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Elizabeth Street


Stay Away from Prenatal Vitamins if You're Not Trying to Get Pregnant

Oct 17, 2013

Stay Away from Prenatal Vitamins if You're Not Trying to Get Pregnant

We've heard rumors that taking prenatal vitamins, even when you're not trying to conceive, can do wonders for your hair, skin, and nails. Obviously, we want a stronger manicure and commercial-worthy locks, so we understand why you might pop these pills even if you don't need them. But you should think twice before you buy into this beauty myth.

"You may be tempted to take prenatal vitamins because of unproven claims that they promote thicker hair and stronger nails," said Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky. "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."

Jennifer Wider, MD told Cosmopolitan, “Most experts would not recommend prenatal vitamins for women who are not trying to conceive or who are not pregnant.” 

The vitamins in these capsules are the perfect preparation for carrying a child, but when given to a woman with no plans to get pregnant, they can overwhelm the body.

Folic acid, a key ingredient in prenatal vitamins, is essential in preventing major birth defects, but in non-pregnant women too much folate can actually mask the signs of a B-12 deficiency, which leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "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."

The average prenatal vitamin contains far more iron than the average woman needs. A surplus of iron can be toxic to the body, causing constipation, nausea, vomiting, and in extreme cases, death. 

Bottom line: Stick to a multivitamin that meets your health needs, and leave the prenatals for mamas-to-be.

By Caroline Hallemann

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