So here is what you need to know. A woman should start taking a prenatal vitamin for about 3 months before trying to conceive. Better yet, a woman should start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as she starts menstruating. Why? Having a period is actually pretty rough on your body. And I know from personal experience that if you are on a good multivitamin your bleeding is less severe and doesn't last as long, the cramps are less intense, and you'll be less likely to have mood swings. But periods are rough on you in other ways...
That said, it should be pretty obvious why taking a prenatal is best while pregnant, but we'll go over that anyway... just in case some of you don't know why its so important. You know how everyone says a pregnant woman is eating for two? Well, have you ever wondered why a pregnant woman has so many cravings and eats so much sometimes? Its because her body is starving for certain vitamins and minerals that not only her body needs but that are also vital to building that growing baby. So when she or the baby needs something her body tells the brain 'WE NEED CALCIUM!!!' but if a woman had a crappy diet before getting pregnant then the body only thinks it can get calcium from ice cream and chocolate. So that's what she craves. And in large quantities. So its not that she actually needs to eat for two its that she needs nutrition for two. Taking a good prenatal vitamin gives the body more of what it needs without needing to consume more calories to meet those needs. Remember that one of the '2' a pregnant woman is eating for starts out no bigger than the dot on this 'i' and ends up 10 or 11 lbs at the biggest (usually, though there are babies on record that weighted more than that at birth). So a pregnant woman who eats for two adults is going to end up being as big as two adults even after delivery. So get on a good prenatal to give yourself and your baby the vitamins and nutrients you both need while passing up those crazy weight bombs called cravings.
Pregnancy, even delivery, severely depletes a woman's vitamin and mineral stores in her body. Remember, your body is building another body. What your body needs so does that little one being grown in your womb. If you aren't getting enough of those building blocks in your diet the baby WILL steal if from mom. People aren't joking when they call an unborn child a parasite. They really are a much cuter version of a tape worm. Only most people don't name and keep their tape worms after they come out... Anyway, Baby leaches nutrients from Mom, and if Mom isn't getting enough of them she will suffer the consequences, and so will Baby eventually. A good number of birth defects, despite most modern medicine's protestations, are caused by nutritional deficiencies in the mother, and sometimes even in the father. So take a prenatal!! And get your partner to take a multi while you're at it! Pregnancy is rough enough without having to deal with the many issues vitamin deficiencies cause, and without having to worry about birth defects. Believe it or not many of the unpleasantness experienced in pregnancy can be caused, or made worse by vitamin deficiency. B deficiencies cause mood swings in menstruating women, guess what? It will cause mood swings in pregnant women too. Low iron makes a menstruating woman weak and tired, guess what? It does the same to a pregnant woman, only with the added issue of occasionally causing dizziness and fainting too.
Prenatals are also vital after delivery. Remember, your body just made a baby, and pushed it out...along with a placenta. You have a huge gaping wound in your uterus. You're going to be losing a lot of blood over the next couple weeks and your body needs to repair itself and try to get back to some semblance of normalcy and balance. If you're nursing your body still has to provide nutrition for Baby. The vitamins are still vastly important, especially the B vitamins as well as C D and Iron. All of these vitamins are important to mood and general health. Many of the women who succumb to post partum depression are actually suffering from vitamin deficiencies. Vit D deficiency, especially when coupled with low Iron, is the most common cause of the baby blues.
So lets do a little recap, shall we? I know I have already gone over the why's a little but lets go a little more in depth here.
Pre-pregnancy. The higher levels of vitamins and minerals that are in a prenatal vitamin will make periods less awful, even get rid of PMS entirely if you're taking enough of the right things. The more bearable you are while menstruating the more likely a man is to stick around, a joke I know, but its true. Men, sympathetic or not, know that a period can make a woman a bit crazy. The less crazy you are during that time of the month, especially if the only way he knows you're 'on the rag' is that you keep wanting sex in the shower, the more likely he is to think of staying with you long term. The higher levels of vitamins in a prenatal keep your internal stores higher, keeping you in good health and your 'soil' prime for 'planting' with fewer issues once you decide to have baby.
Better vitamin stores BEFORE getting pregnant also means an easier pregnancy, and can help ease morning sickness when taking a vitamin might be more difficult. But you cannot rely on pre-pregnancy stores keeping you healthy through the whole pregnancy. Each of the vitamins plays a major role in the development of different organs and systems in your baby's body. Don't get enough of vitamin A and your baby could possibly be born without eyes or with poor vision. If you don't get enough folic acid (a B vitamin) your baby might be born with a whole host of neurological defects. Vitamins are also very important for helping your body cope with the stress of creating a new life. Its emotionally straining as well as physically. The better nutrition you're getting the easier it will be to handle these challenges. Its hard enough without having to deal with deficiency related complications.
If you were good about taking a prenatal during pregnancy then your body has less vitamins and minerals to replace once you have delivered and now need to heal and nurse. This will help prevent post partum depression. Severe post partum depression is a major player in negligent infant homicides, shaken baby syndrome, and certain cases of SIDS. Post partum depression is also considered a cause of certain developmental and mood issues in young children. So do whatever you can to help prevent this from happening to you. Better nutrition for Mom post partum also means better nutrition for Baby. A good number of vitamins and minerals get passed into the breast milk, if you aren't getting enough of something then not very much of that vitamin will pass into the breast milk, and into your baby. If you're not giving your baby a supplement to compensate for what they aren't getting from you then your baby's health may be at risk. It is also highly recommended that you continue taking a prenatal throughout your child bearing years. This helps ensure proper health for mom as well as keeping your body ready to have another baby, whenever you and your partner might choose to have another.
So if you're not planning on getting pregnant soon, but would eventually like to have children, start taking a good multivitamin so your baby has what it needs once you decide to start trying. If you are planning on getting pregnant soon, get on a good prenatal right away. If you're already pregnant you should already be on one. If you dont take it regularly, start. If you stopped taking it because it makes you feel sick you can try taking a chewy vitamin, a different brand or try taking it at a different time of day. Whatever you have to do to get those extra vitamins in your body, do it. You need it. Your baby needs it. If you already gave birth and are between babies, even if you dont plan on having another any time soon, stay on one. If the added vitamins are safe during pregnancy, then why would they suddenly become unsafe afterward? Keep taking them. You need higher levels of calcium, magnesium and a whole host of other vitamins right now anyway to help prevent osteoperosis and other 'old age' diseases. So just keep on with the prenatals, you'll thanks yourself for it!