Everyone wants the fast track to long beautiful hair. So, when you consistently see pregnant women sporting the best hair of their lives, it might leave you thinking -- “what’s in those prenatal vitamins?”, and also, “can I take them too?”.
Well, it is complicated.
Below, we will cover what you need to know about prenatal vitamin use for women who are not pregnant. Including: if prenatal vitamins are the reason behind that great pregnancy hair, whether can taking them can help with hair growth, if are there any dangers to taking prenatal vitamins, in addition to some other options for hair care in those of you who are not currently pregnant.
Prenatal vitamins help support the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman, meaning they usually have ramped up levels of calcium, iron, and folic acid, potentially along with higher levels of other common multivitamin additions, depending on the exact supplement.
And, sure, optimizing your nutritional intake with the help of a supplement crafted for your pregnancy needs might give your hair and nails a bit of a boost, but that might not be the whole story.
A more likely candidate for the big boost to hair growth and luster that is commonly seen during pregnancy probably mostly lies with the higher levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. Higher hormone levels during pregnancy can lengthen the growth phase of the hair follicles, increase nourishing scalp oil production, and boost blood flow to the scalp -- all great things for healthy and fast-growing hair.
The only way that a supplement, any supplement, will help with increased hair growth and health is if you were deficient in certain nutrients that your hair needs for proper growth. And, while there are situations where this is the case, you wouldn’t immediately jump to a prenatal vitamin to help, you would probably be guided to the right supplement to help fix the deficiency by your doctor.
Technically, if you were deficient in iron, and you started taking a prenatal vitamin to remedy that deficiency, you may see hair improvements. But, you could also do that by just taking an iron supplement or another multivitamin with iron.
If you are suspicious that your hair is not as healthy as it can be because you are not hitting your nutritional targets or are deficient in a nutrient, it is best to pinpoint the problem by going to your doctor. They will likely run some simple tests, identify any gaps in your nutrition and suggest a meal plan or supplement to help fix it.
It is important to note that most cases of slowed hair growth or hair loss are not nutritionally related. In both men and women, the most common cause of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, also known as male pattern hair loss and female pattern hair loss. This type of hair loss is hereditary and does not have a basis in nutrition, so would be unlikely to respond to a supplement in the case of no existing deficiency.
Since prenatal vitamins do have amped-up levels of certain vitamins and minerals, it may be possible to make your levels too high if you are taking these while you are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Of course, you have to consider your normal intake of nutrients from food as well as supplements to figure out your daily intake.
Some of these vitamins and minerals that are good for pregnancy like iron and calcium may cause issues if taken in excess. For iron, too much can lead to toxicity and can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and even death in the case of a large overdose. And with calcium, overdoing it can encourage the formation of kidney stones or interfere with heart and brain function.
While taking prenatal vitamins may not end up being a problem for some people, in others, there is the potential for over-supplementation.
Another non-health-related downside, is that you might just be wasting your money on a supplement you don’t need.
If you are concerned about your hair health and growth rate, or you are experiencing increased shedding and hair loss, it is a better bet to start with your doctor instead of just hopping on the prenatal supplement train.
Hair loss or slowed growth can occur due to genetics, nutrition, autoimmune disorders, and even severe stress, so it is important to talk to a doctor to figure out the most likely root cause.
You may be guided to take a hair, skin, and nail supplement, adjust your diet, reduce your stress levels, or even consider a medication to help slow the progression of genetic hair loss.
While taking a prenatal vitamin when you are not pregnant is definitely not the most dangerous thing you can do, it is not without its potential risks in some people either.
Prenatal supplements have enhanced levels of some vitamins and minerals that can lead to over-supplementation, which could be dangerous if it gets out of hand.
If you want to optimize your hair health, or have noticed issues, it is best to speak with a doctor first to help pinpoint any potential deficiencies or root causes instead of just trying a random prenatal supplement.
Besides, that beautiful pregnancy hair that you are trying to recreate is more likely due to hormonal increases during pregnancy, and not just the prenatal supplementation.
If you are looking into prenatal vitamins when you are not pregnant because you are experiencing hair loss, thinning, slowed growth, or increased shedding, you might actually be dealing with hereditary androgenetic alopecia and not a nutritional deficiency.
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