Prenatal Vitamins for Hair Growth: Do They Work?
If you know someone who went through a pregnancy, you may have noticed their hair became noticeably stronger, shinier, and longer after getting pregnant.
This isn’t surprising since hair growth is one of the welcome side effects of having a baby.
Thanks to an increase in certain hormones like estrogen, longer, stronger hair can appear during pregnancy.
However, many people claim that this thicker hair growth during pregnancy is thanks to prenatal vitamins, which contain high amounts of folic acid, iron, and calcium.
Some multivitamins can even contain biotin, famously associated with optimal hair care.
Naturally, you may be wondering if prenatal vitamins can help you grow out thick, lustrous tresses.
You may also wonder if prenatal vitamins are safe for non-pregnant women to take.
This guide from USA Rx goes over everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins, including what exactly they’re made of, whether they really help with hair growth, and how safe they are for those who aren’t pregnant.
What Are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are vitamins taken before birth to support a baby’s development.
They can be taken during pregnancy or even before conception to complement a well-balanced diet in providing the nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.
The exact content of prenatal vitamins depends on the brand.
In general, all prenatal vitamins should contain a high amount of folic acid, which helps develop the baby’s neural tube (which eventually turns into the brain and spinal cord).
Prenatal vitamins generally also contain a high dose of iron, which helps with increasing blood volume that helps get more oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus.
Additionally, prenatal vitamins are generally high in calcium and vitamin C, which help develop the baby’s bones and teeth.
They will likely also contain vitamin A, which aids in fetal vision development and immune function.
Some prenatal vitamins may also contain biotin (vitamin B7), which is involved in various metabolic processes.
A biotin deficiency is linked to lower collagen and increased hair loss.
Other common B vitamins you may find in a prenatal vitamin include cobalamin (vitamin B12), which is essential for fetal nervous system development, specifically in the brain and spinal cord.
Is It Safe To Take Prenatal Vitamins If You’re Not Pregnant?
It goes without saying that pregnant women have very different needs in order to support the baby growing inside of them; very specific nutrients are included in prenatal vitamins to be used for essential developmental processes, such as building the placenta.
But what happens if you take prenatal vitamins when you’re not pregnant?
Does your body just get rid of these excess nutrients, or does it actually put them to good use?
Well, it turns out that the answer is: neither.
Many of the nutrients in prenatal vitamins are not water-soluble, which means that your body won’t get rid of the excess through urine.
Instead, they can continue to build up in your body. Depending on the vitamin, though, this can cause serious problems.
If you consume too much iron, the excess can be toxic to your body, causing digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea.
Consuming too much iron can also lead to potentially life-threatening liver damage.
Calcium is another vitamin that you can get too much of. Calcium can accumulate as hard deposits in the body and lead to conditions like kidney stones as well as more minor issues like constipation.
Of course, iron or calcium toxicity won’t happen overnight. You would have to take an excess of these vitamins over a long period of time to experience their negative side effects.
That said, everyone’s metabolism and baseline vitamin levels are different. As such, it’s best to check with your doctor before taking any new vitamins.
That said, if you’re not pregnant but you are in fact trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to start supplementing with prenatal vitamins — with your doctor’s approval.
This is important because development starts as soon as your baby is conceived. So, it’s ideal that your body is as healthy as possible from the moment of conception.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Help With Hair Growth?
Prenatal vitamins may be important for a developing baby, but do they help support hair growth?
While it may seem, anecdotally, that they do everything from improving hair health to preventing breakage, there’s unfortunately very little evidence to support these claims.
To understand why prenatal vitamins are not a guaranteed hair growth supplement, let’s go over how hair is structured.
Each hair strand grows out of a follicle in the scalp, which gets nourishment from nearby blood vessels.
The hair strand itself is a protein-based material produced by the cells in the hair follicle.
Once the hair strand has grown out of the follicle, the only way to make it stronger or smoother is by applying topical products such as a deep conditioner, while also avoiding heat damage.
Of course, it is possible to grow more hair at a faster rate.
However, this is only the case if you suffer from a disorder that inhibits hair growth like inflammation of the hair follicles, excess androgen hormones, and even low amounts of vitamins like a B12 deficiency.
Once you address these underlying causes, your hair should grow faster, but “faster” only in the sense that it’s now growing at a normal rate.
If you don’t have any underlying conditions, it’s very unlikely that taking vitamins will help grow your hair.
And even if you do have a vitamin deficiency, prenatal vitamins aren’t the best way to address it. It’s best to take only the vitamin you need while upping your intake of essential nutrients from your diet.
If you’re not experiencing abnormal hair loss, prenatal vitamins probably won’t help you grow thicker and longer hair.
It’s better to stick to more appropriate dietary supplements like regular multivitamin gummies, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids like DHA derived from nutritious sources like fish and flaxseed oil.
Better yet, you can get most of your hair-supporting nutrients from a healthy diet full of lentils, walnuts, almonds, beets, blueberries, quinoa, leafy greens, organ meats, egg yolks, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.
Prenatal vitamins generally contain folate, calcium, and iron to support a developing baby.
Some people think that taking prenatal vitamins can help them grow thicker and longer hair, but there is very little evidence to support this idea.
Taking prenatal vitamins when not pregnant can even lead to a toxic build-up of iron and calcium, which can cause potentially serious health problems.
To support healthy hair growth, try eating a nutritious, whole-food diet while making sure you don’t have any health conditions that may be causing hair loss.
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