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All About Pregnancy

Could Your Prenatal Vitamins Make Your Baby Smarter?

New research shows another possible benefit to those daily prenatal vitamins

Your ordinary prenatal vitamin may have a long-term payoff for your baby, according to a recent international study published in the Lancet. After following the children of women who'd taken a multivitamin during pregnancy, researchers found it boosted their kids' brain power at age 9 by up to a year's worth of schooling. Not bad for a pill! Your once-daily supplement has other benefits, too:  

Prenatal vitamins can make up for less-than-perfect eating habits. "People absorb vitamins and minerals much better from food than from supplements, so I encourage patients to get most of their nutrients from their diet," explains Isabel S. Blumberg, M.D., an ob-gyn and clinical instructor at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York City. But if you're too queasy to stomach, say, leafy greens or beef, popping a prenatal ensures you get the recommended daily allowance of the nutrients your baby needs, she adds.

They contain the right amount of folic acid. American women actually don't get enough folic acid from food, according to the U.S. Preventative Task Force, a volunteer group of health experts. That's why the group recently issued another recommendation urging pregnant women (and those planning a pregnancy) to get between 400 to 800 mcg a day to prevent birth defects of the spine or brain. Most prenatal vitamins contain at least 600 mcg.

They can put your mind at ease. Besides folic acid, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women get other vitamins, including iron (27 mg), calcium (1,000 mg), and Vitamin D (600 IUs). "A prenatal vitamin is an easy way for women to figure out how much vitamin D or calcium they're getting," says Dr. Blumberg. "That way, you don't have to worry about it."

You have options. Over-the-counter supplements are fine for most women. "I tell my patients to look for prenatal vitamins that their insurance will cover and are most cost-effective," Dr. Blumberg says. Can't down a tablet? No worries—there are gummy vitamins, chewables, and even liquid supplements your doctor can recommend. Just remember to consult with your ob-gyn before picking up a bottle—your provider can tell you whether you may need to take a certain supplement.