Prenatal Vitamins And Hair Growth During Pregnancy

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Introduction 

Prenatal care is the healthcare you get while you're pregnant, and It's a guide to keeping you and your baby healthy. When pregnant parents don't get this care, their babies are more likely to be born too small or face serious problems. Going to the doctor regularly helps catch and fix issues early. It's like getting a head start on taking care of you and your little one.1 

The connection between prenatal vitamins and hair growth

Have you ever wondered whether tweaking your diet or taking vitamins and minerals could hold the key to preventing or addressing skin problems, including the dreaded hair loss?

A historical incident sheds light on this matter:

  • Back in 1497, something shocking happened: Vasco de Gama lost 100 out of 160 sailors to scurvy. This goes to show that what we eat and the nutrients we get are vital for staying healthy
  • 300 years later, and James Lind connected the dots, revealing a link between scurvy and a deficiency in vitamin C. He observed telltale signs like skin haemorrhage and hair loss, shedding light on the critical role of nutrients in maintaining healthy skin and hair2,3

It's important to consider that hair loss in women might be linked to not getting enough nutrients, especially iron. Iron plays a crucial role in making haemoglobin (Hb), which delivers nutrients and oxygen to hair follicles. This connection highlights the significance of prenatal vitamins in dealing with hair loss during pregnancy.4

Understanding prenatal vitamins

Picture this: a growing foetus, a nurturing placenta, and the mother's own tissues all in sync. What's the secret behind this graceful coordination?

Think of essential vitamins and minerals as the superstar backup dancers of this pregnancy performance. They're not just any nutrients; they're the micronutrients that fuel every cellular move and metabolic groove. Just like how dancers ensure a flawless routine, these micronutrients play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy by supporting vital processes like cell growth and tissue development.

Role of vitamins and minerals in supporting maternal health 

Maintaining appropriate levels of essential vitamins and minerals is vital for pregnant women. Referred to as micronutrients, these dietary elements play a comprehensive role in cellular and metabolic functions. They influence various processes such as cell growth, programmed cell death and specialisation, along with tissue development and overall stability.5

Micronutrient deficiencies refer to inadequate levels of vital vitamins and minerals acquired from dietary sources, falling short of the recommended daily allowances necessary for optimal health, growth, and development.

These deficiencies can become more problematic during pregnancy due to the increased nutritional needs. A common case is lacking enough iron during pregnancy (gestational anaemia), which is seen in about 19.2% of people worldwide. Another example is maternal vitamin A deficiency, affecting approximately 15.3% of pregnant women.6

When a pregnant mother doesn't get enough nutrients, it doesn't just impact her and the baby at the time. It can lead to problems that affect not only the child's growth and brain development, but also their long-term health. This includes things like how their body works, their heart health, and how well their immune system functions.

Imagine this situation: If a mother doesn't get enough good nutrition while pregnant, it could cause issues like stunted growth, problems with brain development, and weaker heart, lung, and immune functions in her child. But what's even more fascinating is that these problems might not stop with her child – they could affect her child's children too.

Making sure a mom eats well during pregnancy isn't just for today. It's like saving for the future – it's making sure that this generation, but also the next, stay healthy and strong.

Common nutrients found in prenatal vitamins

Maintaining a nutritious diet is your primary route to obtaining the necessary vitamins and minerals your body craves. However, during pregnancy, there's a possibility that you may need a little extra assistance to ensure you're getting all the vital nutrients you and your baby need.7 

This includes a roster of crucial elements such as folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, and vitamin C, which play essential roles throughout your pregnancy journey.

Ever thought about giving your future baby a head start? Well, when it comes to taking prenatal vitamins, the ideal time to begin is before you even start trying to conceive. In fact, it's like planting the seeds of good health for women who could have a baby someday.

The neural tube, a primary foetal structure which will later become your baby's brain and spinal cord, begins forming in the very first month of pregnancy. Imagine that! It might even be happening before you realise you're pregnant. So give your future bundle of joy a nutritional boost right from the start! It's like sending out an early invitation to a healthy and happy pregnancy journey!8 

Are there potential side effects associated with taking prenatal vitamins?

Yes, occasionally, the iron in prenatal vitamins can lead to constipation. To avoid this, make sure to drink enough fluids, eat fibre-rich foods, stay active (with your healthcare provider's approval), and consider talking to your healthcare provider about using a stool softener if needed.

Benefits of prenatal vitamins beyond hair health

One study found that in 300,000 neonatal deaths reported, neural tube defects (NTDs) were considered to have contributed significantly. This frequency is linked to the demand for nutrients during pregnancy, particularly critical in the first trimester.9 

Research indicates that providing the right amount of minerals through supplementation can notably lower various pregnancy issues (such as anaemia, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, hyperthyroidism, miscarriage, and pre-eclampsia) and infant health concerns (including anaemia, asthma/wheezing, autism, cerebral palsy, hypothyroidism, intellectual disability, and low birth weight).10 

Hair growth in pregnancy

Ever thought about how hormones might influence hair growth? 

During pregnancy, the hormone oestrogen gives hair a growth boost, making it stay active for longer. But here's the surprise – after pregnancy, hair might thin out. Why? Because oestrogen and progesterone take a step back.

So, hormones play a big role in the hair story – they can be like the director, guiding hair's growth and changes. It's like a tale where hormones hold the pen, scripting the journey of hair through different stages.

Hair follicle cycle

Think of your hair like a cycle with three main phases: the growing phase (anagen), the transition phase (catagen), and the resting phase (telogen).11

  • The anagen phase, or the growing phase, can last for 2 to 7 years. During this time, cells are busy dividing at the lower part of the hair, making it longer
  • Then, the catagen phase, a quick period of about three weeks. This is like a transition, where the hair shaft disconnects from its roots and shrinks a bit
  • Finally, the telogen phase, lasting around three months. It's like a resting period, with no major changes happening11

At any point, about 85-90% of your scalp hair is in the growing phase, while around 2% is in transition, and the remaining 10-15% are just taking a break.11

Imagine the Anagen phase like a plant sprouting from a seed, in thatit can last a few years, like a long summer. The catagen phase is a quick, like when summer turns into fall. The hair stops growing and gets ready for a new cycle. Telogen phase is just like winter, a resting period. The hair doesn't change much, and after a few months, it falls out to make room for new growth.

Normal changes in hair growth during pregnancy 

At different life stages, hormones can affect a woman's hair. When she's in her reproductive years:

  • Hormones like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, along with DHEAS and androstenedione, play a major role in growing stronger, darker terminal hair. They do this by transforming small, pale hairs into bigger, curlier ones in specific parts of the body
  • Sometimes, women might notice excessive terminal hair growth in these specific areas. It's called hirsutism and it usually happens because there's too much of these hormones floating around12

During pregnancy, the phase when hair naturally falls out (teloptosis) takes a bit longer, causing fewer hairs to shed. Also, the thickness of scalp hair increases. This is often linked to high oestrogen levels during pregnancy. But it's not just oestrogen – a mix of changes like higher hormone levels, growth factors, and cytokines could contribute to the boost in hair growth rate, thickness, and the balance between hair's growth and resting phases (anagen/telogen ratio).12 

Pregnancy hormones might even lead to new hair growing in unexpected places, like the belly, lower back, and thighs. But, be watchful – sudden and severe hirsutism (excessive hair growth) or acne during pregnancy could hint at more serious conditions related to the ovaries or adrenal glands.

Guidelines and recommendations 

Staying healthy while expecting a baby is like a food adventure. It's not just about how much you eat or your size – it's also about the kinds of foods you choose before and during pregnancy.

Think of it this way: even if you look right on the scale, it's the food choices that truly matter. Now, here's a twist – certain foods might not be great if you're planning for a baby or if you're already pregnant. These foods could have stuff that negatively impacts your baby's development.

So, remember, it's not just about the numbers – the type of food you pick is the real star of the show!

Eating healthy during pregnancy is like giving your body a VIP treatment.

  • Make starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta the base of your meals. Go for whole grain options when you can
  • Dig into at least five portions of different fruits and veggies every day. But hold on – potatoes don't count here, and fruit juice is a one-time deal
  • Cut down on fried foods, sugary drinks, and sweet treats. Instead, feast on fibre-rich foods like oats, beans, and grains
  • Get some protein daily – lean meat, fish (aim for two portions a week), or alternatives like lentils, beans, nuts, eggs, and tofu
  • If you're hungry between meals, go for smart snacks like veggies, little sandwiches, or fresh fruit
  • Don't forget dairy or calcium-fortified alternatives for strong bones
  • Keep an eye on portion sizes, and remember – no need to "eat for two"
  • Starting the day with breakfast is like a happy kickstart
  • Go easy on caffeine – less than 200 mg a day, which is about two cups of instant coffee. Watch out for tea and energy drinks too13

For the first six months of pregnancy, most women don't need extra calories. Only in the last three months, they might need a bit more – around 200 calories a day, just like two slices of bread. 

Vitamins that are not recommended 

In pregnancy, you'll find many multivitamin tablets with a little bit of variation in the vitamins. They're safe to take, but hold off on big doses of certain vitamins unless your doctor prescribes them.

  • Vitamin A: Too much can affect your baby's nervous system. Don't go beyond 700 micrograms (µg) from supplements, and steer clear of liver, liver products, and fish liver oils
  • Vitamin E: There's no need for extra vitamin E during pregnancy
  • Vitamin B supplements (except folic acid): You're good with folic acid – no other vitamin B supplements needed while expecting13 

FAQ's

Is it safe for a pregnant woman to follow a diet?

It's best to avoid trying to lose weight through dieting during pregnancy, as it could potentially harm your baby's health. If weight concerns arise, consulting a dietician is advisable. They can offer expert guidance tailored to your needs.

Is it okay to include fish in a pregnancy diet? 

  • Generally, yes – it's a healthy choice. However, the Department of Health recommends limiting oily fish like mackerel or salmon to two portions a week. Too much of a substance called mercury in oily fish can be harmful for your baby's growth
  • Remember, keep it in check: no more than two fresh tuna steaks or four medium-sized cans of tuna weekly. And, it's best to skip shark, swordfish, or marlin while you're expecting13

Summary

  • Prenatal care guides you and your baby's health. Regular check-ups help catch and fix issues early, ensuring a healthy start for both of you
  • Historical events show nutrients are crucial for health. Prenatal vitamins play a role in maintaining healthy skin and hair
  • Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, support cell growth and development during pregnancy. Deficiencies can impact both you and your baby's long-term health
  • Eating right during pregnancy ensures your baby's future health too. Focus on balanced meals, avoid excessive caffeine, and consult a dietician for personalised guidance

References

  1. Prenatal care | Office on Women’s Health [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 18]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/prenatal-care
  2. Vitamins, minerals and supplements in pregnancy [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2020 [cited 2023 Aug 18]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/
  3. Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Aug 18];9:51–70. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  4. Google Scholar [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 18]. Available from: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_lookup?title=GDLs.+A+treatise+on+scurvy&author=CP+Stewart&publication_year=1953&)
  5. Wilson RL, Gummow JA, McAninch D, Bianco-Miotto T, Roberts CT. Vitamin and mineral supplementation in pregnancy: evidence to practice. J Pharm Pract Res [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Aug 18];48:186–92. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jppr.1438
  6. Oh C, Keats EC, Bhutta ZA. Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation During Pregnancy on Maternal, Birth, Child Health and Development Outcomes in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Aug 18];12:491. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071347/
  7. Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2023 Aug 18]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945
  8. Avram C, Bucur OM, Zazgyva A, Avram L, Ruta F. Vitamin Supplementation in Pre-Pregnancy and Pregnancy among Women—Effects and Influencing Factors in Romania. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Aug 18];19:8503. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9318761/
  9. Wallace ML, Smoller BR. Estrogen and progesterone receptors in androgenic alopecia versus alopecia areata. Am J Dermatopathol. 1998;20:160–3.
  10. Khayat S, Fanaei H, Ghanbarzehi A. Minerals in Pregnancy and Lactation: A Review Article. J Clin Diagn Res [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Aug 18];11:QE01–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5713811/
  11. Farias PM, Marcelino G, Santana LF, de Almeida EB, Guimarães R de CA, Pott A, et al. Minerals in Pregnancy and Their Impact on Child Growth and Development. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Aug 18];25:5630. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7730771/
  12. Siddiqui JA, Rana IA. Mineral and parathyroid hormone inter-relationships in normal pregnancy and pregnancy-induced hypertension. J Pak Med Assoc. 1993;43:92–5.
  13. Nutrition During Pregnancy [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 18]. Available from: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Marina Ramzy Mourid

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Alexandria University

Marina Ramzy Mourid, a diligent medical student at Alexandria University in Egypt, has a strong passion for neurology and a keen interest in research. With a love for science communication, Marina excels not only in her studies but also as a prolific medical writer and author. Her track record speaks volumes, having clinched numerous competitions in article writing over the years.

Her primary goal is to empower people through the dissemination of medical knowledge.

Marina's journey highlights her dedication to bridging the gap between medicine and the public. She firmly believes in the power of knowledge to empower individuals and consistently shares valuable medical insights as she progresses in her studies.

With her academic prowess and commitment to making medicine understandable, Marina Ramzy Mourid is poised to make a lasting impact in the field of healthcare and medical education.

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