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Should I take prenatal vitamins if I’m considering conceiving?
Q: Is it OK to take prenatal vitamins even if you’re not pregnant? Are there any benefits from a medical standpoint? I want to be in optimum health, as I will be trying to get pregnant in the near future. Regular multivitamins make me sick.
A: Bobbie, prenatal vitamins are good to take while you’re trying to conceive. One of the most important components of prenatal vitamins is folic acid, a B vitamin that can reduce the chances of certain birth defects. Taking a prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid when you’re trying to conceive may reduce your chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect by 70 percent.

Vitamins have a combination of different vitamins and minerals, and several of these may be contributing to your nausea. If taking vitamins makes you feel ill, you have several options.

One is to try taking the vitamins after finishing a meal. Taking vitamins on an empty stomach may be more difficult than on a full stomach. Secondly, you could change the vitamin preparation. There are some vitamin supplements designed specifically for women trying to conceive. These may be easier for you to tolerate. Finally, you can take a supplement of folic acid, 1 milligram a day, rather than a multivitamin. Folic acid tends to be easy to digest alone, and is the most important vitamin to be taking in the months before and during pregnancy.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist