The Truth About Using Prenatal Vitamins For Hair Growth

If you've ever noticed that your pregnant friend or relative experienced stunning hair growth during their term, it's because of their increase in estrogen production. Naturally, pregnancy releases these extra hormones that maintain it in its hair growth phase, as well as stronger nails and healthier skin, often known as pregnancy glow (via Healthline). Additionally, pregnant individuals are encouraged to take prenatal vitamins for other nutrients their bodies need. Because of this, many people who are not pregnant, and may not even plan to be any time soon, will take prenatal vitamins in an effort to promote healthier hair, skin, and nails.

Prenatal vitamins offer a variety of nutrients for pregnancy, but most importantly they should include folic acid and iron. Folic acid helps prevent the chances of a baby being born with spina bifida, a congenital disability that affect the baby's nervous system. Pregnancy also increases the chance of individuals experiencing an iron deficiency or anemia. Iron supplements may increase a pregnant woman's blood volume twofold, as it will be transfered to the fetus. Other vitamins in prenatal supplements include vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc, and copper (via Dignity Health). But do these supplements really work if you're not pregnant?

The use of prenatal vitamins if you're not pregnant

Being a multivitamin on its own, and because of its glorious hair growth benefits, many women take prenatal vitamins to help promote healthy hair growth, even if they aren't pregnant. But how safe is this route? As it turns out, prenatal vitamins are excellent supplements for people to take before, during, and after pregnancy. If you're actively seeking to get pregnant, they can also help set the environment for the development of a baby (via What to Expect). 

However, if this is not the plan, high levels of some of these nutrients can actually be harmful to your body, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, those who are aiming to get pregnant need about 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid, whereas other adults only need 400 micrograms. Pregnant individuals are recommended an intake of 27 milligrams of iron per day, whereas women between the ages of 19 and 50 who are not pregnant only need 18 milligrams. Prenatal vitamins are meant to meet the specific amount that those who are pregnant need, after all.

While prenatal vitamins do have some contribution to improvements in skin, hair, and nails, Dr. Lucky Sekhon, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, tells Woman's Day that it is often because of the body's natural change in hormones. "It's true that things in prenatal vitamins, like vitamin B and biotin, are good for the skin and nails. But it's not necessarily the main reason why there's hair and nail growth," Sekhon says. "The reason why people always talk about the benefits of prenatal vitamins is a misconception. People draw a lot of associations with prenatal vitamins, such as that 'pregnancy glow,' and hair becoming thicker. Instead of the vitamins, a lot of this is attributable to the hormonal changes of pregnancy itself."

If not prenatals, what else can you take?

A balanced diet is often the top recommendation to meet any of your multivitamin needs. According to Healthline, most of your nutrients and calories should come from the following: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Without a balanced diet, other parts of your health are at risk, and you may be prone to diseases, infections, fatigue, or low performance. Specifically, essential fatty acids such as omega-3s can contribute to the healthy hair, skin, and nails you're seeking (via WebMD). Foods like fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, or vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are just a few examples of the foods that can give you high amounts of omega-3s.

If you're looking to experience quality hair growth from your diet, look for foods with vitamins like biotin, iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc for starters (via Healthline). These are also offered through supplements that you can take separately. However, always check with your doctor about the best health plan for you and your body's needs.