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Prenatal vitamins: OK for women who aren't pregnant?
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-vitamins/AN01665
- With Mayo Clinic nutritionist
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.read biographyclose window
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor for the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, Katherine is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She is active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition education related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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Prenatal vitamins: OK for women who aren't pregnant?
Is it OK to take prenatal vitamins if I'm not pregnant and don't plan to become pregnant?
from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
You may be tempted to take prenatal vitamins because of unproven claims that they promote thicker hair and stronger nails. While prenatal vitamins are generally safe for healthy adults, they may not be suitable if you're not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are formulated specifically for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, and women who are breast-feeding, with particular emphasis on:
- Folic acid. To reduce the risk of having a child with neural tube defects, women who are trying to become pregnant should get 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate or folic acid a day through diet and supplements. Other healthy adults — both men and women — need only 400 mcg a day. While uncommon, getting too much folic acid by taking supplements can mask the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency and delay diagnosis and treatment.
- Iron. During pregnancy, the recommended intake of iron is 27 milligrams (mg) a day. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 who aren't pregnant need only 18 mg a day, and women age 51 and older and all adult men need only 8 mg a day. Getting too much iron can be toxic because it can build up in your body, causing constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and, in severe cases, possibly death.
- Calcium. Pregnant adult women and healthy men and women ages 19 to 50 all need 1,000 mg a day. Men and women age 51 and older need 1,200 mg a day. Because prenatal vitamins are intended to supplement calcium you get in your diet, they generally contain only 200 to 300 mg of calcium. If you rely on prenatal vitamins to meet your calcium needs, you likely won't get enough, raising your risk of osteoporosis and other health problems.
It's best to take a multivitamin tailored to your sex, age and specific medical needs.Next question
Too much vitamin C: Harmful?
- Fletcher RH, et al. Vitamin supplementation in disease prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: Iron. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/iron. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: Folate. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/folate. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Gillen-Goldstein J, et al. Nutrition in pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed May 31, 2011.
- Nutrition during pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp001.cfm. Accessed May 31, 2011.