Mayo Clinic – “All women who might become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement containing folic acid.”
Rarely in our experience have we observed such a strong endorsement of a nutritional supplement, from a highly respected medical source, as the above statement relative to prenatal vitamins. Mayo goes on to state:
“In addition to making healthy food choices, taking a daily prenatal vitamin, ideally starting three months before conception, can help ensure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.”
In this article, we will explain vitamins and minerals, with a focus on prenatal vitamins. We will answer some of the most pertinent questions of women who are pregnant or may become pregnant regarding which nutrients are most important, why they are so essential, and when to take them. There will be a comparison of a prenatal vitamin’s dosages versus a more generic adult multivitamin and a comprehensive chart of the RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) of vitamins and minerals for a woman during pregnancy. Finally, we will provide our list of the best prenatal vitamins available today.
One Of The First Things Your Doctor Will Do Is Prescribe A Prenatal Vitamin
More evidence that the medical community strongly supports supplementation with a multivitamin if you are pregnant or hoping to conceive. Yes, the preferred way to get the vitamins and minerals you need is through a healthy, balanced diet. However, with some of the challenges of pregnancy, it’s possible to miss essential nutrients. A prenatal vitamin will fill any nutritional gaps, supporting your needs and your baby’s growth and development. A prenatal can even help to prevent neural tube defects and anemia.
Why Are Prenatal Vitamins So Important?
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, meaning they are required in small amounts, yet they are vital to healthy development and the well-being of expectant mothers and their unborn children. Since these micronutrients are not produced in the body, they must be derived from diet and during pregnancy from supplementation to meet your daily requirements.
During pregnancy, certain essential nutrients are required in larger doses than those found in a more generic adult multivitamin. Two examples of this are folic acid and iron. It would be best if you had more of these crucial nutrients when pregnant:
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, potential congenital disabilities of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. These defects occur in the first month of pregnancy, often before a woman knows that she is pregnant, an essential consideration in taking a prenatal when attempting to conceive.
Iron supports the development of the placenta and fetus and helps prevent anemia. Anemia in newborns is a condition where the baby’s body has a lower red blood cell count than usual.
Other Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy
Three other nutrients that play critical roles at this time are calcium, vitamin D, and choline. These will be discussed in greater detail in the Crucial Nutrients segment.
When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Given the vital importance of the first month of pregnancy in your child’s development, the best time to take a prenatal vitamin is before you conceive. If hoping to become pregnant, you should begin taking a prenatal three months in advance.
If you become pregnant and aren’t already taking a prenatal, we recommend you start taking one immediately and continue taking one every day during your pregnancy. Your physician may advise you to continue taking your prenatal vitamin after delivery, particularly if you decide to breastfeed.
Prenatal Vitamins – Helping You & Your Child Get The Nutrients You Need
Multivitamins and multi-minerals are among the most frequently used dietary supplements in the natural products industry. Technically, a multivitamin is any supplement that contains more than one vitamin. In practice, most multivitamins contain a broad spectrum of vitamins and essential minerals.
Pregnancy increases your daily intake requirement for vitamins and nutrients necessary to support fetal growth. Prenatal vitamins are explicitly developed to meet the needs of the mother and the unborn child. Even if you already take a regular multivitamin, switching to a prenatal version is part of having a healthy pregnancy. A daily multivitamin may meet your health needs, but it won’t meet your baby’s needs. In contrast, prenatal formulations include added folate, iron, and calcium for your baby’s development and growth.
Although the Nutrition Facts panel on most prenatal vitamins appears similar to that on multivitamins, prenatal vitamins will have increased dosages on certain nutrients.
Crucial Nutrients During Pregnancy
Let’s review several nutrients that require special attention during pregnancy:
The single most important nutrient in a prenatal vitamin is folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects. Recommended Daily Allowance: 400 to 1,000 micrograms a day of folate or folic acid before conception and throughout pregnancy
You and your baby need calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Recommended Daily Allowance: 1,000 – 1,300 milligrams a day; pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day. Make sure you’re getting additional calcium through your diet by consuming milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy greens.
Vitamin D works in combination with calcium to help build your baby’s bones and teeth. Recommended Daily Allowance: 600 international units (IU) a day
Iron is the primary building block of your baby’s cells; during pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. Recommended Daily Allowance: 27 milligrams a day
Most pregnant women don’t get enough choline, necessary for their health, and essential for fetal brain development and placental function. Recommended Daily Allowance: 450 milligrams a day
B6 has been shown to lower the potential for morning sickness, important to know if your morning sickness is severe. Recommended Daily Allowance: 1.9 milligrams a day
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid, most commonly found in oily fish. DHA supports your baby’s brain development. Recommended Daily Allowance: 200 milligrams a day
For a comprehensive list of vitamin and mineral RDAs, please see the chart below as reprinted from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
A few definitions may aid you in reviewing the above:
- Mcg = microgram, or one-millionth of a gram
- IU = an International Unit
The Benefits Of Prenatal Vitamins
The most important reason for taking prenatal vitamins is the health and development of your child. Prenatal vitamins help prevent birth defects that might result from too little of a particular nutrient during pregnancy. Studies have also suggested that prenatal vitamins can help in preventing preterm births and reduce morning sickness.
We all have difficulty in getting the nutrients we need from diet alone. This becomes even more challenging during pregnancy when you need to consume more vitamins and minerals in larger doses to support your growing baby. Adding prenatal vitamins is a form of insurance that you can replace these extra nutrients without radically altering your diet.
Are Prenatal Vitamins Safe?
The two most common side effects of prenatal vitamins are nausea and constipation. For nausea, taking the vitamin with a meal or before you go to bed may help. Constipation is typically caused by the high iron content in a prenatal. Getting adequate fluids and fiber in your diet will help counteract this. Be sure you maintain a moderate exercise regimen with your doctor’s permission.
Any time you’re considering adding an herbal supplement during pregnancy, consult with your healthcare provider first.
Alternatives To Prenatal Vitamins
This may be the only instance where we don’t have a list of alternatives to the supplement reviewed. Be sure to follow a healthy diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, add a prenatal vitamin to bridge any nutrient gaps.
Best Prenatal Vitamins
For our selection of the best prenatal vitamin supplements, we scoured the market for brands that adhere to the following principles:
- Products that are manufactured in a certified cGMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practices).
- We looked for companies and brands that have independent third-party testing and money-back guarantees.
- We placed a significant focus on the key nutrients: folate, iron, Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B12, calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and choline
- We opted for several items which contain DHA
- Our picks tend to be natural, allergen-free and made without fillers, additives, or artificial colors
Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal, from Garden of Life
Vitamin Code is a whole food product. Raw Prenatal is a comprehensive prenatal to postnatal women’s multivitamin specially formulated to meet the unique needs of women during pre-conception, pregnancy, and lactation. Third-party certified as CGMP, Kosher, and Non-GMO. The product provides 100% of each essential nutrient’s RDA. It is made from nutritious, organically grown, raw fruits and vegetables, which naturally add supporting antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrient cofactors for optimal absorption. Includes a blend of probiotics and enzymes to support healthy digestion.GET THE BEST PRICE ON VITAMIN CODE RAW PRENATAL
Daily Organic Gummy Prenatal with Probiotics, from SmartyPants
SmartyPants is a chewable organic vitamin containing 16 essential nutrients, including omega-3, folate for healthy early fetal development, iodine for normal brain development during pregnancy, and vitamin D3 for bone health. The product is certified Organic, Non-GMO, and Vegetarian, and contains no gluten, milk, eggs, shellfish, soy, peanuts, wheat, fish, or tree nut allergens.
SmartyPants products are also third-party tested for purity and potency – and they taste great!GET THE BEST PRICE ON SMARTYPANTS PRENATAL FORMULA
Prenatal DHA, from Nordic Naturals
Nordic Naturals is an industry leader when it comes to Omegas. Their award-winning Prenatal DHA with Vitamin D3 makes our list as a specialty item for women who want extra DHA support. Prenatal DHA fulfills the recommended daily serving of omega-3 DHA for pregnant and lactating women and includes 400 IU vitamin D3 for added immune support. Note, this is not a complete prenatal vitamin and would be used in conjunction with another prenatal.
Nordic Naturals has always been at the forefront of sustainable and ethical practices in the natural products industry.GET THE BEST PRICE ON NORDIC NATURALS PRENATAL DHA
Prenatal One, from Rainbow Light
Rainbow Light is our pick for the best one a day. Only one tablet per day meets your RDA for all the essential vitamins and minerals, plus superfoods, probiotics, and a plant-based enzyme digestive support blend. The product is certified Non-GMO, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free.GET THE BEST PRICE ON RAINBOW LIGHT PRENATAL ONE
Stacking Other Supplements With Prenatal Vitamins
The most logical stack, as evidenced by our pick of Nordic Naturals, is added omega support. Depending on the expectant mother’s other goals, there are additional products available to her, such as protein, an important nutrient during pregnancy, electrolytes, and BCAAs or whole spectrum amino acids. Now is not a time to be using stimulants, diet aids, or hormone support products.
To Summarize: Prenatal Vitamins
We heartily endorse prenatal vitamin supplementation. There are a plethora of brands to choose from, and we hope our picks for best in class help you in determining your prenatal vitamin.