- Best Prenatal Vitamins
Best Prenatal Vitamins
One of the first things my OB told me to do when I went for my first pregnancy checkup was to take prenatal vitamins. She gave me a prescription for one, but I ended up going OTC because they were comparable in every ingredient and much cheaper too. I needed extra money for cute maternity clothes and ice cream, anyway.
I found one to purchase online that moms on a pregnancy group recommended. I’m wracking my brain trying to remember which brand it was, but that was 16 years ago. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning. However, I do remember the reason I bought them was for the natural ingredients and great absorption rates.
They were pretty big and smelled terrible but must have done the job, because my daughter was born with a ton of hair and healthy set of lungs. She still uses the latter to this day. The kid never shuts up. But hey, that’s a good thing, right? You want a healthy, happy, and yes, even a loud baby.
For a healthy pregnancy, moms need to pay special attention to their intake of certain nutrients, and depending on your health needs, may even need additional supplements. I was anemic, for instance, so I needed to take extra iron. Which also meant I had to take extra fiber because iron supplements combined with a growing uterus will stop you up like nobody’s business.
Could you get away with taking regular multivitamins or just eating a really good diet? I would think so if that’s your only option, but face it – how many of us really pay that much attention to our diets? Hello? Ice cream!
How are prenatal vitamins different than regular vitamins?
This is where a careful reading of labels comes in handy. You’ll need all the usual vitamins and minerals, but a bit more of some of them.
AKA vitamin B-9 is important in preventing birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly. You should ideally be getting 400 micrograms (mcg) each day starting before you’re pregnant and continue to take it throughout your pregnancy. It’s vital for the formation of baby’s brain and spinal cord, which happens in the first weeks of gestation.
But don’t be alarmed if you weren’t expecting to be expecting and weren’t taking extra folic acid. The CDC estimates anencephaly occurs in only 3 in 10,000 births each year in the US. Since the US began fortifying foods with folic acid, there’s been a 28% decline in neural tube defects. Combine that with the folic acid in a prenatal vitamin, and you should be just fine.
Good food sources:
- leafy greens
- citrus fruits
The CDC recommends at least 27 mcg per day for all pregnant women. Non-preggers only need a minimum of 18 mcg, so obviously there’s a bigger need for iron during pregnancy. Iron is crucial to developing red blood cells, and while pregnant, your body will produce a lot more blood to supply your baby and you with oxygen.
Your doctor will do blood tests to determine your iron levels. If you are anemic like I was, you may need an iron supplement along with your prenatal vitamin. Beware, however, that those little iron pills can worsen constipation, which is often an issue when you’re pregnant anyway. If you must take extra iron, stock up on lots of fiber-containing foods or fiber supplements that your doc recommends, get adequate exercise and drink LOTS of water.
Good food sources:
- liver (I am NOT a fan, but if you are, go for it!)
- sardines in oil
Very important for the development of bones, teeth, heart, and muscles. If you don’t have enough calcium while pregnant, your body will take it from your bones to give to your baby. This is a big problem for you, especially later in life, when bone density can decrease dramatically. You don’t really need any more while pregnant (min 1,000 mcg/day for all women 19-50), but it’s important to get at least that.
What you should remember here is that multi and prenatal vitamins usually do NOT supply all of your RDA (recommended daily allowance). They may supply around 15%, so you have to supplement your diet with 3-4 calcium-rich foods a day to meet this need. Milk and dairy are the most common sources. If you’re lactose intolerant, never fear. You have plenty of options too.
Good food sources:
- calcium-fortified orange juice
- canned salmon with bones
- raw kale, turnip greens or bok choy
Will prenatal vitamins fit my dietary needs?
That depends on the vitamin. There are many kinds on the market composed from various sources such as raw whole foods, organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and even Kosher. We’ll list some of those options along with the conventional ones. Read labels carefully, and when in doubt, don’t be afraid to call or email the manufacturer for more information.
Ready to shop? Here are our top picks for best prenatal vitamins:
This multivitamin has a lot of healthy things going for it. It’s a no sugar added, vegetarian, organic, Kosher, non-GMO and gluten-free formulation that can be taken on an empty stomach (I’d still recommend taking with meals, but that’s just me). It’s fermented with probiotics and whole foods and claims to cause no nausea. If you have severe morning sickness, this might be a good one to try. For those of you on restricted diets, this is an option you should consider.
There are a few things to be aware of. Some users reported that the product once used organic folate, but have since changed to folic acid. For people with MTHFR (a genetic mutation that inhibits the breakdown of folic acid), this can be a problem. Others reported a disagreeable smell and taste, and some received bottles that were expired. Study the labels carefully before buying and call the manufacturer if you’re in doubt of either ingredient quality or packaging.
- Sugar and gluten-free
- Made with probiotics and whole food sources
- May contain synthetic folic acid rather than folate
- Product may be expired
- Taste and smell could bother sensitive women
Another restricted diet-friendly option, this vitamin from Garden of Life is organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy free. It’s made from raw whole food sources from 23 fruits and vegetables and contains probiotics, zinc, ginger, and vitamin D for better digestion. The capsules can be opened so you can stir the contents into food or liquid if you have trouble swallowing pills.
Some women reported increased nausea after taking these, and some rare cases of allergic reactions. Others noted that bottles sold in different sizes (30, 90 or 180 ct) had different formulations. So again check those labels carefully. This one is on the pricey side, and while many women love it, the dose is 3 a day, so it could be a big investment for those on a tight budget.
- Dairy and Gluten-free
- Contains probiotics and whole food sources
- Capsules can be opened for mixing with food & drink
- Could cause nausea
- May cause allergic reactions in rare cases
Nature Made is one of the best-known names in the vitamin world. Gluten-free and high in folic acid, iron & zinc, this prenatal vitamin is one of the most affordable on our list. You can find it just about anywhere too, so that’s convenient if you run out. There are no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or yeast. Dosage is one tablet daily as opposed to three, and you take it with a meal.
If you have special dietary needs, check the ingredient label thoroughly. These do contain gelatin, so it’s not vegan-friendly, and the vitamins aren’t sourced from raw whole foods. Though most moms say they’re easy to swallow and digest, a few have allergy issues due to the soy, gelatin, and iodine. Be sure to call Nature Made if you have any concerns with ingredients. They welcome all inquiries.
- Once a day dosage
- No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
- Not vegan-friendly – contains gelatin
- Contains soy
- Contains iodine
From another popular brand, these Vitafusion gummy prenatal vitamins are great for those who have trouble swallowing pills. They come in lemon, raspberry and lemonade flavors and have as much vitamin C as ten tangerines (good for flu season?). They may look and taste like candy, but they’re fortified with all the vitamins and minerals an expectant mama needs. They also contain DHA and are super affordable for one bottle.
These do NOT contain iron, which is good if you have trouble digesting vitamins with iron. However, if you’re anemic, you’ll need an extra iron supplement. Some women thought they tasted too sour, and some experienced increased nausea on top of their morning sickness. Though not pricey, the dosage of 2 per day means you’ll run out faster than the 1 per day vitamins.
- Good for those who can’t swallow pills
- 3 fruit flavors
- Contains DHA
- No iron
- May worsen nausea
- 2 per day dosage
Another Garden of Life contender, these multivitamins fit well with vegan, vegetarian, organic, and whole-food diets. They’re gluten-free, non-GMO and have no synthetic binders or fillers. They’re also more affordable than the first one Garden of Life product on our list. With a good bit of iron and folate, this is is a good all in one option.
Several women voiced their concerns over this company being bought out by Nestle. I’m not sure why this is a problem, but it’s good to know if you’re an anti-Nestle mom. Some women experienced allergic reactions. This vitamin has a LOT of ingredients from several vegetables, fruits, oils and other natural sources. Check the label thoroughly before use if you know you have any food allergies.
- Organic & vegan
- Contains Iron
- Company now owned by Nestle
- May cause allergic reactions (read label well)
One of the lesser-known brands in the vitamin world, these gummy vitamins from Olly are affordable and come in a vibrant citrus flavor, not to mention a cute jar as well. Many women who experienced nausea with other gummy vitamins didn’t with these and loved the flavor, so it’s worth a try if you have morning sickness. They’re made with natural colors and flavors and plant-sourced nutrients.
These vitamins aren’t vegan since they use fish oils and gelatin. They’re not certified organic or gluten-free, but if you have no dietary restrictions, it’s a great option. With only 60 per bottle and a 2 per day dosage, these will only last about a month, so you may want to stock up with a few bottles at a time. They do NOT contain iron, so you may need an extra iron supplement. The company seems to be very responsive to any inquiries, so that’s a big plus in my book.
- Natural colors and flavors
- Less nauseating
- Great flavor
- Not for those on restricted diets
- No iron
- Only a 30-day supply per bottle
Yes, I know, another gummy vitamin, but this one deserves listing, not just for its nutritional value, but for the company’s philanthropic activities. They give a 1 for 1 nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels for every bottle sold to help provide lifesaving nutrients to kids and moms around the world. They’re non-GMO and free of common food allergens, including gluten. They’re manufactured in the USA and 3rd party lab-tested for purity.
Like most gummies, these do not contain iron. But the biggest mark against these is the 6 per day dosage. They do this to avoid the fishy taste that some other vitamins have, so they compensated by adding more sweet flavor. Several women thought they were TOO sweet, so if you need to avoid sugar for gestational diabetes or something, you should look elsewhere.
- Each purchase funds Vitamin Angels charity
- Made in USA & 3rd party lab tested
- Not for those on sugar-free diets
- No iron
- 6 per day dosage
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Best Prenatal Vitamins
Before you buy a prenatal vitamin, consult with your OB/GYN or midwife, especially if you have any dietary or other restrictions. Show them a label from the one you’re considering and ask if it’s a good option. Most docs understand that not all of us can afford expensive prescription vitamins, so you should be able to find an OTC one that works well for you.
Please note that like all medications, you should keep your vitamins out of reach of small children due to the risk of iron overdosage. This is why you’ll seldom find iron in gummy vitamins. They look just like candy and are very tempting to those little fingers.
Here’s a table so you can easily compare the best prenatal vitamins on our list:
|Product||Photo||Customer Rating||Dietary Compatibility||Cost|
|New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamins||★★||Gluten Free|
|Garden of Life Vegetarian Prenatal Vitamin||★★★||Gluten Free|
|Nature Made Multi Prenatal Vitamins||★★★||Gluten Free||$|
|VitaFusion Prenatal Gummy Vitamins||★★★★||N/A||$|
|Garden of Life Organic Prenatal Vitamin||★||Gluten Free|
|Olly Essential Prenatal Multi-Vitamin **EDITOR'S CHOICE**||★★★★||N/A||$|
|SmartyPants Prenatal Complete Gummy Vitamins||★★||Gluten Free|
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