What Are The Different Types Of Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins typically contain folic acid , calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, and vitamins A, E, and C. The ingredients in prenatal vitamins vary depending on the product. Your doctor will recommend the right type of prenatal vitamin or prenatal supplement based on your specific needs.
A Regulatory Gray Area
Pregnancy tends to sap the bodys nutritional stores while also increasing its demands. So health providers in the United States usually advise expectant mothers to round out their diets with prenatal multivitamins. Ideally, these vitamins should contain key ingredients like folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, iodine for brain development and iron for blood supply. And ideally, they would provide these nutrients in the appropriate amounts not too little or too much.
Theres definitely a Goldilocks area for each, Dr. Schmidt said.
In reality, though, not all prenatal vitamins contain all of the recommended nutrients. Some omit iodine, for example, and most gummies lack iron. Ingredient amounts can also vary by an order of magnitude. The amount of vitamin B12 in the brands I considered ranged from 100 to 3,500 percent of the recommended daily value.
Theyre all over the place, said Dr. Tod Cooperman, the president and founder of ConsumerLab.com, which conducts independent tests of supplements and other products. And thats just whats on the label independent analyses show that some prenatal vitamins often contain much more or much less of certain nutrients than they claim.
What Are The Benefits Of Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins offer benefits for both mom and baby, including:
- Reduce risk of birth defects. Perhaps the most important reason to take a prenatal vitamin is for the folic acid it contains. Studies show that getting enough folic acid and B12 before sperm meets egg and in the early stages of pregnancy can dramatically reduce the risk of neural tube defects along with congenital heart defects in your developing baby.
- Cut back on nausea. Vitamin B6 helps to reduce nausea and research has shown that women who take a daily multivitamin containing at least 10 mcg of B6 before conception and/or during the first few weeks of pregnancy experience less nausea during the first trimester.
- May reduce the risk of autism. Several studies have shown that babies of moms who regularly took prenatal vitamins before and during pregnancy may be less likely to have autism spectrum disorder.
- Help prevent preterm birth. Taking a prenatal vitamin throughout pregnancy has been linked to lower risk of preterm birth. That’s perhaps especially due to the vitamin B12 they contain, since B12 deficiency is associated with lower birth weight and preterm birth.
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The Abcs Of Prenatal Vitamins
If you are researching prenatal vitamins, we are guessing that you might be considering a pregnancy, or you just found out that you are pregnant. How exciting! Were also guessing that you have some questions. Pregnancy does that to a woman: it makes us start questioning the safety of everything that we used to take for granted. At MotherToBaby, we answer many types of questions about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding. But hands down, the most common question Im asked about involves prenatal vitamins.
Many women ask me what brand of prenatal vitamins they should take or if the brand they are currently using is the right choice. With so many different prenatal vitamins available over-the-counter and by prescription, this is a very good question. We applaud you for doing your research. You are going to be a great Mom.
When To Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins
The best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is before conception. Folic acid is especially important. You should begin taking a folic acid supplement at least 1 month before you try to get pregnant to prevent birth defects.
Some doctors recommend that all women who could have a baby take prenatal vitamins, even if they dont plan a pregnancy.
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What Are The Best Prenatal Vitamins For Me
Finding a good quality prenatal vitamin can be confusing and may contain things that you just plain dont want to take in a vitaminfood dyes, hydrogenated fats, sugar, etc. Thats why I created Prenatal Plus, a complete formulation with active B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Prenatal Plus supports your body while you try to become pregnant, during your entire pregnancy, and while you nurse.
This formulation was also designed to provide comprehensive thyroid support with an ideal balance of iodine and selenium. Insufficient thyroid hormone leads to an increased risk of infertility and miscarriage. And the answer is almost never to just take more iodine.
Prenatal Plus provides amazing support for nutrient depletions caused by hormonal birth control as well.
Finding the best prenatal can feel confusing. There is so much out there on the market that is not regulated, not quality, and isnt delivering the best nutrition. I sometimes also see well intentioned people telling women that they can take vitamins that contain harmful nutrients and herbs as if pregnancy isnt a consideration in supplement selection. A developing baby is susceptible to many things in your environment, so I would encourage you to use caution when selecting supplements.
Lets chat about what the best prenatal vitamins contain.
Does It Matter What Prenatal Vitamin You Take
While many prenatal vitamin options do have a good number of the nutrients recommended for pregnancy, what sets them apart is exactly what nutrients are inside, what forms the nutrients are in, how high the nutrient levels are, and even the form the prenatal itself comes in.
Here’s why some prenatal options out there don’t pass the sniff test:
- They may have nutrient levels that are well over the recommended daily intake .
- They may contain not-so-digestible forms of each nutrient.
- They may have a bunch of filler nutrients you don’t really need .
- They may come in gummy form and as delicious as gummy vitamins can be, they’re more likely than other vitamin forms to not have an accurate representation of what’s inside on the label.
- While virtually all prenatals will have some form of folate, many don’t include choline. Much like folate, choline is an essential ingredient for the development of the spinal column .*
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What To Look For In A Prenatal Vitamin
Prenatal vitamins often have a mile-long ingredient list that seems to include the whole alphabet of vitamins, but you should look for the right amounts of a few key nutrients, including:
Perhaps the most important ingredient in a prenatal vitamin is folic acid, a vitamin that can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine . The March of Dimes recommends that all women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily increase that amount to 600 micrograms of folic acid daily once you become pregnant. Many prenatal vitamins include more, which is fine, says Julie Levitt, M.D., an ob-gyn at Women’s Group of Northwestern in Chicago, because the folic acid found in supplements is more easily absorbed by our bodies than folate, the naturally occurring version.
Prenatal vitamins with iron should be a top priority. You’ll need twice as much of this mineral, now that you’re pregnant, to make extra blood to take care of your baby. Pregnant women should get 27 milligrams of iron each day.
This vitamin helps you absorb calcium and is important for your baby’s bones, teeth, eyes, and skin. March of Dimes suggests getting 600 IU of vitamin D a day during pregnancy, and many doctors recommend even more800 or 1,000 IUbecause many people are deficient.
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What Are The Benefits Of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins fill in any nutritional gaps your body needs to support a growing baby, especially when diet alone isn’t enough to meet the body’s nutritional needs. “Prenatal vitamins are important before and during pregnancy to help your body meet the demands of pregnancy and aid in your babys development,” says Cordelia Nwankwo, MD, an ob-gyn in Washington, D.C. Remember, now that you’re pregnant, the nutrients you consume are going to you and the growing fetus.
Here are some specific ways prenatal vitamins can support your pregnancy.
1. They contribute to the development of the baby’s nervous system.
On the list of very important nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy, folic acid is up there. It’s important in developing the baby’s brain and spinal cord. “Folic acid will help with the neural tube development and can help prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida,” says Dr. Nwankwo.
Spina bifida is a condition where the neural tube fails to develop or close properly. It can later cause your child to experience symptoms like learning difficulties, or may sometimes require surgical intervention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , it’s important that women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
2. They can help prevent anemia.
3. They can also support your immune system.
5. They can prevent nausea.
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What Is Folic Acid
Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects . Some studies show that taking folic acid may help prevent heart defects and birth defects in your babys mouth .
- Before pregnancy take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
- Take a vitamin supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid each day, even if youre not trying to get pregnant.
- During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin each day that has 600 mcg of folic acid in it.
Check the product label to see how much folic acid is in it.
If youre at high risk for having a baby with an NTD, talk to your provider about how you can safely take 4,000 mcg of folic acid each day to help prevent an NTD. Start taking 4,000 mcg at least 3 months before you get pregnant and through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Youre at high risk if:
- Youve had a pregnancy with an NTD in the past.
- You or your partner has an NTD.
- Your partner has a child with an NTD.
Dont take several multivitamins or prenatal vitamins. You can get too much of other nutrients, which may be harmful to your health. Your provider can help you figure out the best and safest way for you to get the right amount of folic acid.
Why Is It Important To Take A Prenatal Vitamin
Prenatal vitamins provide important nutrients for your baby, but they also help ensure your good health during your pregnancy and after, too. Babies will take what they need from their mothers even if that means literally pulling the calcium from their moms bones , says Dr. Picklesimer. So, in addition to eating a nutritious diet, its important to take a vitamin that will help ensure that you dont develop any nutritional deficiencies as your baby grows.
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One A Day Womens Prenatal Vitamin With Dha
While the raw nutritional daily values are solid, One a Day Womens Prenatal Vitamin with DHA leaves a lot to be desired.
The daily values for its ingredients are all at 100%, giving the impression that the supplements designers simply wanted to check off all the boxes without putting much thought into the specific formulation.
The sources of the vitamins and minerals tend to be cheap compounds with poor bioavailabilitymetal oxides that can exacerbate an upset stomach, for example, instead of the more bioavailable and easily digestible amino acid chelates or soluble salts found in better-quality supplements.
Garden Of Life Mykind Organics Prenatal Multi
Want to keep your prenatal vitamin all-natural and vegan-friendly? Garden of Life is the perfect choice. While you do have to sacrifice a bit in terms of dosage and purity, Garden of Life Mykind Organics Prenatal Multi is the way to go if naturally-sourced ingredients that arent from animal products are a major priority for you.
How We Chose The Best Prenatal Vitamins
We started with the ingredients outlined above and found prenatal supplements that contain most of the nutrients you need. From there, we checked which of these options were also tested and recommended by members of our What to Expect community, OB/GYNs or editors.
Here are our top picks.
See registry advice and a custom baby gear checklist
The Best Vitamins To Take While Pregnant
Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, shares recommended vitamins to take while pregnant. Plus: additional supplements for a healthy pregnancy, other prenatal nutritional needs, and vitamins to avoid during pregnancy.
Is it safe to take vitamins during pregnancy? How about while breastfeeding?
These are two of the most common questions that dietitians get from expectant and new mothers. Its no secret that proper nourishment can better optimize your pre and postnatal care. But exactly which vitamins and supplements should you take during pregnancy?
In this article, were bringing things back to science-backed basics. When it comes to supplements and pregnancy, heres the information you need to have a safe and healthy term.*
*This information should not be used in lieu of professional medical advice. Always follow guidance from your OB-GYN and/or primary care physician.
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How To Choose The Best Prenatal Vitamin For You
When it comes to choosing a prenatal vitamin, keep the following tips in mind.
- Liskov recommends consulting your healthcare provider with any questions about your pregnancy. They may prescribe additional supplements, such as added folic acid or calcium, to help as you plan for your baby. She warns against adding supplements without the approval of your doctor or midwife.
- Dr. Purdie says most prenatal vitamins on the market today have similar nutritional profiles, which should help take the pressure off when visiting the pharmacy.
- The price of prenatal vitamins varies widely. Choose an option you can affordand one that youll take consistently throughout pregnancy to support fetal growth and development.
When Should I Take A Prenatal Vitamin
Before you even conceive, your body is preparing for the possibility of a baby. And in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know theyre expecting, big development starts happening such as in the babys neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord. Good nutrition is important to help this process.
Ideally, youd begin taking a prenatal vitamin in the months before you conceive or as soon as you find out you are pregnant. If you think you might be pregnant but havent seen the doctor yet, you can still start taking a prenatal vitamin. Many of the nutrients in prenatal vitamins are good for all adult women.
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Can Other Medications Interfere With Prenatal Vitamins
Yes. If you take medication for a seizure disorder, for example, youll need more than the typically prescribed 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. To be safe, be honest with your doctor about everything you put in your body, including herbal remedies in pill, tea, or other forms supplements over-the-counter medications and prescription medications.
Choosing the right prenatal vitamin might seem overwhelming, but your doctor is there to help you make the right choice, says Dr. Picklesimer. So take heart: By working with your doctor you will find the right vitamin!
More Resources for Pregnant Moms:
Prenatal Products You Should Also Consider
Lactation Smoothie – These smoothies are designed to support lactation for breastfeeding moms.
The Sweetie Pie Lactation Smoothie has 1000mg of Fenugreek that claims to stimulate milk production, making sure that your little one gets all the good stuff as he or she thrives.
And no, you dont have to wait until youve given birth to take this product.
It claims to prepare your body for when your baby is born and actually starts consuming breastmilk, so you can start taking it as early as 7 months.
Lactation Bars – Lactation bars have clean ingredients and are recommended for pregnant or lactating moms. Our favorite is one by Sweetie Pie. It contains 500mg of Fenugreek, which isnt bad for a single bar that tastes delicious. Online reviews from users claim that the Sweetie Pie lactation bar does help with their milk supply in as little as 2-3 hours after eating. Its a filling snack with 220 calories per bar and the ingredients are completely clean and vegan.
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