Have You Given Your Pregnancy The Best Start?
Sam Wilcox II, MD
Many people would argue that they have done exactly that. “Yes, my husband and I planned our pregnancy, attended our doctor’s appointment for prenatal care shortly after the first missed period, and started taking our prenatal vitamins as prescribed”.
Well you might be amazed to learn that there is actually an important aspect of pregnancy that isn’t often talked about…PRE-conceptual care. With the vast majority of pregnancies being unintended, this shouldn’t be too surprising, but we all can do our part to increase the awareness.
The pre-conceptual period refers to the time period prior to conceiving a pregnancy and applies to ALL couples with childbearing potential.
NOTE: If you are not using contraception, and are of childbearing age, then YOU have childbearing potential. Even if you may be thinking, “I really am not trying to get pregnant”, or “if it happens, then it happens”, if you are not using contraception, you are in the pre-conceptual period and should be taking precautions now to avoid a complication should a pregnancy occur.
The best pre-conceptual advice…..prenatal vitamins!
Prenatal vitamins are not simply intended to be taken during pregnancy as is a common belief, they are supposed to be taken before one conceives. If you wait until the first missed menses or when a pregnancy test becomes positive, then you may have missed the time period of most benefit.
Studies have shown that only an estimated 7% of women know prenatal vitamins should be taken before pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins (PNVs) contain folic acid which is important in neural tube development. The neural tube is essential in brain and spinal cord development. In the fetus, this occurs around week 3-4. This is most often before a pregnancy test will yield a positive result.
Now, which vitamin should you choose?
Well, all PNVs are not created equal. This does not mean that you need a prescription or need to purchase the most expensive one on the market. Most low risk women need a vitamin with just 400mcg of folic acid. Most PNVs and regular multivitamins exceed this amount. So, if you are taking a regular multivitamin and happen to conceive, then this may be sufficient. If you are high risk, you should consult your physician regarding the appropriate PNV for you at your pre-conceptual visit.
PNVs also contain other ingredients including zinc, iron, and vitamins (A, B, C, D etc). Newer PNVs also contain Omega 3 fatty acids or DHA. These are good for the eye and brain development of your growing baby. Always be sure to take them as directed, and never exceed the recommend daily dosing. Vitamin intake of more than twice the recommended dose should be avoided as some vitamins in excess may potentially have toxic effects.
So let’s give your baby the best start it can have. Take a prenatal vitamin before you conceive.
Dr. Wilcox is a board-certified, licensed Obstetrician/Gynecologist practicing in Belmont, NC.