Disclaimer: The information Truly Mama provides is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your own medical care provider before purchasing or taking any prenatal vitamin.
All About Prenatal Vitamins
First up, let’s chat a little about why prenatal vitamins can be helpful. Although it’s always best to eat your vitamins through healthy food when you can, the right prenatal vitamin can help fill in any nutritional gaps you might have. This might be especially important if you’re facing morning sickness, which can make even keeping down a piece of toast feel like a major accomplishment.
And taking a prenatal—even before you conceive—can help ensure that you are ready to support a growing baby once you do get pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all people who are planning to get pregnant begin taking a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before pregnancy.
Most prenatal vitamins can be bought over-the-counter, but many care providers will write you a prescription at your first prenatal checkup. You should check with your own doctor for recommendations on prenatal vitamins, especially if you have any specific medical needs, but if you’re finding yourself browsing the pharmacy or scrolling through the brands online, we can help you sort through the options. Here are some of best prenatal vitamins to consider, along with information about what to look for in prenatal vitamins and why they can be so important.
When to Take Prenatal Vitamins
If you’re thinking about having a baby, the time to start taking a prenatal vitamin is now. Taking a prenatal vitamin while you’re still trying to conceive (TTC) can help prepare your body for the work of early pregnancy. Since you’ll be pregnant for at least a couple weeks before you get a positive pregnancy test, it’s best not to wait until you know you’re pregnant. The neural tube, which will eventually become the brain and the spinal cord, is developing during those earliest weeks and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends taking folic acid or a vitamin containing it before conception as a preventative measure against birth defects.
You should continue taking your prenatal vitamin throughout your pregnancy, but you may be surprised to hear that you also shouldn’t stop taking after your baby is born. Breastfeeding requires a lot of nutrients from the mom and it’s a good idea to continue to support your body during this phase of life if you choose to nurse. Additionally, a high-quality multivitamin that will support your body as it heals from childbirth and keeps up with the demands of new motherhood.
What Should Be in Prenatal Vitamins
There are two key ingredients that every prenatal vitamin should contain: iron and folic acid.
Iron helps lower the risk of a condition called puerperal sepsis, an infection that can occur after a mother’s water breaks during labor up until six weeks postpartum. Supplementing with iron can also reduce the risk of the baby being born early or at a low birth weight as well. The WHO recommends between 30 and 60 milligrams of iron daily throughout pregnancy
Folic acid has also been deemed essential to healthy fetal development and both the ACOG and the WHO recommends a minimum of 400 micrograms of this supplement daily. Following this guideline could help minimize the risk of birth defects, especially neural tube defects.
And while folic acid and iron are the must-haves in a prenatal vitamin, there are other nutrients that are important to a healthy pregnancy. Specifically, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that expecting moms encourage healthy teeth and bone development in the fetus with calcium and vitamin D. Dairy products, broccoli, fortified breads, cereals, and juices, and almonds are all great sources of calcium. You can also get more vitamin D by drinking fortified milk and eating salmon, mackerel, and egg yolks.
Choline is also important for brain development and may be hard to find in a prenatal vitamin. The good news is it is pretty easy to add to your diet by eating peanuts, beef and chicken, or drinking milk. Last is omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to be good for the developing brain. Salmon and shellfish are good sources of this nutrient, but a good fish oil supplement can be taken to fill in the gaps.
Now, let’s talk Truly Mama’s picks for the best prenatal vitamins to consider and discuss with your own pregnancy healthcare provider.
Editor’s Pick for Best Prenatal Vitamins: Prenatal Vitamin by One-A-Day
The Prenatal Vitamin by One-A-Day has earned bragging rights as the #1 prenatal vitamin recommended by OB-GYNs, and it’s pretty obvious why. A single pill is full of the stuff your body needs during pregnancy and it’s free of the ingredients you’d rather avoid. For instance, they are gluten free, and contain no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.
And while what it doesn’t have is intriguing it’s what inside this prenatal that really counts—it offers 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamins D, E, B12, iron, and more. This prenatal also contains 235 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which encourages healthy fetal brain development. And, with 222% of the daily recommended value of folate, moms who are trying to conceive or newly pregnant can rest easy knowing their baby’s development is well supported.
Taking a daily vitamin needs to be sustainable for the long term, which makes the price pretty dang important. This option is affordable and is available over the counter or as a two-month supply for as little as $20 on Amazon. A 4.6 star rating from previous users solidifies the One-a-Day Prenatal Vitamin as our pick for the best prenatal vitamins.
Best Organic Prenatal Vitamin: Garden of Life Organic Prenatal Multivitamin Supplement with Folate
The Garden of Life brand is well-known for creating high quality, organic, and vegan supplements. Their prenatal vitamin is a whole food supplement, which means it doesn’t contain vitamins in their synthetic form. Instead, the nutrients in this pill are all derived from food.
Like the One-a-Day Prenatal, this vitamin contains 100% of the recommended daily values for many essential nutrients, including A, C, D, E, and folate. This vitamin has the added benefit of containing ginger and lemon peel, which the creators say could help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness. We were really impressed by the positive feedback given by users of the Garden of Life Organic Prenatal Vitamin. It holds a 4.6 star rating on Amazon and several reviewers say they noticed a considerable increase in their energy.
One thing worth pointing out is that not all of the vitamins in this supplement hit the mark for 100% of your recommended intake, including iron and zinc. This means you may need to talk to your doctor about additional supplementation or create a plan for being certain you’re getting what you need from the foods you’re eating. Additionally, this prenatal is on the pricey side—you’ll spend just over $63 for a three-month supply when you buy it on Amazon.
The Best Gummy Prenatal: Smarty Pants Daily Organic Gummy Prenatal Multivitamin
When morning sickness is plaguing you all hours of the day and the littlest thing triggers your gag reflex, swallowing a daily vitamin can feel like an insurmountable task. If taking your prenatal pill just isn’t working for you, a gummy prenatal might be an alternative worth trying.
We really like the prenatal from Smarty Pants. You’ll find 600 micrograms of folate along with vitamins A, b12, C, D, and more. This vitamin is certified organic, vegetarian, non-GMO, and free from major allergens. If you’re having digestive issues, this vitamin might prove helpful since it also contains probiotics that the maker boasts will aid digestion.
There are a few downsides to taking gummy vitamin as a prenatal. First, it’s important to note that even when you take the recommended serving size of four gummies (!), you won’t hit your recommended daily values in all of the essential vitamins. Plus, gummy vitamins don’t include iron, so you’ll need to talk to your doctor about another option for getting enough iron in your diet.
The Best Prenatal Fish Oil: Nordic Naturals’ Prenatal DHA
If fish isn’t your thing or you’re having a hard time eating the two servings a week recommended by the ACOG, you can turn to a fish oil supplement to make sure you’re consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. Nordic Naturals’ Prenatal DHA contains 830 milligrams of omega-3 sourced from wild-caught fish and 10 micrograms of vitamin D3. This brand boasts of encouraging brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding while supporting maternal bone health, mood, and immune function while pregnant.
Best of all, in my humble opinion, is that this fish oil supplement isn’t flavored and the creators promise you won’t experience fishy burps. Expect to spend a little more on this choice than you would on other fish oil supplements. A month’s supply of pills is a little over $24 on Amazon, but you can stock up and buy four months’ worth for $42. And while you’re on Amazon, take a look at the reviews—a 4.6 star rating and 1,808 reviews is one more reason Nordic Naturals earned a spot on this list.
Best Vegan Prenatal Vitamins: Pink Stork Vegan Prenatal Vitamins + DHA
It is definitely possible to make sure you and your developing baby are getting the nutrients you need during pregnancy if you’re vegan. Expecting parents often get certain essential nutrients, like calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and choline from dairy products, meat, and eggs but they’re also available in a plant-based diet.
A really great vegan prenatal vitamin, like Pink Stork Vegan Prenatal Vitamins + DHA, is one way to make sure you’re covering all the bases. Pink Stork is a women-owned business that worked closely with a doctor to create a vitamin that contains the daily values that are recommended by the FDA during pregnancy. That’s just one reason this supplement is our pick for best vegan prenatal vitamins, and we’re also impressed by the 4.7 star rating it has earned from nearly 1,200 users on Amazon.
The Best Prenatal Vitamin Subscription: Ritual’s Essential Prenatal Subscription
Busy moms don’t need one more thing to think about. The beauty of a subscription service is that the prenatal vitamins you should be taking show up at your door each month. Ritual’s Essential Prenatal contains 12 different vitamins and minerals, including 1000 micrograms of folate and 18 grams of iron. This supplement also contains Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA derived from algae, making this vitamin totally vegan.
According to their website, these vitamins provide the essential nutrients you need to support both your own wellbeing and that of your growing baby. We love the convenience of this option, along with the brand’s transparency. A visit to their website is all you need to find out exactly what is in your prenatal, down to where the ingredients were sourced. A monthly supply of vitamins costs $35, with no shipping charges. Now all you need to do is remember to take them each morning!
If you have questions about the right prenatal for your pregnancy, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help you negative your unique dietary needs or restrictions and brainstorm ways to get around nausea sometimes caused by taking prenatal vitamins.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?
If you can, start your prenatal one month before you start trying to conceive, as recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. During those first weeks of pregnancy, the fetus is developing their neural tube. Taking a prenatal containing folic acid can help lower the risk of neural tube birth defects.
How long does it take for prenatal vitamins to work?
It isn’t clear exactly how long it takes prenatal vitamins to work, but it is recommended by the ACOG and WHO that women who may get pregnant start their prenatal before trying to conceive. In addition to a healthy diet, the nutrients in prenatal vitamins can help prepare your body for pregnancy and support healthy fetal development.
It is OK to take prenatal vitamins at bedtime?
The best time to take a prenatal vitamin is when it will be easy to remember. If you’re finding it hard to stomach your prenatal first thing in the morning, you may have more luck waiting and having it with a snack before bed. If you’re vomiting after taking your prenatal, talk with your care provider. They may have suggestions for changing your routine to make taking a supplement easier on your stomach.