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Differences Between Prenatal Vitamins & Regular Women's Vitamins

The little pink plus sign just popped up on your pregnancy test and you're already on the phone with an obstetrician. One of the first things your doctor will do is prescribe a prenatal vitamin. Even if you're already taking a regular multivitamin, switching to a prenatal version is part of having a healthy pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to meet your needs and those of your growing baby.

Increasing Needs

A regular multivitamin may meet your own health needs, but it won't meet the needs of both you and your baby. Pregnancy increases your daily intake requirement for vitamins and nutrients necessary to boost fetal growth, according to the American Pregnancy Association. While all prenatal vitamins are specifically made for pregnant women, they may not all contain the same dosages of ingredients. The majority of prenatal vitamins, however, do contain the recommended daily allowance for pregnant women. The RDA of some vitamins and nutrients for women who are pregnant differs from the RDA for women who are not pregnant.

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Folic Acid

One of the main differences between a regular daily vitamin and prenatal vitamins is the amount of folic acid they provide. Folic acid — vitamin B-9 — can help to reduce the risk of your baby developing neural tube defects, according to the website KidsHealth. An improperly formed neural tube may result in spina bifida or another brain-spinal cord birth defect. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that pregnant women take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. While many multivitamins contain folic acid, only prenatal vitamins always contain the amount necessary to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Iron Intake

Even though everyone needs iron in their diet, pregnant women need more. The APA notes that iron can prevent anemia, lower the risk of a low birth weight and reduce the risk of premature delivery. The RDA of iron for a woman who is not pregnant and between 19 and 50 years old is 18 milligrams, but it goes up to 27 milligrams during pregnancy, according to the National Institutes of Health. Prenatal vitamins provide the extra 9 milligrams of iron.

Calcium For Your Child

Calcium — another major nutrient — helps your muscles and nerves function properly, and it helps your baby's bones grow and become stronger. Prenatal vitamins contain only 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium, so it is important to include calcium-rich foods such as milk and cheese in your daily diet in order to ensure that you receive the recommended daily allowance of at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium for women who are pregnant.

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