When I became pregnant with my oldest nearly 17 years ago, the first thing I did after my first doctor’s appointment was run to the pharmacy and get my prescription for prenatal vitamins filled. Taking those rather large horse pills once a day was annoying, yes, but it was a badge of honor that I wore proudly as a mom-to-be. After I gave birth, my doctor suggested that I continuing taking the vitamins as long as I was nursing. Soon thereafter, I became pregnant again…and nursed again…and then become pregnant a third time…and nursed that baby too. In the summer of 2003, I was glad to relinquish the prenatal vitamins because they were a symbol of the past three years of pregnancies. I was happy to finally not be pregnant or nursing or taking vitamins that actually required a prescription. When I returned to work full-time, I stopped taking the vitamins and starting taking a regular multivitamin.
Note: I realize I’m dating myself, but prenatal vitamins did require a prescription way back then when they can now be purchased over-the-counter. To make it more convenient, you can even purchase prenatal vitamins from Diapers.Com.
While I’m sure that the multivitamin served its basic purpose for my postpartum body, I noticed something very quickly. I didn’t have as much energy, I saw more hair breakage than I had seen in several months, and routine blood tests revealed that I needed to take supplements for vitamin d, calcium, and low iron.
After my youngest was born, I ended up taking four vitamins a day compared to the one I was taking when I was pregnant. How ironic.
My friend Jasmine had a baby last year and one of joys of being her friend during the pregnancy was watching how she took extra care of herself for the benefit of the baby. The photo above is of Lyberti, Jasmine’s precious daughter.
“Prenatal vitamins helped me so much during pregnancy and while I was nursing,” she says. “I had a lot of energy, my heartburn wasn’t bad, and my hair and nails grew a lot.”
Jasmine continued taking prenatal vitamins throughout her pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. Once she stopped nursing, she returned to regular multivitamins. “I noticed a slight difference between taking the regular vitamins and prenatal vitamins, but now that I’m not pregnant or nursing I don’t have a need to take them until we start planning for another child.”
Because of the tremendous benefits of prenatal vitamins, many women who are not pregnant or planning to become pregnant consider taking them. However, they can be dangerous if your body doesn’t need the additional nutrients.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant, high levels of certain nutrients over a long period of time may actually be more harmful than helpful and cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
Medical professionals in the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommend that any woman who wishes to add a prenatal vitamin to her regimen check with her doctor, especially if taking other vitamin supplements.
The reason is simple: woman who are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, and postpartum (especially if nursing) need the additional nutrients that prenatal vitamins provide. Those nutrients include iron, folic acid, calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. When a woman is pregnant, she needs extra doses of those nutrients to support the baby’s growth and development. Postpartum moms should continue taking vitamins to replinish the loss of nutrients during delivery. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, vitamins are important, however good nutrition is also critical to maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
My cousin Lola is the mom of a toddler, who like many others took prenatal vitamins when she was pregnant wither her sweet Tiger. She took prenatal vitamins during her pregnancy and for six months postpartum. “I took one after he was born because I was breastfeeding, and I took it for about 6 months after he was born.” Lola however, had a slightly different experience with the vitamins and her hair. “I had post partum shedding really bad about 3-4 months after the baby was born. The vitamins didn’t help with it at all.”
What are some of the healthy habits you developed while pregnant and/or nursing?