Prenatal vitamins are a critical factor in maintaining a healthy pregnancy, but not all prenatal vitamins are the same. Women deserve to choose the option that is right for them. Health care experts can help women choose a prenatal vitamin that fits their needs.
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First Databank is shifting policy to code all prescription prenatal vitamins into a class historically associated with over-the-counter products. This could immediately and devastatingly decrease women’s access to and choice about their prenatal vitamins – products that are universally regarded as a crucial component of prenatal care.
Women’s access to prescription prenatal vitamins must be protected.
If this coding goes into effect, millions of women could be denied access to prenatal vitamins that prevent serious and potentially deadly birth defects.
Prenatal vitamins should be taken before conception, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It is important to speak with a trusted physician about your options to find a prenatal vitamin with a formula that addresses your specific needs.
Folate is one of the most important nutrients women can take to protect the health of the baby, including lessening the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. According to the NIH, folic acid supplementation increases the likelihood of full-term births and lowers the risk of preterm birth.1 The guidance of a health care professional is critical to ensure that women have access to prescription prenatal vitamins that offer a form of folate that allows women to absorb it, especially those who may have a genetic predisposition which impairs proper metabolism.
Prenatal care begins at “trimester zero” (before conception even occurs). In order to effectively raise folate levels to help protect from birth defects, folic acid should be taken at least 4 weeks prior to conception. The neural tube closes 28 days after conception and taking folate prior to pregnancy can help prevent about 70% of neural tube defects.22
The form of iron in prenatal vitamins is important, and can impact the absorption and tolerability in women. Many pregnant women do not obtain sufficient iron from their diet to meet their body’s increased need during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, and this iron deficiency can lead to anemia.7,8,9,10,11
Not all prenatal vitamins have the same amount or quality of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have positive effects on cognitive/retinal development, motor skills, sleep patterns, and immune development.12,13
Vitamin B6 is important to help ease common morning sickness.14
Vitamin D deficiency is common during pregnancy, especially among moms with limited sun exposure, high use of sunscreen, darker skin, and vegetarians. Vitamin D deficiency may influence skeletal and neural development, intrauterine growth and immune migration. Vitamin D is important in helping women absorbing calcium and maintain bone mineral density.15,16,17,18,19,20
Prescription prenatal vitamins play a tremendous role in the health of low-income women. Roughly two-thirds (67%) of adult women on Medicaid are in their reproductive years (19 to 49), representing a critical population in need of prenatal support.21 Because state Medicaid plans cover prescription prenatal vitamins, that cost is significantly diminished (in many cases to no cost at all), enabling women access to this crucial component of prenatal care that can prevent spina bifida and other devastating neural tube birth defects.