Prenatal vitamins are an essential part of a healthy, well-balanced diet for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant. Prenatal vitamins contain iron, helping you produce more blood cells (pregnancy depletes iron stores), and they provide the iron needed for your growing baby. Prenatal vitamins also contain folic acid - an important vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in your baby, especially before conception. Be sure not to take more than one prenatal vitamin a day as some vitamins (e.g. Vitamin A and Vitamin E) can harm the developing fetus if taken in levels too high.
While it is important to take a folic acid supplement, and prenatal vitamins are certainly recommended, you must also ensure you are eating the right amounts of the right foods. Establishing a healthy diet now will have a positive effect - not only on your pregnancy - but also on the long-term health of your growing family. Canada’s Food Guide has an excellent section on food groups and serving sizes for pregnant women. Be sure to include green leafy vegetables and other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables for optimum nutrition. Choose whole grains (breads, pasta and rice) over processed white. Consume lean meats or meat alternatives such as tofu and lentils and fish that is high in omega-three fatty acids and low in mercury such as salmon, herring and anchovy. Include milk and milk alternatives like cheese, yogurt and soy products. Limit sugary drinks and processed “junk” foods that have limited nutritional value.