Here's What You Need To Know About Taking Vitamin C & Your Prenatal Vitamins

by Cat Bowen

My father is that guy you see that travels with 40 different green bottles of vitamins with him wherever he goes. If anyone within a 20-mile radius of his person gets a cold, he immediately sanitizes his hands and pops one of those fizzy tabs that are full of vitamin C and zinc. While I'm not nearly as into supplements as he is, some of that transferred to me and I take my fair share. However, I wonder if I'm taking too many. For instance, can you take a prenatal vitamin and vitamin C, or is that too much?

While vitamin C is generally considered safe, there are risks to taking too much. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 60 milligrams per day. That's just one kiwi fruit or three quarters of a cup of pineapple. Most prenatal vitamins contain the entire RDA of 60 milligrams, so it's unnecessary to take both a vitamin C supplement and prenatal vitamin together. The Mayo Clinic explained that a megadose of vitamin C equates upwards of 2,000 milligrams (2 grams) of vitamin C each day, and the risks of a megadose are along the lines of nausea and gastric upset. However, New Kids Center noted that when you're pregnant, there is some risk to the fetus and mother if too much vitamin C is taken before the body can eliminate the excess through the urine. Complications can include increased blood sugar and blood pressure.

The general rule with most things while you're pregnant seems to be one of caution. You want vitamin C. It's important for bodily processes like metabolizing proteins and combating free radicals that we encounter on a daily basis, according to the website for Prenate Vitamins. However, there is so much as too much of a good thing. While the risks of vitamin C are lower than many other vitamins, particularly fat soluble vitamins like A and E that build up in the body over time, there are still risks. Taking a supplement like the fizzy tablets that are purported to boost your immune system before a flight or before you spend your day around snotty humans seems like nothing but a good idea when you're pregnant, but it might do more harm than you think.

I spoke with nutritionist Kristan Albany, MPN, RD, and asked her if you can pop a vitamin C while still taking your prenatal vitamins. She tells Romper, "There's no reason you should unless your doctor instructs you to do so. Vitamin C is water-soluble, and anything above and beyond the 200 or so milligrams floating in your blood at any one given time, you'll pee it out. Not only can it give you cramps and make you nauseated, it's a waste of money." Albany says she understands the compulsion to take a vitamin C pill or supplement. There is so much misinformation out there from all sorts of sources touting its purported benefits (Hey, Dad!), but there isn't much real research pointing to its miraculous benefits.

I think the fascination with vitamin C began in the 1990s. That was when the word "antioxidant" gathered some steam. I was a tiny tot and remember all of the commercials talking about vitamin C and the antioxidant powers of orange juice. There was a plethora of drinks on the market like Sunny Delight and Hi-C fruit punch which were promoted as healthy beverages because they contained 100 percent or more of your RDA of vitamin C. They made no mention of the fact that my beloved Slimer Hi-C was entirely high fructose corn syrup, green food coloring, and some ascorbic acid thrown in there for the vitamins. It was practically a health tonic.

It got in our brains as what we needed. The marketing machine worked. But now, we may be fooled into thinking we need more than we do, putting ourselves and our children at risk. Albany says to eat well, take your prenatal, and drink your water — that's the best thing for you and your baby.

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