There’s quite an allure attached to prenatal vitamins: Many women have come to believe that taking them, pregnant or not, will help them grow out their hair, nails, and even given them an extra added dose of nutrients that their body must need, right? Wrong. Here, we spoke with medical experts to find out the (sometimes dangerous!) side effects of taking prenatal vitamins when you are not pregnant.
Your hair could fall out.
Taking prenatal vitamins to boost hair growth may not have the results you imagine. “While prenatal vitamins get a lot of credit for a woman’s thick pregnancy hair, these changes are actually due to hormonal differences that cause hair and nails to grow faster and make hair less likely to fall out,” said Megan Casper, M.S., RDN, owner of Megan Casper Nutrition and writer for Nourished Bite.
You could gain an unforeseen B12 deficiency.
One thing to take into consideration is the extra amount of nutrients prenatal vitamins have in them that your body may not need, and therefore harm more than help you. “Prenatal vitamins have more folate and iron than regular multivitamins,” said Christine Greves, M.D., an OBGYN for Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, FL.
You may have a false sense of security.
“One harm could be that there is a false sense of security of a person thinking that they are obtaining all of their nutrients from one vitamin,” said Dr. Greves. “Prenatal vitamins do not have enough vitamin D or calcium to meet our daily requirements.”
You may experience stomach problems.
Taking prenatal vitamins when you aren’t pregnant or nursing could cause side effects such as upset stomach, constipation, and heartburn, says Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founder of Vous Vitamin.
You could damage your liver.
Since prenatal vitamins have large doses of iron in them, it’s important to watch out for your liver. “Iron in very large doses can be toxic to the liver and cause liver damage,” says Dr. Casper. “Signs of iron overdose include nausea, gastric bleeding, and severe diarrhea.”
Neurological damage could occur.
A B12 deficiency that’s gone undetected for a long time because of the high levels of folate in prenatal vitamins, can cause serious health issues. “B12 deficiency can develop slowly and cause many symptoms such as anemia, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, memory loss, and rapid heart rate,” says Dr. Casper. “Over time a deficiency could cause permanent neurological damage.”