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Proper nutrition before and during pregnancy are important to ensure a healthy outcome, both for the mother and her baby. Mothers-to-be are often advised to eat a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients to help optimize her health, promote proper growth and development of her baby, and avoid complications. However, even if they eat a nutritious diet, many doctors believe they still need prenatal vitamins to supplement their diet with extra amounts of some key nutrients. These include:

  • Folic acid, which helps ensure proper development of your baby's brain and spinal cord. Folate is a B-vitamin that reduces the risk of serious birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Doctors recommend taking folic acid at least one month prior to pregnancy.
  • Calcium, which protects your bones and teeth as your baby grows. Your baby takes this mineral from your resources so you may lose bone density if you do not take extra calcium in your diet.
  • Iron, which helps increase oxygen delivery to your baby. It may also help prevent your baby from being born too small or too early.

There are many brands and formulations of prenatal multivitamins and these may consist of a combination of various vitamins and minerals that are normally found in foods. Prenatal multivitamins are used to provide the additional vitamins and nutrients you need during pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamin Side Effects

Just like other diet supplements, prenatal vitamins do not need FDA approval, so they are usually not extensively studied as other types of medications. Therefore, detailed information about the possible side effects of specific prenatal vitamins may not be available.

Based on the reported side effects of the individual components of PrimaCare, possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, belching or gas, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion/heartburn, muscle aches, ringing in the ears, metallic taste, flushing, headache, fatigue, insomnia, change in urine color, and loss of appetite. Some of the possible side effects of prenatal multivitamins are also common symptoms during pregnancy. It may be difficult to determine whether your symptoms are side effects of PrimaCare or due to the pregnancy itself.

Prenatal supplements may interact with certain medications, such as diuretics or "water pills," tretinoin or isotretinoin (which are usually used for acne), medications for the heart or blood pressure, certain antibiotics (like trimethoprim plus sulfamethoxazole) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (pain relievers such as ibuprofen, celecoxib, naproxen, and diclofenac).

Some side effects may occur due to an overdose of multivitamins or an allergic reaction. Some may also be potentially serious and immediate consultation with your healthcare is recommended. These include:

  • Severe nausea/ vomiting
  • Unusual bruising/bleeding
  • Unexplained itching, rash, hives
  • Unexplained swelling
  • Sudden wheezing, difficulty breathing or swallowing

Multivitamins that contain minerals when taken in large doses can cause side effects such as increased urination, tooth staining, stomach bleeding, abnormal heart rate, muscle weakness, and confusion. Read the label of any multivitamin product you take to make sure you are aware of what it contains.

How to Take Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins do not usually cause serious side effects when they are taken as directed. Here are some tips to reduce common side effects:

  • Take your prenatal vitamins by mouth, usually once a day or as directed.
  • Follow your doctor's directions or those provided on the product package.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dosage.
  • Take your prenatal vitamin with a full glass of water.
  • To avoid nausea, take your vitamins with food or before going to sleep.
  • Ask your doctor about using chewable vitamins, which may be better on your stomach.
  • To reduce constipation, eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink lots of water daily.

If you are not sure about any of the information on the product package, consult your doctor or ask a pharmacist. If your symptoms do not improve, talk with your doctor about switching to another brand or type of prenatal vitamins.

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