Vitamins and Pregnancy

Dr. Karen Buhler, MD, family physician, discusses vitamins and pregnancy.

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Dr. Karen Buhler, MD, family physician, discusses vitamins and pregnancy.
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Karen Buhler, MD, CCFP

Duration: 3 minutes, 16 seconds

Most women, as soon as they find out they're pregnant they run to the drugstore and start taking prenatal vitamins, however everything in a prenatal vitamin is not necessarily recommended, nor do you need it.

The most important thing to take when you're pregnant is folic acid. You should start folic acid before you get pregnant, and carry on taking it right through until 12 or 13 weeks.

The right dose for folic acid is a minimum of 400 international units a day – or one milligram is fine because that's the size most pills come in, and you can take as much as five milligrams once a week, which will end up being about the same.

Vitamin D is a really important vitamin that we're just discovering about in all of our health, but especially in pregnancy. The recommended dose for vitamin D is 2,000 international units a day, which is much higher than what you'll find in almost every prenatal vitamin on the market.

You can buy vitamin D by itself, and you should add that to your program. Vitamin D is important for strong bones in you and in the baby. It's important when you're breastfeeding to help release the calcium into the milk. It's also really important for your immune system, and helps reduce your chance of getting the cold and flu. These are really important things when you're pregnant.

Calcium is important in pregnancy for bone health and for lactation. Calcium is most often found in dairy products in high amounts, and it's easy to get calcium if you eat dairy products. However, people that are lactose intolerant or people that just don't care for milk have trouble getting calcium.

It does occur in other foods, but in much smaller amounts so that it's harder to get as much as you need. Calcium supplements come in many varieties: they come in chewable antacid forms, chewable caramel kind of things that people love, and big tablets that are hard to swallow. Calcium is easy to get.

You can also get calcium in calcium fortified orange juice or soy drinks. Check with your doctor for the right amount of calcium in your diet.

Actually, most women don't need iron, and iron causes a lot of side effects, like nausea, uncomfortable and constipation. Mainly the people that need iron are women that have had five or six babies or a lot of babies close together or vegetarians.

Vitamin A is one of the vitamins that you can take too much of and can be toxic. Make sure that your vitamin has less than or equal to 10,000 international units a day. Vitamin A is found in liver and liver products, so you should avoid eating liver pate and liverwurst, those kinds of things while you're pregnant.

There are a few things that vegetarians should know when they're pregnant. It's important to get enough iron, which is hard to find if you're not eating meat, and Vitamin B12. B12 can be found in some yeast preparations, but generally needs to be taken as a supplement. Soy products, if you take large doses of them, can act like a hormone in pregnancy, so it's much safer to eat small amounts of soy products.

If you have any more questions about vitamins and pregnancy, contact your care provider.

Presenter: Dr. Karen Buhler, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.