The best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Consult your doctor about the best brand to take since many are available over the counter without prescription. Note that some prenatal vitamins could give rise to side effects, though these are rare. So it is always best to seek the advice of a doctor before taking following best over the counter prenatal vitamins.
1. Beta carotene
This gets converted into vitamin A and the conversion is affected by various other factors like thyroid hormones, zinc, proteins and vitamin C. In general, this prenatal vitamin does not lead to toxicity. It is also found naturally in many fruits and vegetables including carrots, mangos, apricots, plums, yams, squash etc. Beta carotene is safe to take during pregnancy and nursing as well.
Dosage: Take between 15 to 180 mg per day or as advised by your doctor.
Biotin is an important B-vitamin which is needed for strong nails and hair. Women deficient in this vitamin often have dry skin, nausea, brittle nails, and loss of appetite. Biotin also plays a role in insulin and blood sugar regulation. Women with gestational diabetes should take a prenatal vitamin with biotin.
Dosage of 2.5 mg of biotin per day can help you get rid of nausea, brittle nails etc. Individuals with diabetes should not take more than 4mg of biotin daily as it can change insulin levels. In general, a prenatal vitamin supplement containing 800 mg of Biotin is a good amount to expect.
This is an important one among all prenatal vitamins before pregnancy as well as during it. It acts as a digestive aid and also prevents respiratory infections like sinusitis, bronchitis etc. Women allergic to pineapple must not take Bromelain. Also, take this vitamin in between taking copper and iron since these deactivate bromelain.
Dosage: Typical dosage of this prenatal vitamin which is available in the form of capsule or tablet is 250 to 750 mg three times a day. If you are taking it for helping digestion, take it with food. While it is generally safe during pregnancy and lactation, possible side effects include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
4. Folic acid
This is one of the most important of all prenatal vitamins as it plays a crucial role in cell growth. Average American woman gets only 250 mcg of folic acid which is way less than the daily recommended value of 400 mcg. Over the counter prenatal vitamins contain up to 800 mcg of this vitamin while prescription prenatal supplements contain up to 1 mg. Folic acid works with vitamin B12 so it is best to take both together.
Dosage: Possible side effects of overdose of this prenatal vitamin include flatulence, nausea and appetite loss. However, these effects are usually only seen at higher doses of 5000 to 10000 mcg and standard supplements contain one-tenth of this amount.
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5. Pantothenic Acid/Vitamin B5
This is the anti-stress vitamin. It is not present in many prenatal vitamins since its effects have not been studied in pregnant and lactating mothers. Also, it may inhibit absorption of biotin. Therefore, it is important to discuss with a doctor before taking this vitamin.
Dosage: In prescription prenatal vitamins, it is available in dosage of 6-10mg whereas over the counter prenatal vitamins may contain up to 25 mg. Food sources of this vitamin include eggs, vegetables, Brewer’s Yeast, kidneys, seafood, mushrooms, and whole wheat.
6. Niacin/Vitamin B3
Most prenatal vitamin supplements contain Niacin or nicotinamide. It is safe to take during pregnancy and lactation.
Dosage: Maximum recommended amount in pregnancy of Nicotinamide and niacin is up to 30 mg each per day.
7. Riboflavin/Vitamin B2
Deficiency of this vitamin can cause cracked lips, loss of visual acuity, itchy eyes, etc.
Dosage of Riboflavin in prenatal vitamins is up to 10 mg or less.
8. Thiamin/Vitamin B1
Deficiency of this vitamin can cause muscle wasting, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Pregnant women who do not get adequate Vitamin B1 report that they cannot think clearly or retain information.
Dosage: The usual amount in prenatal vitamin supplements is about 3mg.
9. Pyridoxine/Vitamin B6
This is an important one among all prenatal vitamins as deficiency can cause depression or anemia.
Dosage: Upper limit of this vitamin for pregnant women is 100 mg per day.
10. Vitamin B12
Deficiency of this prenatal vitamin can give rise to depression and pernicious anemia. Other symptoms of low Vitamin B12 include pins and needles in feet, numbness, smooth and beefy looking red tongue and diarrhea.
Dosage: There are no known side effects of overdose of this vitamin.
Apart from these, you also need Vitamins C, D and E along with minerals like calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper and iron.