. You should consume 400 micrograms daily, which is the amount present in most multivitamin supplements.
Folic acid is naturally present in many foods, such as green, leafy vegetables, and has been added to fortified foods such as breads, pasta and cereal. However, even when women strive to eat healthy, it has been shown that most do not get the recommended amount of folic acid through diet alone.
That’s why all women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin in addition to eating healthy foods.
But with busy schedules, how can you remember to take your vitamin every day? Place vitamins in the same location and take them at the same time each day. This will help you establish a routine that will give you the nutrients you need and positively change the course of your child’s future.