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Are There Any Benefits To Taking Prenatal Vitamins When You’re *Not* Pregnant?

Are There Any Benefits To Taking Prenatal Vitamins When You’re *Not* Pregnant? Image
  • Posted on 29th Jul, 2022 23:35 PM
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The answer may surprise you!

There’s so much information available at our fingertips 24/7—to the point making a decision can feel like an oversized task to complete. A quick internet search often prompts more questions than when you started your query, leading you to ask friends, family, and care providers for input…and still leaving you right back where you started, unsure of what to do.

Like many nutrition decisions, seeking out a prenatal vitamin is one of these overwhelming decisions. Interestingly, more and more people are looking into taking a prenatal vitamin when they aren’t pregnant—but is that a safe option? And are there any truly significant health benefits that can come from taking a prenatal vitamin if you aren’t expecting?

What are prenatal vitamins?

The first thought that likely comes to mind when you think of a prenatal vitamin is that it’s a supplement a person takes when they’re planning to try to become pregnant, or when they’re already pregnant.

Prenatal vitamins were originally designed to meet the unique needs of women who are planning to become or are already pregnant. They typically have at least the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for folic acid (vitamin B9) or its naturally occurring form, folate, which helps promote a healthy central nervous system in a developing fetus, amongst other things.*

Within a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral, a prenatal supplement should also supply specific amounts of other nutrients known to support a healthy pregnancy (e.g., iron, calcium, vitamin D3, choline, etc.) when compared to other (non-prenatal) types of multivitamins out there.*

Including the omega-3 DHA in the prenatal multi itself or alongside it (e.g., in a bundle situation) is also ideal for the most holistic reproductive health support, for both mom and baby.*

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What’s the difference between prenatal vitamins and multivitamins?

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Prenatal vitamins were first created in the 1990s to deliver adequate amounts of key nutrients correlated with suboptimal pregnancy outcomes in order to support healthy fetal development.

When deciding between a prenatal vitamin and a "regular" (non-prenatal) multivitamin, it’s important to note a few key nutrients (and dosages) that distinguish thoughtfully formulated prenatal vitamins from a multi designed for non-perinatal life stages:

Iron

Iron is an essential mineral necessary to create new blood cells in the body.* Per prenatal nutrition specialist Amy Burkholder, CNS, LDN, “Women’s blood volume increases about 50% during pregnancy, so [women’s iron] needs also increase 50 percent.” 

Having adequate intake and stores of iron is critical for a healthy mother and baby throughout pregnancy. Iron comes from both animal and plant-based foods in the diet, but iron found in animal sources (heme iron) is more readily absorbed in the human body.

According to Burkholder, “Prenatal multivitamins have higher amounts of iron (pregnant women need 27 milligrams daily, while non-pregnant, premenopausal women need 18 milligrams), and excess iron can warrant toxicity concerns [to some people].” She also adds, “postpartum women whose menses have not yet resumed need even less—about nine milligrams per day.” That daily iron need is similar in

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Folate

Folate, aka vitamin B9, is an essential vitamin that’s critical for fetal development (particularly, the central nervous system)—especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy.* 

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, people with a uterus who plan to conceive or are already pregnant should consume at least 600 micrograms of folate (naturally occurring) or folic acid (synthetic) from dietary intake or supplements, starting at least one month prior to conception. 

Burkholder also notes that synthetic folic acid “isn't [always] well-metabolized once it's in the blood, especially for anyone with an MTHFR gene variant,” and recommends looking to whole-food sources of folate (such as leafy greens), supplemental methylfolate, or supplemental folinic acid—all of which can be more easily metabolized in the body.*

Some individuals may need higher levels or different versions of folate (for example, methylfolate over folic acid), so it’s always best to consult a care provider that knows your full health history and goals. 

Prenatal vitamins and multivitamins alike will often deliver 400-1,000 micrograms, but others will have even greater amounts and should be used under the care of a health care provider. Note: Many conventional prenatal vitamins and single-ingredient folic acid supplements can be lackluster and contain suboptimal forms of folate (and other nutrients). Always ask questions, do your research, and trust your intuition.

Calcium

This critical mineral aids fetal development by helping build bones and teeth, and also helps maintain maternal bone density.* Calcium is also important for nerve conduction, muscle movement, normal circulation, and hormone circulation—however, it’s not often found in prenatal vitamins that contain iron because calcium interferes with iron absorption.*

If you’ve been told to increase your calcium intake, it’s best to take a food-first approach, then take the appropriate amount of supplementation for your unique nutritional needs. Supplemental calcium is best taken with food and away from other supplements to avoid stomach upset and promote proper absorption.

Women and men between the ages of nine and 18 need 1,300 milligrams per day, while those ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams per day from diet and supplements combined, regardless of whether they are pregnant, lactating, or neither. 

You may still be wondering if prenatal vitamins are appropriate if pregnancy is not in your near future. If you’re hoping to boost your energy or strengthen and shine up your locks, keep reading.

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Choline 

According to a 2019 scientific review from BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, choline is a “brain-building” nutrient important for neurotransmitter synthesis, methylation reactions, and normal metabolism.* The importance of this nutrient has only recently become realized, and not all prenatal vitamins contain choline in amounts that come close to the adequate intake levels. 

People planning to conceive should consume a diet rich in eggs, meat, poultry, fish, cruciferous vegetables, and dairy, and also consider supplementing with extra choline to ensure they reach at least 450 milligrams per day. 

Is it safe to take prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant?

While prenatal vitamins are helpful to fill nutrient gaps and bump up intake of key nutrients to prepare for or actively support a healthy pregnancy, the higher amounts of some nutrients may make them a less-than-ideal option for certain individuals to take routinely. 

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Benefits of taking prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant.

Prenatal vitamins can be a great way to prepare the body to safely grow another human. For women hoping to conceive, adequate dietary and/or supplemental folate can help promote a healthy pregnancy—especially in the first few weeks of a fetal development, as the need for B9 is most critical soon after implantation.* 

Armed with this knowledge, it’s absolutely a good idea to take a prenatal vitamin when you’re not pregnant if your goal is to conceive.

Side effects of taking prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant.

Many prenatal vitamins available on the market automatically include iron. Some women already have very healthy iron levels and do not require extra iron. Supplemental iron can cause gastrointestinal concerns at best, and unnecessary iron stores at worst. It’s always best to partner with a health care provider and have iron levels tested to determine if iron support is needed.

If a person is not planning to conceive but wants to play it safe and supplement with a form of folate, I recommend a high-quality prenatal vitamin or multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of methylfolate (the form with the highest bioavailability), plus all the other health supportive nutrients to help them feel their best. 

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Prenatal vitamin alternatives for hair and nails.

In the past, taking prenatal vitamins to support healthy hair, skin and nails has become popular, but is it really the best option? In my professional opinion, taking prenatal vitamins for hair growth and strong nails is not the optimal choice. That said, knowing which ingredients to look for can make finding an alternative easier.

In addition to a well-rounded diet with adequate protein and healthy fat intake, supplementing with extra biotin (vitamin B7), silica, and vitamins in the antioxidant family (think vitamins A, C, K, and B2—aka riboflavin) are good places to start if you’re looking for holistic beauty benefits.* A high-quality supplement like mbg’s ultimate multivitamin+ (which has all of these nutrients, plus 17 additional vitamins, minerals, and botanicals) is a fantastic option.*

As a registered dietitian, I would be remiss if I didn’t also note that it’s not just the food and supplements that you put into your body, but how effectively they’re digested and assimilated as well—so proper digestive function is also key! Therefore, I always emphasize the gut as ground zero—supporting a healthy gut promotes health from the inside out.

In that vein, a high-quality collagen peptide powder is another great addition to your daily routine to support skin elasticity and moisturization, plus the added benefit of promoting healthy intestinal lining integrity and function.* These powders mix in great with liquids (like coffee and smoothies), as well as oatmeal and baked goods. 

If you’re looking to truly support strong, healthy hair, skin, and nails, mbg’s beauty & collagen+ features grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen peptides, plus an array of other beauty- and gut-supporting ingredients—like glutamine, biotin, vitamins C and E, and turmeric.*

The takeaway.

Ultimately, deciding which supplements are right for you are between you and your health care providers. Prenatal vitamins are an excellent insurance policy for the right person during specific stages of life, but there are other alternatives out there that may be better utilized (with fewer side effects, and possibly greater benefits).

If you’re not pregnant or planning to conceive in the next few months, but you’re looking for a comprehensive multi that covers essential micronutrient needs and also delivers hair, skin, and nail health benefits, mbg’s multi is a great solution!* With no gender or age parameters, the ultimate multivitamin+ was created to help all adults get the essential daily vitamins they need.*

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ultimate multivitamin+

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ultimate multivitamin+

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Next gen multi formula that supports longevity*

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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(53)
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