Prenatal vitamins are formulated so that pregnant women can obtain all the micronutrients they require to keep their body growing and support the developing baby (1).
Recommended by the government, prenatal vitamins may help deal with the hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy that can lead to anemia, morning sickness, and other unpleasant side effects (2, 3).
1. Ritual Essential Prenatal Vitamin
Ritual’s Essential Prenatal vitamin blend contains 12 carefully chosen nutrients compiled in specific forms perfect for you and your future baby.
Their capsules are also compounded to avoid nausea reactions. Additionally, you will find that these capsules are vegan certified, gluten-free, allergen-free, synthetic filler and color free, and non-GMO. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. NewChapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin
NewChapter’s prenatal vitamin is considered a fermented vitamin meaning it is created as such to increase the absorbability of the nutrients within the vitamin. This means that your body will get the most out of this vitamin, boosting your nutrients and nourishing your body, as it is needed.
Each of these is compounded with organic herbs and vegetables to ensure you get only the cleanest ingredients in your vitamin. There is no added sugar and the compound is gentle, reducing the likelihood of nausea from taking the vitamin.
3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Multivitamin
This multivitamin is constituted as raw because it does not contain artificial colors and sweeteners, additives, synthetic binders, or high heat use to bind products. It also contains a blend of more than 23 fruits, vegetables, and cofactors.
Raw Prenatal even includes ginger specifically to aid with morning sickness and other digestive issues that are common in early pregnancy stages. It is also non-GMO, certified raw, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
4. Thorne Basic Prenatal Multivitamin
Thorne’s Basic prenatal multivitamin provides the necessary nutrients and minerals for moms who are pregnant, attempting to get pregnant, or lactating. The compound in this formula is specifically designed to be gentle and to not aggravate morning sickness.
The Thorne Basic prenatal multivitamin contains essential nutrients such as biotin, iron Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, Zinc, without additives or fillers.
5. Nature Made Prenatal Vitamin + DHA Softgel
Nature Made prenatal vitamin is a soft gel vitamin that contains DHA, folic acid, iodine, and zinc amongst other nutrients.
This vitamin only requires taking one soft gel per day. It’s also gluten-free and does not contain artificial colors. However, the vitamin ingredients lists a few filler-type items like gelatin, Ascorbic Palpitate, and Resin.
6. Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamin
Actif’s prenatal vitamin is a 100% natural, organic blend that contains essential herbs and nutrients derived from fruits and vegetables. It’s compiled with more than 25 organic nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, D, B, biotin, calcium, and iron.
There are some fillers in this vitamin as well but they are all-natural. Actif’s prenatal vitamin is non-GMO, GMP certified, and free of gluten, BPA, synthetic coloring, and flavoring agents.
7. One-A-Day Women’s Prenatal Vitamin
This vitamin has an “OBGYN recommended” certification because it covers all of the most basic prenatal needs with a ton of important vitamins and nutrients including B12, folic acid, Omega 3, DHA, and so much more.
One-A-Day prenatal vitamins are also free of artificial sweeteners, and flavors as well as being dairy-free and gluten-free.
8. Olly Essential Prenatal Gummy Multivitamin
Olly is a great option if you prefer a gummy vitamin, perfect for women that don’t do as well with soft gels or tablets.
Olly is chewable and is flavored as sweet citrus. This prenatal vitamin contains essentials such as folic acid, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, choline, and zinc.
9. Zahler Premium Prenatal Vitamins for Mother and Child
Zahler ‘s Prenatal vitamins are compounded with an optimal vegetarian formula, designed to suit mother and baby. Additionally, the vitamin contains more than 27 essential vitamins and nutrients in a simple soft gel capsule.
The capsules are easy to swallow and are meant to be gentle on your stomach.
10. Revly Prenatal
The Revly prenatal contains all of the important vitamins and nutrients that you expect a prenatal multivitamin to contain such as folic acid, zinc, DHA, omega-3, choline, and so many more vitamins.
How We Rank
The first thing we looked at, when ranking the best prenatal vitamins, was the ingredients found in each supplement. A high-quality prenatal vitamin should include both folic acid and iron due to their essential role in fetal development. With this being so essential, we started our rankings using these criteria. Products that did not include both of these ingredients were immediately removed from consideration.
Having established a baseline, we evaluated other important nutrients and vitamins recommended by research and various studies. Nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium ultimately appeared at the top of this list and were therefore critical when choosing the best vitamins available on the market. Prenatal vitamins, like Thorne and Garden of Life included these and were thus ranked very highly.
Additionally, we reviewed the use of trace minerals such as copper, zinc, and iodine in conjunction with provided levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A content in particular is important to take note of when choosing a prenatal supplement. While it is important during fetal development, it could prove toxic if too much of the vitamin is consumed. As a result, we chose products that provided a daily recommended dose, like New Chapter and Ritual, while avoiding excessive amounts.
The purity of a prenatal vitamin can have a substantial effect on the developing fetus. As such, it was important to ensure all of our ranked choices adhered to both high quality and standards. Prenatal vitamins that contained unnecessary ingredients such as fillers, binders, artificial colors, or flavoring were quickly dropped. We gave exception to OLLY Prenatal Gummies because their gummy formula contained only all-natural flavors.
We also primarily focused on products that had an all-natural or organic ingredient list to ensure health benefits without harmful side effects when possible. Those labeled as non-GMO certified, vegan, or vegetarian friendly were given additional consideration due to their versatility.
Finally, we wanted to make sure that the products ranked provided the recommended dosage for prenatal vitamins while also ensuring a great deal of value. To that end, products chosen for our list provide no less than a 30-day supply of prenatal vitamins. This will ensure the least amount of worry in terms of having to refill or purchase additional vitamins over short periods of time.
After all this, we determined the top 10 best prenatal vitamins on the market.
1. Folate, found in prenatal vitamins, helps support healthy baby growth. Folate actually comes in several forms. The naturally occurring folate and the synthetic methylfolate (the active form) or standard folic acid. While synthetic, folic acid and methylfolate are more stable than food-based folate and absorbed 1.67 times as well (4).
Folate is essential for cell growth and works with B12 to make red blood cells. Red blood cells that deliver oxygen to you and your baby, making this necessary for both of your lives.
Most notably, a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that folate prevents neural tube defects, such as anencephaly and spina bifida, by 50-70% (5).
Another 2011 study also showed that folic acid intake in early pregnancy was associated with a lower risk of language difficulty in 3-year-old children (6). More recent studies show a link between folic acid intake and reduction of autism spectrum disorder (7).
2. Vitamin B12, , found in prenatal vitamins, can help fetus development. B12 deficiency can lead to anemia – making you feel tired, slow, and lousy. B12 deficiency during pregnancy can result in major complications including low birth weight and preterm birth (8).
Studies also demonstrate that those with B12 deficiency double their risk for developing depression.
Another 1963 study, which still holds true today, shows that B12 is needed for nervous system development and red blood cell formation – making it essential for pregnant women (9).
3. Iron, found in prenatal vitamins, helps to increase energy. During pregnancy, a woman increases her blood volume as a result of the growing fetus. Pregnant women, on average, need 50% more iron than non-pregnant women (10).
Without enough iron in your diet, you can become anemic because your body prioritizes your growing baby’s oxygen demands.
Iron is present in both heme and non-heme forms. Heme iron is primarily found in meat and is more easily absorbed. Non-heme iron is present in plants and is absorbed more poorly. Increase non-heme iron absorption by pairing it with vitamin C rich foods like bell peppers, citrus, berries, lemon juice or raw broccoli.
Lastly, supplementing with iron to prevent anemia has been shown to cut the risk of preterm delivery, infant and mother mortality. Iron deficiency has also been shown to irreversible affect cognition in the developing baby (11).
4. Calcium, found in prenatal vitamins, is the key for hormone signaling cascades and a healthy skeleton. A study done in 1996 shows that calcium plays a hand in bone growth, cell signaling, muscle contractions, and even blood clotting- just to name the main functions (12). New research also supports the role of calcium, especially when combined with the right amount of vitamin D, in promoting optimal fetal development (13).
5. Prenatal vitamins should include zinc and copper for optimal health if the iron is included. A 2008 study showed that as iron supplementation increases (pregnant women need approximately 50% more than non-pregnant women), zinc and copper absorption seems to be negatively affected (14).
Newer research has confirmed that iron supplementation can reduce copper stores in breastfeeding women (15).
Low levels of iron, zinc, copper and calcium are associated with poor pregnancy outcomes (16).
It becomes extremely important then to increase your intake of copper and zinc when supplementing with iron.
6. Prenatal vitamins supplemented with fiber may help prevent excessive pregnancy weight gain and nourish gut bacteria. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that high fiber foods slow down digestion, increase satiety, nourish gut bacteria, and are associated with less weight gain over time, which may help prevent excess pregnancy weight gain (17).
The more time it takes to break down your food, the less of a rise you will have in your blood sugar and the longer you will feel full after eating (18).
7. Fiber, found in prenatal vitamins, helps prevent gestational diabetes. A 2015 study involving 249 pregnant women showed that adequate fiber intake in addition to regular intake of fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats resulted in a lower risk of gestational diabetes (19).
8. Fiber, found in prenatal vitamins, helps feed your “good” gut bacteria. A 2013 study showed that fiber nourishes your gut’s healthy bacteria. This bacteria can actually break down the fiber you eat and turn it into by-products that improve your weight and help prevent chronic disease (20).
9. Pre- and probiotics, found in prenatal vitamins, help supercharge the microbiome. A study published in Nutrients showed the probiotics can provide and increase the absorption of vitamin K, vitamin B12, protein, and nutrients that fight cancer or reduce inflammation (21).
Research also shows pre- and probiotics can influence the baby’s microbiome and prevent health conditions like colic and food allergy (24).
There are probiotic supplements you can purchase, but by eating more fiber-filled, fermented foods, you’ll naturally feed and grow the bacteria in your gut. Good choices include kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, and others. For certain situations, like after taking antibiotics or with a history of dysbiosis (frequent yeast or gastrointestinal infections), it may make sense for you to call in the troops and invest in a concentrated probiotic supplement providing more than 40 billion microorganisms per dose.
10. Essential fatty acids, found in prenatal vitamins, help build healthy brains and nervous systems. Essential fatty acids are not produced by the body, meaning it’s essential to eat them in our daily diet (25).
Unfortunately, many prenatal vitamins do not include these essential fatty acids. This is problematic because studies show that the two long-form essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are needed to build up your baby’s brains, eyes, and nervous system (26, 27).
A 2005 study showed that consuming fish that have natural levels of these essential fatty acids may increase your consumption of contaminants such as BPA or heavy metals (28). It is therefore best to avoid large-size fish such as tuna.
11. Ginger, found in prenatal vitamins, can alleviate morning sickness. A 1992 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that the hormonal changes from estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropic (hCG) hormone during pregnancy stimulates hyperthyroid activity and can lead to severe vomiting and nausea in some women, known as hyperemesis gravidarum (29). Untreated hyperemesis gravid arum may result in weight loss and electrolyte imbalance, with risks to the pregnancy (30).
A 2009 study showed that about 80% of pregnant women experience nausea during the day mostly between the 6th and 12th week of pregnancy (31).
Increasing the amount of ginger you consume, found in some prenatal supplements, has been shown to reduce morning sickness in 1 in 3 women after 6 days (32).
According to a 2014 review which analyzed 12 studies, supplementing with 1.1-1.5 grams of ginger can significantly reduce symptoms of nausea in pregnancy (33).
12. Vitamin D, found in prenatal vitamins, is necessary during the 3rd trimester for healthy bones development. A 2006 study showed that while Vitamin D plays many roles in pregnancy, it is best known for assisting to direct and build a healthy skeleton, especially in the third trimester for (34).
If you lack vitamin D during pregnancy, your baby’s health may be compromised. This can put your child at risk for abnormal bone growth, delayed physical development and rickets (which can lead to fractures and deformity). A 2012 study recommends 4000IU vitamin D per day ideal health during pregnancy, above the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of 200-400IU per day (35).
A 2011 study showed that deficiency of vitamin D has also been linked to a greater risk of developing pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes (36).
13. Calcium, found in prenatal vitamins, also helps the mother retain her own bone density while the baby is growing. Baby relies on calcium for its own bone growth. A prenatal vitamin that provides additional calcium supplements the mother’s calcium needs but also provides necessary calcium for the baby to form strong and healthy bones. This is a little known fact of a pregnancy effect.
Without calcium in your prenatal vitamins, the mother’s bones can become frail and fragile. This could lead to a higher risk of bone break and fractures for the mother but also feeling weak when the baby is born because they must pull calcium nutrients for somewhere for development.
14. Prenatal vitamins protect against more than just birth defects. Taking prenatal vitamins before, during, and after pregnancy has important benefits in each stage. While you shouldn’t take prenatal vitamins just to take them, your doctor would most likely recommend taking them when you’re considering trying to conceive.
When you are planning to conceive, beginning prenatal vitamins allows your body to start preparing for the process of growing another human. There are essential nutrients that your body needs to safely develop a baby within. Not only does your body need certain nutrients but also the baby will immediately be able to benefit from the nutrients if you have already begun taking them when you get pregnant.
Take prenatal vitamins throughout your pregnancy to help your baby develop safely and healthily and also to allow your body to retain nutrients that it desperately needs throughout the pregnancy process. Many prenatal vitamins can also be beneficial after pregnancy while you are lactating because they provide essential nutrients that you can still pass to your baby for healthy development.
1. Prenatal vitamins may contain vitamin A which is toxic in high amounts, especially for pregnant women. Vitamin A is fat-soluble. This means when vitamin A is consumed in large doses it is not easily flushed out of the body, like water-soluble vitamin C. Instead vitamin A is stored in fat cells.
Excessive vitamin A may result in irreversible liver damage, birth defects and cancer(37).
Vitamin A is obtained through the diet in two forms: preformed vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A carotenoids (like beta-carotene). Beta-carotene appears to be the safer source of vitamin A. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies’ Food and Nutrition Board recommends against beta-carotene supplements for the general public (38).
The daily recommended intake for pregnancy is 770mcg RAE (retinol activity equivalents) and for lactation, 1300mcg RAE (39).
2. Prenatal vitamins may cause nausea. Certain vitamins may cause or worsen nausea when taken on an empty stomach (40).
Taking them with food is always a better option.
3. Prenatal vitamins may cause constipation. Excess iron can lead to constipation. You can counter this by increasing the amount of dietary fiber you consume and increasing magnesium, an electrolyte that helps regulate stool output and colon contractions.
4. Prenatal vitamins may change urine color or odor. B vitamins, in particular, maybe the contributing factor, though these are harmless changes.
5. Prenatal and other vitamins may lead to excessive intake of nutrients. If your diet is comprised of nutrient-dense, high quality, varied foods, a prenatal multivitamin may be of little need. While toxicity from prenatal vitamins that meet 100% of the recommended daily intake is rare, high dose prenatal multivitamins, especially if combined with other supplements, may lead to excessive nutrient intake and increased risk of complications.
A 2010 study found selenium to be 200% higher than the label claimed. Many symptoms were reported including nausea, hair loss and worsened nail health. Caution is advised with supplements because they are not well-regulated. Choose trusted brands that have undergone third-party testing by Consumer Labs or laboratories, or bears the USP verified seal (41).
To avoid excessive intake, supplements should not exceed the recommended daily amounts. The Institute of Medicine provides the following recommendations (42)
Folate. The recommended intake of folate or folic acid during pregnancy is 600mcg per day (400mcg from supplementation and at least 200mcg from food to ensure adequate intake).
Calcium. 1000mg per day from both food and supplements.
Iron. 27mg per day (see mineral section below if supplementing with iron).
Minerals. With supplemental iron consumption, it’s recommended to have 15 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper (43).
B12. Only 2.4 micrograms is recommended daily (for those without deficiency or anemia). Many supplements contain far more than the recommended intake which enables you to cut the dose and make the product last longer.
Vitamin D. 400IU to 4000IU per day depending on current vitamin D status, and diagnoses and health history.
DHA/EPA. Next, many prenatal vitamins lack the essential fatty acids you need for optimal brain and nervous system formation in your growing baby, so a quality omega 3 fatty acid supplement containing EFA and DHA is number two here (44).
Probiotics. During pregnancy constipation is more likely and infection is more common due to the body’s naturally lowered immune function (to protect the developing baby). Having probiotics in your system helps to strengthen your immune system, your baby’s immune system, supports regular bowel movements, and increases the chance of your baby having a healthy microbiome (45).
You can start taking a prenatal vitamin during the child-bearing years. A very critical time for your baby’s development is conception through the first 6 weeks, a time which many women are not yet aware they are pregnant.
Note that at any point during your pregnancy is it not too late to begin improving your nutrition and consuming prenatal vitamins.
Even after you have your baby, it is still ideal to continue taking your prenatal supplements to support healthy breastfeeding, which can burn hundreds of calories a day and drain you of as many (or more) nutrients as your third trimester (40).
Is it ok to take prenatal vitamins if you’re not pregnant? You may be tempted to take prenatal vitamins because of unproven claims that they promote thicker hair and stronger nails. However, if you’re not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant, high levels of certain nutrients over an extended period of time may actually be more harmful than helpful.
Do prenatal vitamins make you more fertile? Taking a prenatal vitamin alone probably won’t significantly increase your chances of getting pregnant, though it can help if you have deficiencies in specific nutrients.
Are prenatal vitamins really necessary? Yes, most women can benefit from taking a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement (preferably before trying to conceive). Think of it as an insurance policy to make sure you’re getting the right amount of certain crucial nutrients during pregnancy.
Why do I feel sick after taking prenatal vitamins? Without food to keep them busy, your stomach acids start to chew on you, a process that, not surprisingly, produces nausea.
Can you have a miscarriage from not taking prenatal vitamins? Prenatal vitamins are usually recommended during a woman’s pregnancy to prevent congenital deformities. The evidence on prenatal vitamins and decreased miscarriage risk has been mixed.
Do prenatal vitamins make you gain weight if you are not pregnant? No vitamin, neither a regular multivitamin nor a prenatal, can make you gain weight. This is because vitamins contain very few calories, and you can’t break them down for energy or store them as fat.
Do prenatal vitamins mess with your hormones? No, research has not shown prenatal vitamins to significantly influence hormones beyond that of vitamin D’s natural (and beneficial) interaction with reproductive hormone production.
Do prenatal vitamins make you poop a lot? Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron daily, and many prenatal vitamins contain 30 milligrams. The most common side effect of iron is constipation, but it can also cause diarrhea in some cases. It’s normal if your stools look a bit darker when you start taking a prenatal vitamin but you will not necessarily poop more. If your prenatal vitamin contains fiber or prebiotics, you may notice an increase in stool output.
Do prenatal vitamins mess up your period? There’s no truth to the claim that prenatal vitamins can help regulate your period. Your period depends on hormones released by various body organs, not on vitamins you take.
Do prenatal vitamins make your hair grow faster? The claim that vitamins benefited hair, skin and hair arose because women who usually take prenatal vitamins – that is, pregnant women – naturally have long, thick, fast-growing hair due to pregnancy hormones. While research is limited, deficiency in several nutrients like biotin, omega-3’s, iron and others can affect keratin-rich parts of the body like the nails. If your hair is thinning, nails are brittle or your skin health is poor due to nutrient deficiencies, multivitamins that correct those deficiencies may help.
Can prenatal vitamins help with hair and nail growth? It is not recommended that you take prenatal vitamins just for hair and nail growth. There are many vitamin options specifically for those benefits. However, prenatal vitamins can help your hair, skin, and nails when you are taking them for pregnancy purposes. Many prenatal vitamins contain biotin and iron, both of which can help your hair grow, keep your nails strong, and give you glowing skin. Folic acid also benefits these characteristics.
What if I don’t take prenatal vitamins? Skipping the prenatal vitamins could be a risk to you and your baby. While you may never notice any side effects, it leaves your body and your baby susceptible to defects, improper or insufficient growth, and a lack of nutrients. You could skip the vitamins and never see any side effects, but they provide essential nutrients for you and your developing baby. You might forget an occasional dose and that’s ok but we recommend trying to keep them in your routine if you are able so that you can know for sure you’re getting the nutrients you need for you and your developing baby.
Are prenatal vitamins healthy to take while breastfeeding? Yes, in fact, many physicians recommend that pregnant women continue to take prenatal vitamins following the birth of their children. As breastfeeding can often require an increased food intake, it can often be difficult to make sure a well-balanced and healthy diet with the right amount of nutrients. Taking a prenatal vitamin as a supplement helps to ensure the body is receiving the vitamins and nutrients necessary to support both the mother and newborn baby.
How long after pregnancy should you stop using prenatal vitamins? The answer to this question will vary greatly from woman to woman. In general, prenatal vitamins can be stopped once pregnancy has ended. If the mother is breastfeeding, however, the time to stop use of a prenatal vitamin till be heavily dependent on the mother, the age of the child, and milk production. Prior to stopping all prenatal vitamin usage, it is important to consult with a physician first.
When should you take prenatal vitamins? The best time to take them is before you conceive. This is because the baby’s brain and spinal cord are developed in the first month – which makes it imperative to have adequate nutrients on board early on. Many pregnant women don’t even know they are pregnant until after this critical time period.
Being pregnant places a significant strain on your body, which makes sense because you’re supporting yourself and your growing baby. It’s essential to work with your OBGYN and dietitian to determine the best supplements to support you and your health, your sanity, and your energy.
At the very least it is safe and necessary to include a basic prenatal vitamin, an essential fatty acid supplement, fiber and a probiotic. This ensures your bases are covered and that you and your baby can thrive during the 9 months of pregnancy.
For Healthtrends #1 recommended prenatal vitamin, click here.