Prenatal Vitamins

Take your prenatal vitamin every day.

Vitamins and minerals help your body use the energy provided by foods. They also help repair and maintain cells and tissues.

Vitamins and minerals include folic acid (a B vitamin), iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D and calcium. Large amounts of Vitamin A can be dangerous; pregnant women should avoid taking more than the Daily Value (5,000 international units) of Vitamin A.

Folic Acid

Choose a diet that includes a variety of healthy, nutritious foods. Some good choices are fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and pastas, milk products, and low-fat protein sources such as lean red meat, beans, tofu, poultry and some fish.

Folic Acid is a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps a baby's neural tube—the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord—develop properly. It must be taken before and during early pregnancy when the neural tube is forming.

The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it and eat a healthy diet. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure. You also can get folic acid in your diet, but it's hard to get enough every day through food alone.

Folic acid works, but it only works if taken before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the neural tube is developing into the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close properly, a baby is born with a very serious birth defect called a neural tube defect.

These birth defects happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she's pregnant. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. These are two reasons why it is important for all women who can get pregnant to be sure to get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, even if they aren't planning a pregnancy any time soon.

Folic Acid is found in the following foods:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Lentils
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Peanuts
  • Orange juice
  • Enriched breads and pasta
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli