Have you ever seen a pregnant woman smoke or drink? I have, and I seriously had to refrain myself from giving them a lecture right then and there. Once I saw a pregnant teenager smoking while I was driving. I glared out the window with a piercing stare, hoping she would see my fierce look of disapproval.
We know the risks of smoking and drinking during pregnancy, and how socially unacceptable it is. But what about taking prenatals? If you asked a pregnant woman which one she was taking and she replied "none," what would you say? Would you snub her, the same as if she had a drink in her hand? Probably not... but why not?
The studies are clear. Taking a simple prenatal multivitamin can decrease a multitude of birth defects. Oh, and for the record, I'm not a doctor. I'm a mom that does my research. Don't get me wrong, I think most women know that folic acid is important, but what about all the other nutrients in a prenatal? Are they as important? According to this collection of studies, yes.
If you take a prenatal multivitamin versus not taking one at all:
- 39 per cent fewer cardiovascular defects
- 47 per cent fewer limb deformities
- 58 per cent reduction in cleft palate cases
- 53 per cent reduction in urinary tract deformities
- 63 per cent reduction in hydrocephalus (water in the brain)
You can see the evidence to these stats here.
In the study, the conclusion states:
"Maternal consumption of folic acid-containing prenatal multivitamins is associated with decreased risk for several congenital anomalies, not only neural tube defects. These data have major public health implications, because until now fortification of only folic acid has been encouraged. This approach should be reconsidered."
So folic acid isn't the only important nutrient here. A prenatal multivitamin (also containing folic acid) is important.
I know firsthand, having morning sickness is brutal. I would have given birth naturally two times over if I could have gotten out of morning sickness. I had it for 14 weeks straight when I was pregnant with my daughter. "Morning" sickness, yeah right. It lasted all day long, and nothing helped to make it better.
During this time, my nutrition wasn't the best. I know what's considered healthy and what isn't, but I admit, it kind of went out the window when I became pregnant. I couldn't eat any kind of meat or fish, and most vegetables made me want to gag. My diet consisted of Greek salad, fruit, toast, peanut butter and pickles. Since that was the case, I was even more diligent about choking down my prenatal every night, hoping that I was doing the best for my baby. I hear through the grapevine that many women don't take prenatals because they "feel sick" or their doctor told them to stop as it can make morning sickness worse. What? If I were a doctor, I'd be telling my patients to suck it up and take it anyway. If women knew the facts, I think more would choke it down even if they were feeling sick.
I found taking my supplements at night right before bed on a full stomach helped drastically. I also chose a brand that has all natural source ingredients and the non-constipating form of iron (iron citrate or iron bisglycinate). I also prefer a capsule versus a tablet. Yucky tasting tablets when you're already on the verge of puking isn't the best idea.
Why don't our doctors or midwives tell us these statistics? I certainly would have liked to see them. You'd think this would be something that would be written on a pamphlet and given to you at your initial pre-natal appointment.
So many things remain out of our control as parents; from the colour of their hair and eyes, to what they want to be when they grow up, to who they fall in love with. This is one simple thing that we, as moms, are fortunate enough to actually have control over, and it may simultaneously be the most important, and the simplest thing we can do to set them up for a life full of all of these other decisions.
Having a healthy child with ten fingers, ten toes, and healthy in all other visible (and not so visible) ways is nothing short of a miracle, and any role we can play to make that happen should not be taken lightly.
My advice? If you're planning on having a baby remotely soon, why not start a prenatal. I would. You never know when an "oops" may happen.