Having a baby is one of the most significant decisions you can make. It is the decision to bring a new life, a new human being, into the world, and after you make that decision, nothing will ever be the same again.
And we know that every mother who makes that decision always wants the best for her new baby.
We are all aware that a nutritious, balanced diet is the key to staying fit and healthy and we all know that dietary supplements such as multivitamins can help us ensure our bodies have everything they need. However, your body’s needs – and baby’s needs – are not the same during pregnancy.
Here we provide a guide that will explain everything you need know about prenatal vitamins to help you understand more about your body’s requirements as your baby grows inside you.
With our guide, you will have the information you need to make an informed decision about the best prenatal vitamins for you.
Overall Winner and Best Vegetarian Choice
The first thing that stands out about these prenatal vitamins is their easy-to-swallow format that makes them perfect for those who have trouble taking regular ones. They are also easy on the stomach, making them suitable for people who react easily to regular pills.
These prenatal vitamins include folate rather than folic acid, another form of vitamin B9 – an essential vitamin for avoiding neural tube defects in the developing fetus. They are also good sources of vitamin C, vitamin D3, iodine and iron.
They don’t provide all your calcium, so you will need to obtain this important mineral from another source. They also contain less vitamin K, zinc and copper than daily recommendations. Another point to remember is that allergy sufferers may react to some of the natural ingredients.
- Good source of vitamin B9
- Easy to swallow and easy on the stomach
- Natural ingredients, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian-friendly
We Didn’t Like:
- Lower levels of calcium, zinc, copper and vitamin K
- May not be suitable for allergy sufferers
- No DHA – needs to be taken separately
These prenatal multivitamins are loaded with many of the essential nutrients expectant mothers require, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and D3. They are an especially good source of vitamin B9 since they contain folate, which helps avoid neural tube defects.
They are made from natural ingredients and include many whole superfoods such as kale, broccoli and sprouts, while they contain no synthetic additives. The pills themselves are small and easy to swallow, don’t have a bad odor and can even be taken on an empty stomach.
Although these prenatal multivitamins are good they aren’t high in calcium, so you need to make sure you get your daily dose elsewhere. They also don’t contain omega-3 and you might consider taking this separately. New Chapter is owned by Proctor & Gamble, a company that has been involved in controversies in the past.
- Suitable for a range of special dietary requirements
- Good source of vitamin B9
- Can be taken on an empty stomach and don’t cause nausea
We Didn’t Like:
- Low in calcium
- No omega-3
- Owned by Proctor & Gamble
Best Value Buy
These are great for people who don’t want the hassle of remembering to take their prenatal vitamins three times a day – it’s too easy to miss them like that. This prenatal multivitamin contains the recommended daily amount of vitamin B9, iron and vitamin D as well as calcium, while the gel provides your omega-3 intake.
The prenatal tablet and the gel are both easy to swallow and shouldn’t cause any nausea. With the liquid gel (derived from fish), the associated ‘fish burps’ are less pronounced than with other products and hardly noticeable at all.
One thing we don’t like about this product is that the packaging is a little misleading. You would be forgiven for believing that you were buying a one-tablet, prenatal multivitamin whereas, in fact, you have to take two per day, one tablet and one gel. It’s not a big problem, just something to be aware of.
- Provides daily requirement of vitamin B9, iron, vitamin D
- Also provides omega-3
- Fish burps minimal
We Didn’t Like:
- Misleading packaging
- Need to ensure calcium comes from elsewhere
Best Chewy Vitamins
The obvious selling point is that these are actually a pleasure to chew twice a day so they’re ideal for those who hate taking regular prenatal tablets. However, they’re also packed with most of the essential nutrients you need daily during your pregnancy.
They contain 100% of your daily requirement of folic acid and vitamin D as well as vitamins B6 and B12. They also contain 50% or your daily requirement for vitamins A, C and E. Another component is omega-3 fatty acid which helps with the development of your baby’ brain.
For some, the lack of iron may be a positive, but it means you will have to get this important mineral elsewhere. The other essential nutrient entirely absent here is calcium, so you will have to make sure you find another source of that too.
- Great taste, like eating candy
- Contain vitamins B6, D, B12, A, C and E plus omega-3 fatty acid
- Easy on the stomach and don’t cause constipation
We Didn’t Like:
- Lack of iron and calcium means you need to get them from elsewhere
- Contains gelatin – not vegetarian-friendly
- Sugar coated – may be too much for some
Best Suite of Nutrients
If you are looking to make sure you have no gaps in your nutrient intake during pregnancy, these dietary supplements could be just what you are looking for. They have more calcium than many other products as well as at least 100% of your needs for vitamins C, D, B6, B12, folic acid and iron.
The separate capsule containing DHA is an important supplement to take for your baby’s brain development and these capsules cause minimal ‘fish burbs’ compared to some other brands. They are ingested in soft gel form and are easy to take, as are the tablets.
Remember, even though these prenatal vitamins have more calcium than many other supplements available, they don’t contain your daily recommended amount and it is essential you get this from another source. These can also cause some nausea in those with sensitive stomachs.
- Excellent spread of vitamins and minerals
- Easy to take
- Great value
We Didn’t Like:
- Can cause nausea
- High iron content can block you up
- Still need to look elsewhere to complete your calcium intake
Best Prenatal Vitamins with Probiotics
This prenatal vitamin includes an impressive assortment of the vitamins and minerals that are important during pregnancy, many of them in good doses. Specifically, it provides 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins A, C, E, and B3 as well as folic acid, iron and zinc.
These prenatal vitamins are easy on the stomach – you can take them without eating – and also include 10 different strains of probiotics, which will help with your digestion. The iron contained in the tablets is in a form that is less likely to result in constipation
They contain 590% and 670% of your recommended daily amounts of vitamins B2 and B12 respectively. No adverse reactions are known from an excess of B2 but B12 is suspected to cause a rash in higher doses – although this has not been conclusively proven.
- Easy on the stomach, can be taken without food
- Good spread of nutrients including iron, folic acid and vitamins A, C, E and B3
We Didn’t Like:
- No DHA – need an additional supplement
- Excessive vitamin B12
- Low level of calcium, need to ensure this comes from elsewhere
Best Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement
This fish oil supplement is derived from sardines and anchovies and provides over 100% of the daily recommended intake of omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA. Omega-3 is a vital nutrient in the development of your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system.
This product is gluten-free and dairy-free and contains no artificial colorings or preservatives, making it suitable for people for those with these dietary requirements. The capsules have a natural strawberry flavor which makes them more palatable, and the aftertaste is minimal.
This prenatal supplement is a fish oil and the capsules also contain gelatin from cows, so they are not vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. Remember, they are only an omega-3 supplement and won’t provide all the vitamins and minerals necessary for your pregnancy.
- Provides over 100% of your daily required omega-3 fatty acid intake
- Pleasant natural strawberry flavor
- Only require one per day
We Didn’t Like:
- Not vegetarian- or vegan-friendly
- Only provide omega-3, not a prenatal multivitamin
- Can cause ‘fish burps’, as is common with fish oil-based supplements
Best Fish Oil-Free Omega-3 Supplement
The main reason you would buy this is that you don’t want to take fish oil. This DHA supplement is made from natural ingredients including algal oil and sunflower oil, won’t give you the dreaded ‘fish burps’ and also includes no artificial colorings, preservatives, gluten or dairy products.
This dietary supplement represents great value. You take one capsule per day, so one pot of 60 will last two months. The capsules are not difficult to swallow and don’t cause any nausea. Another positive is that, not being derived from fish, there is no chance of ocean-borne contaminants.
One downside of these prenatal vitamins is that they contain gelatin. For some, this might not be a problem, but it means they are not suitable for vegetarians or vegans – which is disappointing since they contain no fish derivatives and would otherwise be a good choice.
- Good source of omega-3 without taking fish oil
- Great value
- Soft on delicate stomachs
We Didn’t Like:
- Contains gelatin
- Can be a little hard to swallow
- Can be uncomfortable if taken on an empty stomach
Quick Guide To Prenatal Vitamins
What are prenatal vitamins?
Let’s start with the absolute basics, ‘prenatal vitamins’ is usually used as a shorthand for dietary supplements aimed at expectant mothers that include the vitamins and minerals essential during pregnancy. They also sometimes include omega-3 fatty acid.
Without going too deep into the biology involved, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are vital nutrients that our bodies require to stay fit and healthy.
Everybody knows that a balanced diet is the key to keeping our bodies in good working order. By choosing a healthy, balanced diet, we ensure our body has access to all the nutrients it needs to function correctly.
For a growing fetus, the availability of these nutrients is even more vital as a deficiency can be detrimental to the baby’s development and can even lead to birth defects.
Remember, your little one will take whatever he or she needs from your body without any regard for what you may need. This means it’s your job to make sure there’s enough of everything for both you and your baby. You need to make sure that nothing is missing.
Adults can survive for a long time even in the absence of some essential nutrients, and a balanced diet ensures you have most of what is necessary. However, during pregnancy, you need to make sure there are no gaps in the nutrients available for baby. This is where prenatal vitamins come in.
By taking prenatal vitamins, you can ensure the whole spread of nutrients needed by a growing baby is available and that there are no gaps in the menu. A healthy, balanced diet can provide most of what the baby needs but prenatal vitamins make sure there are no holes.
What vitamins and minerals does a growing baby need?
It is generally accepted that there are four main vitamins and minerals required by a developing fetus and they are:
Folate (folic acid)
Folic acid, or Vitamin B9, is essential for the healthy development of the neural tube – the part of the fetus that develops into the brain and the spinal column. Ensuring the growing baby has enough folic acid helps avoid developmental problems in the brain or spine.
A lack of this vitamin during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly and encephaloceles.
Iron is a mineral that is involved in helping oxygen reach the organs and tissue. In adults and children, a lack of iron in the diet can lead to iron-deficiency anemia but during pregnancy, not enough iron can lead to other complications.
Calcium is a mineral required to keep your bones strong and healthy. As your baby grows inside you, calcium is needed for the development of bones and teeth as well as heart and muscles.
Vitamin D is also related to the development of healthy bones and teeth, as well as skin and eyesight. As adults, we synthesize vitamin D in the skin from contact with sunlight but during pregnancy, you need to make sure enough is available for the growing baby to take from your body.
Apart from these four essential vitamins and minerals which are present in almost all prenatal multivitamins, the following other beneficial nutrients can often be included to aid the healthy completion of your pregnancy:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acid (DHA) – this final one, a ‘fatty acid’ rather than a vitamin or mineral, is essential for the optimum development of the brain and it is recommended that you take this as an extra supplement if it is not included in the prenatal vitamin you are taking.
Do you have to take them?
People have been giving birth to healthy babies for a long time – since long before we knew anything about proper nutrition and the importance of vitamins and minerals. However, complications during pregnancy are a sad fact of life and they can affect anyone, even those with healthy lifestyles.
While not taking prenatal vitamins certainly doesn’t mean you will give birth to an unhealthy baby, taking them is a way to stack the odds in your favor. If there is a simple way to increase your chances of having a healthy baby, what mother wouldn’t want to take that step?
When should you start taking them?
There are differing views on when to start taking prenatal supplements but there is an argument for all women to start taking them once they reach childbearing age. This means that if you fall pregnant unexpectedly, the necessary vitamins are already available for the baby right from the start.
Perhaps this might seem a little excessive to some. Another less extreme suggestion would be to start taking them a month or so before you start trying to conceive. This way, your body has time to build up reserves before the baby starts growing.
However, even if you don’t take prenatal vitamins before your pregnancy, it is never too late to start, even after conception. If you find out you are pregnant, you can start them immediately and your baby will probably be no worse off for you having started a little late.
Once you begin taking them, you should continue right through until you stop breastfeeding. This way, your newborn baby will continue to benefit from these essential nutrients until he or she moves onto solid food.
Overdosing and side effects
It is possible to overdose on some vitamins, which can lead to unwanted side effects and conditions. However, if you stick to the recommended doses, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you suffer any side effects, you should speak to your doctor immediately.
The most common side effect associated with prenatal vitamins is an excess of iron which can lead to constipation in some cases. Prenatal vitamins are available with different levels of iron, so you can choose a variety with a lower dosage if you are sensitive to this.
Prenatal vitamins are usually taken as compressed tablets – however, they are also available as liquids, soft chews and other forms. Chews usually don’t contain iron or calcium so if you choose this type, you will need to make sure you get these nutrients from other sources.
There are many nutrients our bodies require in order to continue functioning healthily but during pregnancy, some of these become even more important than normal. Of these, the four to remember are folic acid/folate (vitamin B9), vitamin D, iron and calcium – plus omega-3 fatty acid.
After these, many others are also helpful in ensuring your baby has all the nutrients required as he or she grows inside you.
There are many different products on the market and in our roundup, we have selected the best in several different categories to help you choose the dietary supplements that are most suited to your needs and requirements.
Our final piece of advice is this: prenatal vitamins are a great way to make sure there are no gaps in the nutrients available for your baby and can help make sure your baby grows and develops normally but nothing can replace the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet.
And, of course, before you begin taking any course of dietary supplements, you should always speak to your doctor first.
We have looked at a range of prenatal vitamins, many of which can be great choices for people with different needs. However, for us, with the combination of value, suite of nutrients and the fact that they are veggie-friendly, for us, the top prenatal vitamins are the Garden of Life Prenatal Vitamins.
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