The benefits of postnatal vitamins
Once you've given birth, your body doesn't immediately revert to how it was pre-pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are important for the development of your baby, but postnatal vitamins are equally important for maintaining your health and wellness. Your healthcare provider may recommend any of several common postnatal vitamins to help with lactation, postpartum depression, immune system support, and meeting nutritional needs.
What are postnatal vitamins?
Postnatal vitamins are any of several vitamins that you take after giving birth. They are important not only for keeping you healthy, but also your baby if you decide to breastfeed. Babies require a lot of care and attention, and it can be easy to let your personal health slip off the to-do list. New moms need care too, so postnatal vitamins can continue filling in gaps in necessary nutrition after delivery.
A high-quality postnatal multivitamin can provide the key nutrients that new moms struggle to get. There are multivitamins tailored for lactating women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as for new parents who can't or don't choose to breastfeed.
Types of postnatal vitamins
Postnatal supplements are a little different from prenatal supplements. While a prenatal vitamin is made to match the nutrient needs of a growing baby, postnatal vitamins assist in recovery after birth. Plus, breastfeeding moms need even more extra nutrients than they did during pregnancy. To restore the vitamins depleted during delivery, here are some must-haves in your supplement.
Calcium, zinc, and magnesium
Breastfeeding moms often do not get enough calcium, zinc, or magnesium from their diets. Zinc, along with Vitamin C, helps boost your immune system while you're still vulnerable from birth. Calcium supports healthy bone and muscle growth while magnesium supports general healthy growth.
Breastfeeding mothers who don't get a lot of iron may struggle with anemia. Getting about 10 mg of iron daily can help increase energy levels and make keeping up with a new baby a little easier. Iron is essential for red blood cells to carry oxygen to your baby's brain, though they don't get much iron from breast milk. Instead, they retain iron stores for up to 6 months before needing to get iron from their diet.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common postnatal supplements, especially for people who are vegetarian or vegan. Since B12 is found exclusively in animal products, it can help to supplement your diet with a pill. An essential nutrient of both the parent and the baby, you need B12 to produce energy and for your central nervous system to properly function.
The other essential vitamin is Vitamin B6, which can help regulate breast milk production. If you're struggling to increase milk supply, you may actually need more B6. Without it, you may not have proper blood flow to the nipple, which also reduces milk flow. B6 may also help alleviate postnatal depression.
Vitamins D, A, and C
Vitamin D is essential for your baby's bone development, so if you don't eat a lot of vitamin D-rich foods or spend time in the sun with your baby, you may need to take a supplement. Without Vitamin D, your baby may develop rickets, where their bones start to soften. Vitamin D is also important for helping your baby absorb calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin A is important both for breastfeeding women and for the baby's development. For both parents and babies, Vitamin A encourages healthy vision, tissue growth, and immune support.
Vitamin C helps your body heal from birth while also boosting your immune system to fight off potential illnesses.
Docosahexaenoic acid, choline, and iodide
The need for iodine and choline both increase while breastfeeding, even more than the need for pregnant women. Iodide is essential for your thyroid health and choline and iodide both help your baby's brain and nervous system develop. It's recommended for lactating parents to get 290 mcg of iodine and 550 mg of choline every day for a postpartum period of a year.
One of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) encourages healthy nervous system, eye, and brain development in your baby. All omega-3's have to come out of your diet since they're not made in our bodies.
How to get postnatal vitamins for pregnancy
The best way to get the postnatal vitamins you need is from a balanced diet tailored to your post-birth nutrient needs. Your doctor can recommend the foods that will help build up the nutrient intake in your healthy diet.
However, it's hard to get all the nutrients you and your baby need just from food. Usually, you can get postnatal supplements over the counter, though your doctor may prescribe a special set of vitamins in some cases. Postnatal multivitamins may also include extra benefits, like probiotics.
What are the benefits of postnatal vitamins?
You'll get the most varied benefits from postnatal vitamins for breastfeeding. Your baby is relying almost entirely on you for their nutrient intake, which means you need to be able to provide the nutrients they need for healthy development. Nursing mothers can support their baby's growth, brain and nerve development, and bone health with the proper nutrients.
There are also postnatal vitamins not for breastfeeding, that offer you benefits. Postnatal vitamin benefits for mothers include helping the body heal after giving birth and boosting the immune system. Getting the proper nutrients is an important part of living a healthy life.
Side effects of postnatal vitamins
Stomach issues are the most common side effect of postnatal vitamins. You may feel minor cramping, nausea, or general stomach upset. Try taking your multivitamin with food to relieve symptoms. If that doesn't help, talk to your doctor about other options. If you have an allergic reaction like hives, swelling, rash, or difficulty breathing, seek emergency medical attention.
Iron supplements in particular can cause constipation, so make sure to drink plenty of water, add fiber to your diet, and add light exercise to your routine.
How long should you take postnatal vitamins?
Your OB-GYN will have the final say on how long you should be taking your postnatal vitamins, but generally, you should take them for as long as you're breastfeeding. If you choose not to breastfeed, or can't, you should take your vitamins for at least 6 months.
When to switch from prenatal to postnatal vitamins?
Usually, you switch to postnatal vitamins as soon as you give birth or when you finish out your supply of prenatal vitamins. Since you have different nutritional gaps and need different fillers, it's important to listen to your doctor's advice on when they want you to switch.
Can I just keep taking my prenatal multivitamin?
While there's no harm in finishing off your bottle of prenatal vitamins, there are different nutrient gaps pre- and postnatal. For example, prenatal multivitamins may have too much folic acid/folate and not enough iodide or choline. If you're concerned about your nutrient levels, talk to your OB-GYN or another care provider.
Are there good postnatal vitamins for hair loss?
Hormonal changes from pregnancy may result in hair loss. You can try a combination of Vitamin E and biotin to help combat this. If the problems persist, you may consider talking to a dermatologist.
Will postnatal vitamins help increase milk supply?
While postnatal vitamins are not made to increase milk supply, they can and do increase milk quality. Give your baby more of the essential nutrients they need with breast milk that contains more of those nutrients.
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