Welcome to Ask a Doctor! Every week we’ll be asking our CarePoint Health doctors some questions that we’d all like to know the answers to.
This week Doctor Raul Aguilar MD. He’s one of our OBGYN physicians in Hoboken and has served as Director of the OB-GYN department at Hoboken University Medical Center. This week he answers our questions about Prenatal Vitamins.
Q: What is unique about prenatal vitamins?
A: A prenatal vitamin is a dietary supplement that all women are strongly encouraged to take prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy and postpartum. This is especially true during breastfeeding. Prenatal vitamins differ from regular vitamins in that they contain nutrients that are essential in pregnancy, specifically folic acid, iron, calcium and Vitamin D. They contain fewer amounts of other vitamins, such as Vitamin A (a non-water soluble vitamin) that if taken in high doses during pregnancy can be detrimental to the growing fetus. Most prenatal vitamins have also Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA). Women who are planning pregnancy should take a supplement of folic acid which has been proven to prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. It is recommended that all women in their reproductive age should take a folic acid supplement because of the high percentage of unplanned pregnancies.
Q: Should all expectant mothers take the same prenatal vitamins?
A: No, not all vitamins are the same. They come in different sizes, some are solid, some are chewable and some are liquid. The type is based on a patient’s particular needs. Some pregnant women have difficulty swallowing and therefore, a chewable or liquid may be preferable. Some pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, and some formulations may be more palatable than others. Some women in pregnancy experience constipation and a prenatal vitamin that includes a stool softener may be a better choice.
Q: How do prenatal vitamins help the mother?
A: They provide essential vitamins and nutrients that are lacking, even in a well-balanced diet. In the pregnancy period, the mother’s vitamin supply is tapped by the growing fetus. If not supplemented, the essential nutrients will be deficient. The extra iron contained in the prenatal vitamin helps the mother to carry more oxygen in her blood which is needed for both mother and baby. The extra calcium and Vitamin D also prevent bone density decay and promotes healthy teeth. Studies have shown that supplemental Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of postpartum depression in women.
Q: How do prenatal vitamins help the child?
A: Prenatal vitamins provide essential nutrients that are lacking in the mother’s diet. Folic acid, especially in the first weeks of gestation, helps in the formation of the neural tube and nervous system. It also prevents neural tube defects. The extra iron helps in blood formation and helps to carry more oxygen to the development of fetal tissues and organs. Calcium and Vitamin D help in the formation of strong bones, teeth and cartilage.
Q: Can an expectant mother receive the same nutrition from dietary choices?
A: No, even though you may have a well balanced diet, there are increased needs in pregnancy that the diet alone cannot supply. For example, pregnant women require 50% more in the amount of folic acid and iron than in a non-pregnant state. Therefore, prenatal vitamins are an important part of a women’s health.
Dr. Raul F. Aguilar is a board-certified OB-GYN physician who has been in private practice in Hudson County for almost thirty years. Dr. Aguilar graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. Peter’s College with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Biology. He graduated in 1983 from Ponce School of Medicine in Puerto Rico. Dr. Aguilar completed his residency in OB-GYN in 1988. He has served as Director of the OB-GYN department at Hoboken University Medical Center. Dr. Aguilar recently joined CarePoint Health Medical Group.