Can You Take Prenatal Vitamins Without Being Pregnant: 5 Benefits

Can you take prenatal vitamins without being pregnant? Learn the benefits and potential side effects for women before taking them.

Dr. Blen Tesfu
By The Promescent Team Medically reviewed by Dr. Blen Tesfu Last updated 12/11/2023
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can i take prenatal vitamins without being pregnant

During pregnancy, most vitamins decrease in a woman’s blood levels. It’s why it’s become the norm for gynecologists to recommend and prescribe prenatal vitamins to pregnant women.

Some people believe that taking prenatal vitamins while not pregnant can improve fingernails and hair and give their bodies a boost of nutrients.

Quick FAQs

It may help with fertility to take prenatal vitamins if you're trying to become pregnant. Be aware that there is a risk of side effects due to excess amount of nutrients such as iron and vitamin A.

Some of the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins include reducing the risk of preterm birth and higher live birth rates.

Common ingredients in prenatal vitamins include folic acid, calcium, and iron.

But taking vitamins you don't need can put your body at risk. We will dig further into whether one can take pregnancy vitamins when not pregnant and why regular multivitamins may be the better option.

Can you take prenatal vitamins without being pregnant?

According to Dr. Blen Tesfu of Welzo, it’s generally safe to take prenatal vitamins even if you’re not pregnant. 

But with that said, she also expressed that, “Prenatal vitamins are specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of pregnant women and may contain higher levels of certain nutrients like folic acid and iron. While these nutrients can be beneficial, taking them in excess without a specific need may lead to some health issues, such as constipation or iron toxicity.”

Women take prenatal vitamins to replace nutrients that decrease while pregnant. These supplements vary in the types and amounts of vitamins. They can include additives like omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and iron.

Here are a few vitamins and minerals that can be harmful if the daily recommended amount is exceeded.

  • Iron - Excess iron can damage major organs and lead to cell death.
  • Folic acid - Too much folic acid may speed up mental decline, especially for those with low B12 levels.
  • Vitamin A - Vitamin A toxicity can potentially cause headaches, blurry vision, and other issues.

Dr. Tesfu advises, “It is always best to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate vitamin supplementation for your individual needs and circumstances.”

Benefits of taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant

Some of the advantages of taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant include decreased risk of preterm birth, higher rate of successful pregnancies, and reduced chances of birth irregularities.

When we asked Dr. Tesfu about the benefits of taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant, she stated, “Some women may find them helpful during childbearing years if they are planning to become pregnant in the near future, as folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects if taken before conception. The vitamins may also provide a convenient way to obtain essential nutrients like iron and calcium if your diet is lacking in these areas.”

With that said, she also noted, “A general multivitamin, designed for your age and gender, may be more appropriate if you're not planning a pregnancy. Again, consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized recommendations is advised.”

Here’s a closer look at some of the top benefits of taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant.

1. Contains DHA, which helps improve cervical mucus quality

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an Omega-3 fatty acid associated with a lower risk of preterm birth. It’s important to note that exceeding 1000mg a day can cause slow blood clotting and increase the chance of bleeding.

Prenatal vitamins contain DHA, which also improves cervical mucus. The increase in mucus keeps the baby's nose, mouth, and throat soft and helps to better protect the uterus and baby from bacteria or infection.

2. Reduces the risk of preterm birth

Research estimates that nearly 15 million infants are born preterm. Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, which has been proven to decrease the chances of preterm birth.

According to one study, supplementing folic acid showed a 10% lower risk of premature birth.

3. Higher live birth rates

Studies show that folate helps in fetal growth and organ development. And women with higher levels of folic acid experience live births at a higher rate than those with lower folate levels.

4. Reduces the risk of birth irregularities

According to scientific research, supplementing with folic acid can reduce the risk of congenital defects in the neural tube.

Currently, scientists are unsure as to why or how it helps reduce the irregularities.

5. Potentially increases chances of pregnancy

More research still needs to be done regarding prenatal vitamins increasing the chance of pregnancy. Nonetheless, the research is promising.

One study noted that supplementation with folic acid in the period before pregnancy may increase the chances of conceiving.

In another study, supplementation was found to have a slight beneficial effect on fertility in healthy infertile women by causing a shorter time to pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamin Ingredients

When we asked Dr. Tesfu about prenatal vitamin ingredients, she stated, “Prenatal vitamins typically contain a blend of vitamins and minerals essential for both the mother's health and the baby's development.” 

The ingredients that she mentioned were common in prenatal vitamins include:

  • Folic Acid: Essential for neural tube development and preventing birth defects.
  • Iron: Important for preventing anemia, which can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight.
  • Calcium: Supports the development of the baby's bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D: Works with calcium to promote bone health.
  • Vitamin C: Aids in the absorption of iron and supports the immune system.
  • Vitamin A: Essential for vision, growth, and immune system function.
  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that helps protect cells.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Especially DHA, which supports brain development.
  • Zinc: Important for growth and development, immune function, and wound healing.

Here are more details about some of these ingredients.

1. Calcium

According to the most recent data, the recommended dose of calcium for adults and those over four years old is 1300mg.

But for pregnant women, calcium absorption increases, so you may not need the extra intake. Most prenatal vitamins contain around 1000 mg of calcium.

2. Folic acid

As mentioned throughout this article, folic acid is important in the healthy development of a fetus and the pregnancy itself.

Doctors recommend a daily dose of 600 micrograms for pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant.

And while you can get folate from the food you eat, it is often not enough to promote fertility or a healthy pregnancy, which makes prenatal vitamins essential.

3. Iron

Iron is a mineral our bodies need to create new red blood cells. Pregnant women have an increased blood volume, which means that extra iron is vital.

You can acquire some iron through your diet, but the recommended dose of iron while pregnant is 27 mg, compared to 8mg for those not pregnant.

Prenatal vitamins contain an effective and safe amount of iron to prevent iron toxicity in pregnant women.

In addition to all of these ingredients, Dr. Tesfu further noted that, “Prenatal vitamins may contain other vitamins and minerals, so it's important to read the label and discuss the specific formulation with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns or questions.

Other nutrients in prenatal vitamins

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • copper
  • zinc

When to start taking prenatal vitamins

Always discuss with your doctor before starting prenatal vitamins. They will recommend whether you need to start taking them if you're pregnant or trying to conceive.

You can purchase prenatal vitamins over the counter; however, it's better if a doctor prescribes them.

Whether pregnant or not, eating a folate-rich diet or taking folic acid-only supplements is always a good idea for women of childbearing age.

Prenatal vs Multivitamin

Both prenatal and non-prenatal multivitamins contain the same essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B, vitamin C, and zinc.

The most significant difference between the two is that prenatal vitamins contain a higher amount of folic acid and iron than non-prenatal multivitamins.

All vitamins come in a unique formula, so it is important to consult with a physician before starting any supplement.

Takeaways

If you're thinking about getting pregnant, you first want to evaluate your diet before considering a prenatal vitamin.

The benefits of taking prenatal multivitamins if pregnant or trying to get pregnant include a lower chance of preterm birth, a higher rate of live birth, decreased risk of birth defects, and a possible boost to fertility.

Multivitamins and other supplements like Fertility for Her may also provide the necessary nutrients without the extra folic acid and iron that prenatal vitamins contain.

Excessive amounts of some vitamins and minerals may cause dangerous toxicity.

Be sure to speak to your doctor or gynecologist and ask them if it’s ok to take prenatal vitamins when not pregnant.

Dr. Blen Tesfu

Dr. Blen Tesfu

Dr. Blen Tesfu is a practicing physician who is also pursuing a master's in epidemiology and Public Health. She has extensive experience working in primary as well as Tertiary care settings, particularly with women's health and reproductive medicine, communicable diseases, and non-communicable illnesses. Throughout her role as General Practitioner, she has gained diverse knowledge and experience on complex medical topics and dedication to patient education and promotional activities for public well-being initiatives. She is passionate about staying up-to-date on the latest research findings through research publications, journal articles, and guidelines that help inform the best evidence-based practices when treating patients across different communities worldwide.

Sources:

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