Does a woman need to be pregnant in order to benefit from prenatal vitamins, or is the “prenatal” just a marketing gimmick to get pregnant women to buy them?

Well, I posed these questions to Randy Fink, MD, Director of the Center of Excellence for Obstetrics & Gynecology in Miami, FL.

Dr. Fink explains, “Prenatals can be taken when not pregnant, though they are not formulated for the recommended daily allowances (RDA) as are multivitamins.

“So yes, there is a difference. Is it enough of a difference to matter to most women?

“There is no harm in taking a prenatal vitamin when not pregnant for most women with normal nutrition, but pregnant women should stick with a vitamin called a ‘prenatal.’”

Dr. Fink adds that there should be other considerations when shopping around for supplements. A more expensive supplement is not necessarily superior to a cheaper one.

  • Read the ingredients on the back of supplement bottles.
  • For example, some supplements contain soy.
  • Vitamins targeted at children typically contain artificial color and artificial flavor.

Dr. Fink says that there don’t exist studies that show one product to be superior to another, however.

He explains, “The more important issue is what you tolerate; some vitamins are coated, some have a stool softener, some have an aftertaste.”

Also be alert to the dosage that’s listed on the front of the bottle.

As for the best time to take prenatals?

Dr. Fink says that no data is available to confirm best specific times for taking the supplements.

Nevertheless, he does explain, “A prenatal vitamin can be taken at any time of the day, and either with or without food.

“However, sometimes the vitamin can cause stomach upset. This may be particularly true during the first trimester, when nausea and vomiting are more common.

“Even still, as the baby grows and increases upward pressure on mom’s stomach, mom may be more prone to acid indigestion.”

A pregnant woman, regardless of how far along she is, may still experience disagreement with a supplement.

Dr. Fink advises that if a supplement upsets a pregnant woman’s stomach, she should take it at night.

To reduce risk of heartburn after taking supplements at night, a woman should prop her head up with more than one pillow when she sleeps.

On the other hand, if there is no stomach upset, a pregnant woman may choose to consistently take her prenatal vitamins as part of her morning ritual so that she doesn’t forget.

Lay the vitamins out before bedtime, so that they are ready to take come morning.

Creating an environment where the very best of medicine and gentle gynecology are practiced and where patients come first has always been Dr. Fink’s goal.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


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