Prenatal vitamins are vitamin and mineral supplements intended to be taken before and during pregnancy and during postnatal lactation. Although not intended to replace a healthy diet, prenatal vitamins provide women of child bearing age with nutrients recognized by the various health organizations including the American Dietetic Association as helpful for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Prenatal vitamins are similar to other multivitamins, but do contain different amounts of specific nutrients to better suit the needs of an expecting mother. Vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, calcium and iron are in higher concentrations while nutrients such as Vitamin A are reduced to reflect the current understanding of the role that these compounds play in fetal development.

The increased dosage of folic acid or folates reflects the American Dietetic Associations position that women should consume “400 μg per day of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods (cereals and other grains), supplements or both, in addition to consuming folate from foods in a varied diet.” Often prenatal vitamins also have a reduced dosage of vitamins that may be detrimental to the fetus when taken in high doses (such as Vitamin A). Prenatal vitamins

are available both over the counter in retail stores as well as by prescription from medical professionals. Although prescription vitamins are often covered by insurance, the relative potency of prescription-grade products are typically not significantly different from those available through retail. Differences in prescription versus retail vitamins do however exist in consistency and quality level, as well as the relative bioavailability of some specific ingredients. For example, many prescription prenatal vitamins will contain a more bioavailable form of folate; 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).
Many women have difficulty tolerating prenatal vitamins or experience constipation as a result of the high iron content. Due to tolerance challenges, the prenatal vitamin industry has developed a multitude of dosage forms to meet the needs and tolerances of expecting mothers. The most common form of prenatal vitamin is the compressed tablet which is available through all channels and at various quality levels. Category leaders utilize this as the dosage form of choice. Other organizations within the category offer products in a variety of dosage forms such as liquids, prenatal vitamin soft chews, vitamin chewables, and even jellied prenatal vitamins.
In addition to the actual vitamin, many prenatal manufacturers have chosen to include the omega-3 fatty acid, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in their product, either as an ingredient in the formula, or as a complementary softgel pill. Although explicitly in many formulas to support neural development, the omega-3 fatty acids are used by both mother and fetus to create the phospholipid bilayer that makes up the cell membrane.

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  • 1. [Levomefolic acid] Levomefolic acid (INN) (also known as 5-MTHF, L-methylfolate and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and (6S)-5-MTHF) is the primary biologically active form of folic acid used at the cellular level for DNA reproduction, the cysteine cycle and the regulation of homocysteine. It is also the form found in circulation and transported across membranes into tissues and across
  • 2. [Multivitamin] A multivitamin is a preparation intended to be a dietary supplement with vitamins, dietary minerals, and other nutritional elements. Such preparations are available in the form of tablets, capsules, pastilles, powders, liquids, and injectable formulations. Other than injectable formulations, which are only available and administered under medical supervision, multivitamins are recognized by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (the United Nations' authority on food standards) as a category of food.
  • 3. [Postpartum period] A postpartum period (or postnatal period) is the period beginning immediately after the birth of a child and extending for about six weeks. Less frequently used are the terms puerperium or puerperal period. (Specific pathologies during this period may be called puerperal fever, puerperal mastitis, puerperal mania, etc.)
  • 4. [Docosahexaenoic acid] Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that is a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. It can be synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid or obtained directly from maternal milk or fish oil. DHA's structure is a carboxylic acid (-oic acid) with a 22-carbon chain (docosa- is
  • 5. [Lactation] Lactation describes the secretion of milk from the mammary glands and the period of time that a mother lactates to feed her young. The process can occur with almost all post-pregnancy female mammals, although it predates mammals. In humans the process of feeding milk is also called breastfeeding or nursing.
  • 6. [Omega-3 fatty acid] Omega-3 fatty acids (also called ω-3 fatty acids or n-3 fatty acids) are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) with a double bond (C=C) at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain. The fatty acids have two ends, the carboxylic acid (-COOH) end, which is considered the beginning of the chain, thus "alpha",
  • 7. [Pregnancy] Pregnancy is the development of one or more offspring, known as an embryo or fetus, in a woman's uterus. It is the common name for gestation in humans. A multiple pregnancy involves more than one embryo or fetus in a single pregnancy, such as with twins.
  • 8. [Vitamin A] Vitamin A is a group of unsaturated nutritional organic compounds, that includes retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and several provitamin A carotenoids, among which beta-carotene is the most important. Vitamin A has multiple functions: it is important for growth and development, for the maintenance of the immune system and good vision. Vitamin A is needed by
  • 9. [Vitamin] A vitamin (US /ˈvaɪtəmɪn/ and UK /ˈvɪtəmɪn/) is an organic compound and a vital nutrient that an organism requires in limited amounts. An organic chemical compound (or related set of compounds) is called a vitamin when the organism cannot synthesize the compound in sufficient quantities, and must be obtained through the diet; thus, the term
  • 10. [Cell membrane] The cell membrane (also known as the plasma membrane or cytoplasmic membrane) is a biological membrane that separates the interior of all cells from the outside environment. The cell membrane is selectively permeable to ions and organic molecules and controls the movement of substances in and out of cells. The basic function of the cell
  • 11. [Iron] Iron is a chemical element with symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust. Its abundance
  • 12. [Mineral] A mineral is a naturally occurring substance that is solid and inorganic representable by a chemical formula, usually abiogenic, and has an ordered atomic structure. It is different from a rock, which can be an aggregate of minerals or non-minerals and does not have a specific chemical composition. The exact definition of a mineral is
  • 13. [Calcium] Calcium is a chemical element with symbol Ca and atomic number 20. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust. Calcium is also the fifth-most-abundant dissolved ion in seawater by both molarity and mass, after sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfate.
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