You might be side-eyeing your medicine cabinet, wondering if those pills your physician and mommy support group rave about are really your friends. You’ve probably been taking it for some time while trying to conceive and you’ve noticed certain changes - feeling gassy, bloated or you’ve even put on a few pounds. You might be asking yourself, could my prenatal vitamins be the cause of these changes - especially the weight gain?
Or is this all in my mind? It might seem conflicting to ask, because after all, when we start taking them, it’s usually at a time when our bodies should be packing on extra calories in preparation to nurture and nourish new life. But in some cases, it is a valid concern and one that leads to many other unanswered questions. There is a slim chance that your prenatal vitamins can cause weight gain, but let's take a look into the science behind it first.
The Sticky Side of Prenatal Vitamins
As we dive deeper into this question of weight gain, we have to look at what prenatal vitamins are and what they do - or don't do! Prenatals are typically similar to your regular daily multivitamins. Multivitamins do not contain calories, so they cannot be stored as fat - which is the usual cause for weight gain. The greatest difference between prenatal vitamins and regular off-the-shelf multivitamins is that the amount of minerals that women need for proper fetal development tends to be higher for prenatal vitamins than regular multivitamins.
Prenatal vitamins usually contain the following: Folate (Vitamin B9), Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Iodine, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Cobalamin (Vitamin B12).
These minerals and vitamins are meant to increase the body’s ability to care for itself and the growing baby. This is why – despite the possibility of mild side effects – physicians continue to encourage mothers to keep up with their daily prenatal supplement intake.
Prenatal Vitamins versus Progesterone
A fairly common side effect of taking prenatal vitamins is constipation. Do you know what else causes constipation? Progesterone, a hormone present during pregnancy. In the first trimester of your pregnancy, progesterone will relax the gastrointestinal muscles and slow down your digestion.
Later on in your pregnancy, your uterus will enlarge and crowd the intestines, which further decreases the speed of digestion.
This can make you feel bloated, gassy, and constipated. While trying to conceive, your body will still produce progesterone as a part of your monthly cycle or it may be a part of your IVF treatment - if you’ve taken that route. Nonetheless, the effect should be the same.
So that heavy feeling you might be having or gaining more weight than expected, could really be as a result of constipation and bloating. It is still best to consult with your physician if your weight gain doesn’t seem reasonable. If it is due to bloating from constipation you could be prescribed new prenatal vitamins and/or laxatives to provide relief.
It is worth noting here that women who were of average weight before getting pregnant may reasonably gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women may gain between 28 and 40 pounds, while overweight women may only gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
If you are pregnant now and you’re worried about your weight gain, these estimates may help you see how you align with the average expectations!
The End of your Prenatal Journey
Before you give up on your prenatal journey prematurely, let’s take a closer look into its contents.
Due to the numerous benefits of prenatal vitamins, it is not recommended that you suddenly stop taking them or not take them at all. Each mineral serves a very important purpose and our bodies do not always absorb the amount we need from the foods we consume.
These additional minerals and vitamins create a great foundation as a mother’s body prepares to provide for her baby.
Folate is the most important vitamin to take when planning a pregnancy. It is a B-vitamin that cells in our bodies need for growing and developing. Folate can help lower the risk of problems with the baby’s brain and spine - called neural tube defects (NTDs).
Calcium is crucial as it helps in building and maintaining your bone density while developing healthy bone and blood vessels in your baby.
Our bodies do not make calcium so during pregnancy, our babies take the calcium they need from our bones so we have to replenish the calcium lost. Remember that you can’t pour out of an empty jar!
Iron is used by our bodies to make extra blood for us and our babies during pregnancy. It also helps to move oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies and to our babies!
Having the right amount of iron in our diets can prevent anemia (low blood count) which could cause our baby to be born too small or too early.
Other benefits of prenatal vitamins include reducing some of the unpleasant effects of pregnancy such as fatigue, poor memory and muscular cramps. Your physician should give you alternative options if you suffer from extreme side effects due to your prenatal vitamins. Some women find that switching to liquid prenatal vitamins, such as Pink Stork Foundation: Liquid Prenatal Vitamin, helps to ease the side effect of constipation.
Here are a few other prenatal vitamins options that other women have tried and reported little to no side effects:
Mothers seem to enjoy how gentle these prenatal vitamins are on the tummy as well as the great benefits they received from them!
To Wrap Up
It is safe to say that the weight gain after taking prenatal vitamins may not be due to the prenatal vitamins themselves. However, you know your body best, so be your own advocate.
If you find that your prenatal vitamins are causing extreme side effects or if your weight gain is truly weighing on your conscience, speak with your doctor - it’s best you use their expertise to give you guidelines and suggestions to help your pregnancy go as smoothly as possible.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, what prenatal vitamins did you use or are your using right now?
How much weight have you gained so far throughout your pregnancy?
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