The best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is before you conceive. Prenatal vitamins are safe and comprehensive and help support a normal and healthy pregnancy. You may not need every ingredient in them, but most include the water-soluble vitamins that need to be replaced daily (C, the Bs).
Folic acid is a supplement that can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida, cleft lip, and some heart abnormalities in fetuses. Pregnant women require 0.4 milligrams per day. The spine is formed very soon after conception and that is why it is so important to start taking vitamins beore you try to conceive.
Supplements also contain safe amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E that are stored in the body. There is no evidence that more than the recommended daily allowance is better so don’t overdo any vitamin. Many women are mildly iron deficient from menstrual blood loss or pregnancy. Read the labels carefully to see which vitamins contain iron. If you are constipated, you may want to take a mild laxative, but be careful of overusing laxatives because they can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. Calcium is another important supplement. If the idea of milk turns you off, or if you are lactose intolerant, take some fruit-flavored Tums or Rolaids or a calcium pill. The advantage of the antacid is that most pregnant women have heartburn, so you get a double benefit. Calcium pills tend to be expensive, and some contain potentially dangerous amounts of lead. The best advise is to consult your physician or gynecologist.