What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are dietary supplements made specifically for women who are trying to get pregnant or already pregnant. These products offer additional vitamins and minerals that women need before and during their pregnancy.
Highly recommended by healthcare professionals, prenatal vitamins deliver key nutrients that may be lacking from your diet. The addition of these vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can help maintain a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby.
If you are not yet pregnant, starting a prenatal vitamin regimen can help your body prepare for conception. If you are already pregnant, it's a good idea to begin taking prenatal vitamins as soon as possible to cover any nutritional gaps in your diet.
Recommended prenatal vitamins
Before and during pregnancy, the best way to get all of the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy is to eat a well-balanced diet. But in some cases, your diet may fall short in delivering certain key pregnancy nutrients. That’s where supplements come in. A prenatal vitamin helps ensure you are getting the additional vitamins and minerals needed to support your and your baby's health. The individual vitamins recommended during pregnancy are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin C is vital to both moms and babies during pregnancy. Vitamin C helps support your immune system and aids the healthy development of your baby’s immune system. It also reduces the risk of iron deficiency by absorbing iron and aids in the development of collagen, which supports normal growth and healthy tissue. Having a low intake of vitamin C could be associated with complications in pregnancy, including high blood pressure with swelling of the hands, feet and face (preeclampsia), anemia and having a small baby.
- Vitamin D
- Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays an important role during pregnancy. Extensive research has shown that this vitamin plays a crucial role in supporting immune function, healthy cell division and bone health. A vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight and preterm labor. While it is unlikely a prenatal vitamin will provide all the vitamin D you need, prenatals combined with a healthy diet and time in the sunlight should.
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B6 is important for your baby’s brain development and nervous system. It has been shown to play a role in preventing issues in newborns, including eczema and low birth weight. For moms, vitamin B6 helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin A is a major contributor to the development of your baby’s eyes, immune system, lungs and skin cells. Keeping your vitamin A levels up during pregnancy will build natural stores and prepare your baby for the first few months of life out of the womb. A vitamin A deficiency can affect your baby's immune system after birth.
- During pregnancy, healthy iron levels are crucial for both mothers and babies. Moms with adequate amounts of iron are at decreased risk of anemia, which may cause preterm labor. Because your baby is growing so rapidly, iron is required to meet those growth needs.
- While pregnant, calcium is required for you to stay strong during pregnancy and for your baby to grow strong bones, teeth and muscles. As your baby develops, they take calcium directly from you, so it’s important to keep up your calcium intake.
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B plays a crucial role in your baby’s development. Vitamin B12 is especially important for maintaining your nervous system’s health. Getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet while pregnant can also prevent spinal and central nervous system birth defects, like spina bifida.
- Folic acid and folate
- Folic acid is part of the vitamin B family. While folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, folate refers to multiple types of vitamin B, and folic acid is classified as one of a few types of folate. Folate is crucial in the development of red blood cells and contributes to the formation of the neural tube and spinal cord.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that contributes to the growth and development of the eyes and brain. It has been linked to higher birth weights, better Apgar scores at birth and more advanced problem-solving skills at 12 months old.
Types of prenatal vitamins
Good nutrition during pregnancy is the key to a healthy mom and baby at the time of delivery. Even with meal planning and going the extra mile to get the vitamins and minerals you need, there may be some missing pieces in your diet. This is why doctors recommend starting a prenatal vitamin regimen at the beginning of your pregnancy. Today there are many different kinds of prenatal vitamins to choose from.
- Gummy prenatal vitamins: A multivitamin in chewable gummy form is a great option for those who cannot or do not like to swallow pills.
- Prescription prenatal vitamins: These are prenatal vitamins prescribed by your OB-GYN. Prenatal prescription vitamins may come with higher doses of some ingredients but generally have the same vitamins and minerals as over-the-counter prenatal vitamins.
- Over-the-counter prenatal vitamins: OTC prenatal vitamins are supplements readily available in most grocery and drug stores. When choosing an OTC prenatal vitamin, look for the following ingredients: folate, DHA, vitamin B, vitamin C, iron and calcium.
- Organic prenatal vitamins: Organic prenatal vitamins are a multivitamin formulation made from certified organic ingredients to help support the health of mom and baby during pregnancy.
- Natural prenatal vitamins: Natural prenatal vitamins are formulated without additives and focus on natural ingredients. Natural prenatal vitamins are often a great option for those with sensitive stomachs or special diets.
- Vegan/vegetarian prenatal vitamins: Vegetarian and vegan prenatal vitamins offer the nutrition you need to support pregnancy with ingredients that are vegan and vegetarian friendly.
- Gluten-free prenatal vitamins: Ideal for those with gluten sensitivities and celiacs, gluten-free prenatal vitamins are formulated with ingredients needed to support a healthy pregnancy without the gluten.
- Prenatal vitamins for MTHFR: For those who have a disorder which results in not enough folate or a malfunctioning MTHFR gene, special MTHFR prenatals are formulated to ensure an adequate amount of folate is being absorbed by your body during pregnancy.
Our top prenatal vitamin picks
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamins
Ingredients: Perfect Prenatal Multivitamins’ herbal blend contains extracts from nutrient-dense whole food ingredients such as blueberries, oats, blackberries, prunes, rose hip, clove and peppermint. The cruciferous sprouts blend is made up of high-quality extracts from broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and mustard. Additional vitamins and minerals include vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, biotin and calcium.
What we like: These organic, natural vitamins contain whole food ingredients like blueberries and broccoli. They go through a fermentation process, which provides the benefits of probiotics, making them easy on the stomach. These vitamins are a great go-to for those who are looking for an all-natural, all-in-one prenatal vitamin that contains no sugars, no synthetic fillers and no animal gelatin. Many LuckyVitamin reviewers like the fermented prenatal for first trimester nausea.
What to consider: These vitamins seem to check all of the boxes: the right levels of vitamins and minerals recommended for pregnancy, easy-on-the-stomach formulations and a modest price tag.
Folate 1000 MCG
Ingredients: These one-ingredient supplements feature a mega dose of folic acid.
What we like: Solgar's Metafolin (L-methylfolate) requires no conversion because it is bioidentical to the bioactive form. In other words, it is body ready. This can be useful for individuals whose bodies have difficulty converting folic acid to its active form and great for women with MTHFR. LuckyVitamin reviewers liked that this is a sizable dose of folic acid.
What to consider: While this form of folic acid is an excellent source for pregnant mothers, this supplement does not contain any of the other recommended vitamins or minerals for pregnancy support.
Rainbow Light Prenatal Daily Duo
Ingredients: Rainbow Light Daily Duo is a two-pill system that contains a daily prenatal multivitamin and a DHA supplement. The daily multivitamin contains a complete profile of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy. The DHA delivers targeted omega-3 fatty acids.
What we like: This blend is designed just for pregnant women. LuckyVitamin reviewers liked that the product came recommended by professionals and was easy on the stomach when taken during the first trimester.
What to consider: If you’re not interested in taking multiple pills daily, this may not be the right fit for your prenatal vitamin regimen.
Emerald Labs Prenatal Vit-A-Min
Ingredients: This multivitamin has a high potency formula for moms-to-be, including double the recommended amount of folic acid and “gentle iron,” which is easy on the stomach.
What we like: Emerald Labs’ vitamins are made from raw and whole food ingredients. The proprietary blend of whole food powders help with digestive and metabolic enzymes. With no additives, a gluten-free formula and all the support you need for pregnancy, this vitamin is a good prenatal choice. Many LuckyVitamin reviewers commented that these vitamins were easy on their stomachs and resulted in less nausea after taking them when compared to other prenatal vitamins.
What to consider: Serving size is one capsule, and there is a risk that you may get more than what’s needed with all the extra vitamins and minerals.
Nature’s Plus Source of Life Multivitamin
Ingredients: Packed with vitamins A, C, D, E and B, folate, biotin and more, the Nature's Plus Source of Life multivitamin is designed to support a woman’s health during pregnancy.
What we like: These vitamins are designed to support eye development and cell development in the womb and offer benefits for moms, including healthy teeth and gums and brain support. The Nature’s Plus Source of Life multivitamins are highly rated by LuckyVitamin customers.
What to consider: These vitamin tablets are on the larger size and do require two per serving. Some consumers noted that they can be hard to swallow. A few reviewers wrote that the warning label made them reconsider their purchase, so be sure to read the label before deciding.
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Multivitamin
Ingredients: Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal is a diverse supplement that keeps you healthy during your pregnancy. The natural fruit extracts give you the minerals you need to keep your body healthy. Additional ingredients include vitamins A, C, E, D, K and B, folate, biotin and calcium.
What we like: Vitamin Code multivitamins are made with organic raw ingredients and 23 organically grown fruits and vegetables. Additionally, Vitamin Code products have a charitable component — a portion of the proceeds from each bottle purchased goes to Vitamin Angels. Many women who left reviews on LuckyVitamin like the ease of digestion and mentioned that they noticed an improvement in their overall well-being.
What to consider: A drawback to this vitamin is that the pills are on the larger side and a serving size is three pills per day, which can be a lot for some people.
Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin
Ingredients: The Nature Made Prenatal contains essential vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin D. These vitamins provide 200 milligrams of DHA to support fetal brain and eye development, making them ideal for pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant.
What we like: Nature Made Prenatal multivitamins are free of preservatives, synthetic dyes and gluten, and the company states its Prenatal Multi + DHA multivitamin is clinically proven for absorption into the body.
What to consider: While these prenatal vitamins offer complete prenatal multivitamin support, they do have a strong smell that many LuckyVitamin reviewers found unpleasant or fishy.
MegaFood, Baby & Me 2, Prenatal
Ingredients: This supplement is designed for both prenatal and postnatal care. It contains the active form of vitamin B6 and methylated forms of folate and B12 suitable for those with MTHFR gene mutation and compromised methylation. It includes 600 IU of vitamin D.
What we like: The whole food formulation of these vitamins is designed to make digestion easy. They are free of gluten, soy and dairy, making them a good choice for those with special diets. Moms-to-be who left reviews on LuckyVitamin like this formulation for those with MTHFR. Some noted the tablets are hard to swallow, but most reviews generally found these multivitamins to be a good choice.
What to consider: While this gentle, whole food formula contains many of the vitamins and minerals needed to support a healthy pregnancy, this multivitamin does not contain calcium and magnesium.
Prenatal vitamin alternatives
In many cases, taking prenatal vitamins consists of multiple daily pills. If swallowing pills isn’t for you, here are some alternative methods of getting the vitamins and minerals you need during your pregnancy.
- Liquid prenatal vitamins: A particularly useful form of vitamins for women who have a sensitive gag reflex and are in their first trimester. Liquid prenatals can come in a powdered form to which water must be added or in liquid form that can be added to beverages of your choosing or consumed on its own.
- Gummy prenatal vitamins: These soft, candy-like chews are a favorite among people who can’t or don’t like taking pills. These gummy vitamins can help deliver key nutrients that might be missing from your diet, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Prenatal chewables: These are chewable vitamin-packed tablets or chocolates that women can take during pregnancy to supplement their diet.
- Prenatal soft-chews: Like Starbursts? Then prenatal chews may be for you. They're soft chewables packed with all the vitamins and minerals pregnant women need.
Prenatal vitamin FAQ
- When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
- Prenatals should be taken as soon as possible in the pregnancy journey. If you are planning to conceive, begin taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid at least one month in advance. If your pregnancy was not planned, you can begin a prenatal vitamin regimen as soon as you have a positive pregnancy test.
- How long do you take prenatal vitamins?
- Prenatal vitamins should be taken during your entire pregnancy. Some doctors recommend continuing with prenatal vitamins postpartum, especially for those who are breastfeeding.
- Are there any side effects to prenatal vitamins?
- Occasionally taking prenatal vitamins will come with side effects. Constipation, diarrhea or an upset stomach may occur but are usually temporary. Contact your doctor if these problems persist.
- What are the safest prenatal vitamins?
- When choosing a prenatal vitamin, purchase from a source you trust. Since vitamins are categorized as dietary supplements, they don’t have the protection of FDA oversight. This is because vitamins are intended to supplement your diet, not act as a drug treatment. Be sure to choose a supplier that follows current Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regulations so you receive safe prenatal vitamins.
- Do I have to take prenatal vitamins?
- Most doctors recommend that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant take a prenatal vitamin. However, you do not have to specifically take a prenatal vitamin — many well-formulated multivitamins are available and safe for pregnancy.
- Do prenatal vitamins help you get pregnant?
- While prenatals are recommended for those trying to conceive, prenatal vitamins will not increase fertility.
- How do I choose prenatal vitamins?
- To determine the best prenatal vitamin for you, work with your health care provider. They may have suggestions on brand and type of prenatal vitamin for you during pregnancy.
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