Best Prenatal Vitamins for a Healthy Pregnancy
Everybody wants their child to have the very best start in life, and this process begins before birth. Nutrition plays a big role in baby’s development and looks after the mother too. Unfortunately, sometimes even the best of diets do not give our bodies what we need during pregnancy, which is why it is recommended that mothers-to-be opt for a quality prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins give our bodies what they need to help a baby’s development and pave the way for that healthy start.
Why Is it Important to Take Prenatal Vitamins and Why can’t I get It From Food?
You would need to be eating a wide range of foods, including meats, grains, dairy products and more to get the recommended doses of prenatal vitamins and minerals. Women who are vegetarian or vegan, or have a lactose or other food intolerance would definitely benefit from prenatal vitamins, giving them the essentials their body would miss out on. Prenatal vitamins are also highly recommended for women who are having multiples.
There are two major nutrients found in prenatal vitamins that women find a hard time relying solely on food for iron and folic acid. The body’s need for iron is increased with pregnancy, and without it can lead to anemia. This can lead to preterm delivery and low birth weight. Folic acid may also help prevent birth defects like cleft palate or cleft lip. Studies have shown that women who receive the proper prenatal supplements that include the crucial iron and folic acid had fewer babies with low birth weights.
What Nutrients Are Essential in a Prenatal Vitamin?
This is a question that many prospective and pregnant mothers ask and one that has garnered a lot of attention in scientific research.
While there is sound evidence that supplemental vitamin is necessary during pregnancy, there is limited evidence that pregnant women can benefit from supplementing with nutrients such as vitamin A, C, and E, magnesium, or zinc. Not that these vitamins are unnecessary during pregnancy; on the contrary, they are but there’s no evidence that daily supplementation can lead to better health outcomes in the mother and baby.
So, what supplemental nutrients do you need during the preconception and prenatal period?
To answer this question, my colleague and I searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth database for evidence supporting micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy, and here’s what we found:
Folate (or Folic Acid)
There is strong evidence that daily supplementation with folic acid prior to conception and during the prenatal period can prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida–a birth defect that occurs when the bones of the vertebrae do not develop properly around a portion of the newborn’s spinal cord.
- A good prenatal vitamin should contain at least 400 µg of folic acid.
The recommended daily allowance for folate in pregnant women is 600 µg/day. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women planning to conceive should take folic acid daily at a dose of 400–800 µg. A daily dose of 400 µg is recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in women at low-risk of folic acid deficiency and up to 4000 µg in high-risk women, such as those who are on anti-epileptic treatment.
This fat soluble is produced in the skin through exposure of the skin to sunlight; however, deficiencies in this vitamin are not uncommon due to limited exposure of the skin to sunlight (use of sunscreens, skin covering, increased time spent indoors).
While currently available data suggest that vitamin D supplementation is associated with a decreased risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight baby, and maternal high blood pressure, it is unclear whether vitamin D should be routinely administered to pregnant women to improve outcomes in the mother and child.
The daily recommended dose of this vitamin during pregnancy is 600 IU/day (15 µg/day).
Iron is important during pregnancy, as a deficiency can result in anemia and all the consequences that follow–think low infant birth weight, premature delivery, and perinatal mortality.
The daily recommended dose of iron in pregnant women is 27 mg/day, which is available in most over-the-counter prenatal vitamins. Your physician might decide to increase the dose to 60–80 mg if you have iron-deficiency anemia.
Which Are the Best Prenatal Vitamins to Take?
There are many brands of prenatal vitamins to choose from, but you want one that is well-rounded with all the essential nutrients listed and also ones that are easy to digest. Here are some of the best prenatal vitamins available. These vitamins are all safe for mother and baby.
MegaFood Baby and Me Prenatal Multivitamin
Folic acid: 800 µg
Vit D: 600 IU
Thorne Research Basic Prenatal Multivitamin
Folate: 1000 µg
Vit D: 1000 IU
New Chapter Perfect Prenatals
Folate: 1000 µg
Vit D: 600 IU
Pure Encapsulations Prenatal Nutrients
Folate: 1000 µg
Vit D: 600 IU
Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal
Folate: 800 µg
Vit D: 1400 IU
Deva Vegan Prenatal
Folic acid: 550 µg
Vit D: 400 IU
Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamin
Folate: 800 µg
Vit D: 400 IU
This prenatal vitamin ranks number one for good reason. It is a very easy formula that is gentle on the stomach, even if it is empty, and they won’t leave you with a bout of nausea.
There is 800 mcg of folate (folic acid) to help support baby’s development. It also has plenty of vitamin B6 and biotin. The ingredients are only made with whole foods and are known to have beneficial properties for pre- and post-natal. There is nothing unnecessary added. It is dairy-free, soy-free, and certified gluten-free. It is kosher, made with non-GMO ingredients, and perfectly safe for vegetarians. The vegetarian digestive enzymes help break down the tablet and make it easier to be absorbed into the system, ensuring mother and baby get the most out of the supplement.
MegaFood has been producing vitamins since 1973 and aim to do it in the best way possible. They have partnered up with the University of New Hampshire to continuously find ways to keep the very best of the whole foods and turn them into a convenient tablet. You’ll see evidence of this in the ingredients like organic blueberry and spinach in addition to the added vitamins and minerals. That, combined with the fact that it is easy on stomachs, makes this an excellent choice of prenatal vitamin. It is recommended you take one tablet four times a day (do not exceed this dose) for full benefit.
Thorne Research has a no-nonsense approach to their prenatal vitamins. Their product only contains everything you need and nothing of what you don’t need. This includes 12 g of B6 and two forms of bioactive folic acid. It also has iron picolinate, which is a form of iron that is easy on the stomach and will not lead to constipation like some other iron supplements can do.
Thorne Research is a trusted brand, even supplying vitamins and natural supplements to US national teams like USA gymnasts and the US Soccer teams. They only source raw ingredients, not powders, and test everything throughout the entire process, so you can be sure you are getting only the best product for you and baby.
This product is perfectly acceptable for vegans and for people who may have food allergies as it contains no dairy, soy, corn, sugar, yeast, wheat, rye, barley, eggs, or nuts. There is no gluten of any kind and is non-GMO. No matter what allergies or lifestyle you lead, this prenatal vitamin is a wonderful choice.
New Chapter has developed another prenatal vitamin that can be taken on an empty stomach made from whole food cultures, perfect for those mothers who may still be in the nausea stage of pregnancy!
This prenatal has been fermented with probiotics, live bacteria, and yeasts used for breaking down food, helping nutrients absorb into the system, and keep a healthy gut. These probiotics will help you get the most out of the vitamin.
There are certified organic ingredients including super foods added too, like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower. This prenatal vitamin has plenty of the folate and non-constipating iron, as well as heart healthy D3, and C, A, and zinc for immune support.
Pure Encapsulations stay true to their name in keeping nothing but pure ingredients in their capsules. Their prenatal vitamins are non-GMO, and they claim to request proof from suppliers that the ingredients obtained are non-GMO and also do rigorous testing to double check this.
These prenatal supplements are hypo-allergenic, meaning they are unlikely to have anything that will cause a reaction. They are gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free and safe for vegetarians and vegans.
This supplement is not as packed with vitamins and minerals as others, but it is sufficient for pregnant and lactating women. They have added the suggested daily values for pregnant and lactating women on the supplement information on the back of the bottle so you can get an idea of how much you need. For these, you just take one capsule twice a day with a meal (as they are not as easy on the stomach as others to be able to take them on an empty stomach.)
Code’s Raw Prenatal vitamins are derived from raw whole foods. In addition to the essential vitamins and minerals, there is 870 mg of a raw organic fruit and vegetable blend. There are loads in there like brussels sprouts, beet (root), spinach, blackberries, and cherries, just to name a few!
It also has a prenatal digestive comfort blend, designed to settle the stomach and rid of any nausea thanks to the ginger root included and the added probiotics help the gut absorb the nutrients and maintain a healthy digestive system. Just when you think this capsule surely can’t pack any more goodness, there’s also 10mg of an organic sprout blend with chia and flax seeds, as well as quinoa and millet. All of this plus 800 mcg of folate and other vitamins and minerals make this a great choice of prenatal supplement.
Although other prenatal vitamins on our list that can be suitable for vegans, this is the only one certified as such by the Vegan Society.
Deva Vegan Prenatal vitamins offer 138% of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid for pregnant women and over 1500% of B12. This is because B12 is often already difficult to get on the vegan diet, with it being so prevalent in meat more than anything. This may seem like a lot, but it is not a harmful amount as long as you follow the dosage, which is one tablet with food daily. There is also just over 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA ) of iron too. There is only 550 mcg of folic acid, and this may not be enough for some women in the early stages of pregnancy.
There is nothing extra in these tablets that can aid with digestion like some of the others, so it is best to take with a meal to prevent an upset stomach. Some have mentioned it is a bit too much on the stomach and take half a tablet at different times of the day to ease discomfort.
Actif claim to be the most complete prenatal supplement with over 35 vitamins, minerals, and organic herbs.
This blend includes guava, kelp, milk thistle, moringa, and alfalfa. Their prenatal supplement not only has the essentials but also omega-3, aiding in brain development. This is from organic salmon, which means this prenatal vitamin is not ideal for vegetarians or vegans. Despite this, these capsules do not come with that fishy taste or smell other omega-3 supplements do. It also contains probiotics for digestive support. Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamins contain magnesium, which is important for bones and teeth. Actif claim this will not interfere with the absorption of their plant-based iron.
Another bonus that this prenatal vitamin has is that women love the small size of the capsules. While other tablets can be huge and difficult to swallow whole, this one is small enough to go down easily with water.
Nothing beats a healthy diet, but depending on your needs and health status, your physician might recommend multivitamin supplementation.
Based on scientific evidence, folic acid is the number one vitamin for which supplementation is beneficial during the preconception period. This said, you should start taking folic acid when you’re planning for a baby. Also, do not fret if the prenatal that you’re taking is not on this list. So long as it has the minimum recommended dose of folic (400 µg), it is good to use.
Like other drugs, prenatal vitamin supplements have adverse effects, some of which can be managed with simple dietary measures. Your physician is always the best person to talk to, as they’re in a better position to prescribe a supplement with added nutrients to meet your needs.