If you’re considering becoming pregnant, you may be wondering what you should do to prepare your body. If you’re on birth control, you’ll have to stop taking it at some point so that you can get pregnant. You should also begin taking prenatal vitamins, which are recommended for women before, during, and after pregnancy.
You can also take prenatal vitamins when you aren’t preparing for pregnancy, but prenatal vitamins aren’t recommended for long-term use. Taking birth control and prenatal vitamins at the same time isn’t harmful, but it isn’t something you should do for a long period.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits these vitamins offer, what to do about your birth control, and alternatives to consider.
Birth Control Basics
There are a variety of options available to prevent pregnancy. This includes:
- barrier methods, such as condoms and diaphragms
- implantable rods
- intrauterine devices
- hormonal birth control
These methods vary in their effectiveness and in the ways they prevent pregnancy.
For women, hormonal birth control is one form of contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy. There are many types of hormonal birth controls available, including:
- vaginal rings
These options interfere with ovulation, fertilization, and the implementation of a fertilized egg, or a combination of these.
An injection of hormonal birth control like Depo-Provera has a failure rate of less than one in every 100 women. Pills, patches, and vaginal rings containing hormonal birth control have a failure rate of just five in every 100 women. These are some of the most effective forms of birth control available.
If you stop using contraception, pregnancy is a possibility. Some women may be able to conceive immediately after they stop taking the pill. For others, conception may take longer.
If you’re trying to become pregnant, consider waiting until have you’ve had one natural period off of the pill. If you were taking a pill that prevented menstruation, your first period after the pill is considered to be a “withdrawal bleed.” The following month’s period is considered your first natural period. If you had a monthly period while you were on the pill, your first period after the pill is considered a natural period.
Prenatal Vitamin Basics
If you’re planning to become pregnant, your doctor will recommend that you begin taking a prenatal vitamin. You should begin taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid three months before trying to conceive.
Prenatal vitamins contain extra amounts of folic acid, iron, and calcium needed during pregnancy. These are important during pregnancy because:
- Folic acid prevents neural tube defects.
- Iron helps a baby’s growth and development.
- Calcium and vitamin D contributes to healthy bone growth, especially during the third trimester.
Prenatal vitamins are available over the counter and can contain other supplements. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, which are a component of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA supports brain development and neurological function. It’s recommended that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding take at least 200 milligrams of DHA per day. Your doctor may recommend a specific vitamin for your health needs.
Prenatal vitamins may cause some to feel queasy or constipated. You can do the following to avoid these symptoms:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat extra fiber.
- Exercise daily if your doctor approves of it.
- Use a stool softener if your doctor recommends it.
Talk to your doctor if you’re unable to take a recommended prenatal vitamin for any reason. Your doctor may be able to suggest another option.
Taking Birth Control Pills and Prenatal Vitamins at the Same Time
If you’re planning to become pregnant, there may be a time where taking birth control and prenatal vitamins overlap. This is reasonable, depending on where you are in planning your pregnancy. You can conceive any time after stopping birth control and may begin taking prenatal vitamins up to three months in advance of trying to conceive.
You shouldn’t take prenatal vitamins indefinitely, though. If you’re trying to conceive and are taking prenatal vitamins in addition to your birth control, you should ask your doctor about vitamins other than prenatal options. Prenatal vitamins aren’t recommended for long-term use for the following reasons:
- Too much folic acid can mask the symptoms of a B-12 vitamin deficiency. This can delay diagnosis and treatment.
- Too much iron can build up in your body, leading to constipation, nausea, and diarrhea. In rare cases, more serious buildups can lead to death.
- Too little calcium can put you at risk of osteoporosis and other health issues. Prenatal vitamins are only intended to supplement typical calcium intake. You may need additional calcium if you’ve been relying on vitamins to meet your daily calcium requirement.
If pregnancy isn’t something that’s in your future, talk to your doctor about what vitamins may be best for you. In many cases, taking a multivitamin isn’t necessary if you eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Both birth control and prenatal vitamins are important for different reasons. If you’re planning to become pregnant, you should stop birth control and begin taking a prenatal vitamin. If you’re looking for a long-term vitamin and you’re on birth control, speak to your doctor about the best options for you.