Conversation Starters: Discussing Prenatal Vitamins With Your Doctor
August 22, 2020Wondering about prenatal vitamins and whether they’re right for your nutritional needs? Many healthcare providers prescribe prenatal vitamins to their patients to enhance preconception health, healthy pregnancies, and postpartum wellness. Unfortunately, not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. How do you know which vitamin will meet your specific needs? Furthermore, how do you approach the topic with your healthcare provider if he or she hasn’t mentioned it yet?
Here are a few ways to get the conversation started.
Tell Your Doctor You’re Planning to Get Pregnant
Prenatal vitamins aren’t just for women who are already pregnant. In fact, some prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to help enhance a woman’s health before she conceives. If you are planning to get pregnant, be sure your doctor knows. He or she can make recommendations for your diet and lifestyle to help promote your ability to get pregnant, maintain a healthy pregnancy, and ensure your chances of postpartum wellness. These recommendations will likely be based on your personal medical history and current healthcare needs and may include adding a prescription prenatal vitamin to your daily routine.
Here are a few sample scripts to help get the conversation rolling:
- I’m giving serious thought to starting a family. Are there any changes I should make to ensure my body is optimized for conception and a healthy pregnancy?
- My partner and I are trying to conceive. Should I start taking a prenatal vitamin now?
- If I start taking prenatal vitamins before I become pregnant, should I get a prescription vitamin, or just take something over the counter?
Discuss the Options: Prescription versus Over the Counter
Some prenatal vitamins are available only with a doctor’s prescription. Others are available to purchase over the counter at drug stores or grocery stores. Each type of prenatal vitamin, whether prescription or over the counter, is formulated with a combination of ingredients specific to certain nutritional needs. For example, some manufacturers produce prenatal vitamins with higher levels of iron to target women who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia.1
Always tell your doctor if you begin taking over-the-counter prenatal vitamins or other types of supplements. Some synthetic vitamins can be damaging to your or your baby’s health if taken in inappropriate amounts.1
Here are some conversation starters you can use:
- Are over-the-counter prenatal vitamins as safe as prescription prenatal vitamins?
- I’m concerned about getting the best combination of nutrients for my and my baby’s needs. Is a generic prenatal vitamin appropriate for me, or should I consider special formulas?
- What are a few brands of prenatal vitamins that you recommend?
Which Nutrients Are Most Important?
Not every woman will have the same nutritional needs; however, there are generally four key ingredients that pregnant women, or women trying to become pregnant, should pay close attention to. These are:
- Folic acid (helps protect the baby against birth defects)2
- Iron (essential for making additional blood cells and carrying oxygen to the baby)2
- Vitamin D (may help lower risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, low birth weight, and preterm birth)3
- Calcium (ensures healthy bones for mom and baby)2
Your doctor may also recommend vitamins with other nutrients to help support your specific needs. For instance, if you have given birth to a child with a neural tube defect in the past, your doctor may recommend that you take a separate supplement containing higher levels of folic acid, in addition to a regular prenatal multivitamin.2 That being said, it’s best to avoid increasing the dosage of any supplement without your doctor’s approval. High levels of certain nutrients can actually do more harm than good during pregnancy.2
Here are a few more sample questions and talking points to cover with your doctor:
- Which specific ingredients or nutrients should I look for in a prenatal vitamin?
- Is it possible to overdose on certain vitamins or minerals?
- If I eat more nutrient-rich foods, do I still need a prenatal vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins are generally well-tolerated; however, some women experience side effects such as constipation, dark stools, diarrhea, stomach cramps, low appetite, or nausea.4-5 If you experience any of these side effects, discuss them with your doctor as soon as possible. Although these side effects are generally not serious, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
You should also make sure your doctor is aware of any other medications or over-the-counter substances you are taking. In some cases, prenatal vitamins may have harmful interactions with other drugs or supplements.
Use these talking points to start the discussion with your doctor:
- Will this prenatal vitamin lower the effectiveness of my other prescription medications?
- Do I need to stop taking any medications before I begin taking a prenatal vitamin?
- What side effects are “normal” for prenatal vitamins? What side effects should I worry about?
- What are a few ways to prevent or treat the common side effects of prenatal vitamins?
Remember, these are just a few suggestions to help you get the conversation started with your doctor on the topic of prenatal vitamins. If there are any other questions or concerns you have, don’t hesitate to speak up at your next visit.
Prenate® Vitamin Family
This post is sponsored by the Prenate® Vitamin Family, a line of prescription prenatal supplements designed to enhance preconception, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition in women. Talk with your doctor about how taking a daily prescription prenatal or postnatal vitamin could help support a healthy pregnancy and postpartum wellness.