I Can't Be Trusted Around Gummy Vitamins

I think I just ODed on delicious! Plus: Is it OK to take pre-natal vitamins if you're not trying to get pregnant?
Publish date:
August 29, 2011
vitamins, supplements

I've been sneaking these Gummy Vitamins off Cat's desk, and I think it's time to admit I have a problem. The recommended serving size is 2 gummies, but I pop like 8 in my mouth at once. They taste good!

We're probably not supposed to be taking prenatal vitamins anyway -- Cat says they're good for your hair and nails, but she also told me the other day that she's "preparing her body for a baby," and I'm not sure if she was joking or not.

So at first I was just going to throw that out there and ask you guys if anything bad is going to happen to me from taking too many vitamins. But then I thought, you know what? I get paid to be here, why dont I do some GD work for once and find out the answer myself.

So I e-mailed Dr. O, who turned out to be on vacation, but the still most excellent Nurse Practitioner Meghan McManama was around to humor me.

So, first I asked her if it's OK for women who aren't trying to get pregnant to take prenatal vitamins. She says:

"For most women, it is fine, but it really depends on that woman. Before starting any vitamin routine, you should know what your needs are based on your age group, your diet, and your preexisting medical conditions.

For women who aren't trying to get pregnant, but are having sex with men without being on birth control, daily folic acid is actually recommended by the WHO *just in case* they get pregnant. The reason for this is that folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

Folic acid is most important in the first 8-12 wks of pregnancy. Since many women don't even find out they are pregnant until 4-6 wks, we try to do as much as we can early on to prevent these defects.

As for women who are either not having sex with men, using birth control, or are unable to get pregnant, there are other reasons to be on the prenatal vitamins. There are some asthetic advantages -- anecdotally they are thought to be good for your skin, nails, hair (but there's no research behind this...)

Many of us busy women are not getting the full, healthy diet with all of the recommended daily vitamins and nutrients. A daily vitamin helps make up for what we are lacking in our diets. Another perk -- for women who have a history of HPV and abnormal paps there are some studies (but the verdict is still out in the research) that suggest folic acid helps your body clear the virus.

There are some concerns, or rather, things to be aware of- Iron levels- the iron dosage in a prenatal vitamin is higher than the daily recommended dose for most people. This can make you constipated, but it can also lead to toxicity if taken in high quantities. Iron toxicity is more common in children, but symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal bleeding. So if you are anemic, get heavy periods, or not a big meat eater, this can be helpful.

But if you have normal iron levels, you may not need such a high dosage of iron everyday. This especially applied to menopausal women, as their daily recommended dose for iron is about half that of reproductive aged women.

Prenatal vitamins could mask the symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency It's also important for people to recognize that just because they take a vitamin, they haven't taken care of all of their nutrition needs. Not all prenatal vitamins have the recommended daily dosage for calcium, vitamin B, C and others. At the end of the day, a prenatal vitamin isn't the universal vitamin for every woman. that's probably why there are so many options out there in the first place.

At your annual physical, you can get a complete blood count (CBC) or an iron panel to check your iron status. Depending on that, you should ask your MD/NP/PA what they think about prenatal vitamins for you. For most of my patients in a gynecology practice, I say it is OK."

Luckily, the brand we're taking is iron-free. So if anyone is interested in impregnating Cat or me, now would be a great time.