Have you ever wondered why doctors often stress the importance of taking prenatal vitamins? In this day and age, it is widely known that these supplements have very good health benefits. It is important because it mainly ensures adequate intake of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. However, understanding simply that will not encourage a pregnant woman to strictly adhere to her doctor’s orders. So before you decide to skip your vitamins and rush to your day, it is important to recognize why it is given such importance.

Folic Acid is necessary for red blood cell formation. A woman’s blood volume increases twofold during pregnancy, thus her folic acid needs also increase dramatically. With inadequate folic acid, a woman may develop megaloblastic anemia. This results to large, but ineffective red blood cells. Low levels of folic acid have also been associated with premature separation of the placenta, spontaneous abortion, and neural tube defects.

Neural tube defects are abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. These defects develop in the first 28 days after conception. The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida. A baby with the said condition has a spine that has not completely closed thus the nerves are damaged. This leads to paralysis, incontinence and mental retardation. Folic acid is also found to decrease the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight.

Likewise, a woman’s body needs adequate calcium for bone formation. With adequate calcium intake during pregnancy, the fetus is able to receive the needed calcium for growth and mineralization of the fetal skeleton, without taking away from maternal bones or teeth. A diet high in Vitamin D is also necessary, so that calcium can enter the bones.

Iodine is also essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Pregnant women have an increased thyroid gland function, thus it is important to ingest enough in order to avoid goiter in the woman or fetus. In rare instances, it may cause hypothyroidism in the growing fetus. The enlarged gland may even cause early respiratory distress, because of the increased pressure on the airway. If not discovered at birth, hypothyroidism may also lead to cognitive impairment.

Another important mineral is iron. It is needed to build a high level of hemoglobin in the blood. This is necessary to oxygenate the blood during intrauterine life. To add to that, after the 20th week of pregnancy, the fetus begins to store iron in the liver in order to make it through the first three months of life. This is because, the baby’s intake for the first few months depend only on milk, which does not have enough iron content to meet the baby’s needs.

Sodium is a major electrolyte that maintains fluid balance in the body. Enough fluid is needed in the maternal circulation, to allow optimal exchange across the placenta. Zinc is equally important because it has been associated with preterm birth among women who experience a deficiency.

These are a few of the many nutrients that need to be increased in intake during pregnancy. Consult your health care provider so that you will be given the best vitamins that will suit your needs. Drinking and taking in these supplements only takes a little of your time, but it could mean the world towards the normal development of your unborn child. You have nine months to eat right and take the necessary supplements, otherwise you would have the rest of your life feeling guilty why you didn’t.