Why do you need prenatal vitamins? Well, now that you’re eating for two (or more), it’s not always easy to get all the key vitamins and minerals you need from your diet alone.
While knowing what to eat when pregnant can help you and your baby stay healthy during this important time, getting the best prenatal vitamins can keep your body topped up with the good stuff.
We’re talking folic acid, calcium, iron, and more—the nutrients you need to support your little one’s growth and development.
Read on to learn more about the best prenatal vitamins for mamas-to-be.
In this article 📝
- What do the best prenatal vitamins have in common?
- When should I take prenatal vitamins?
- Can vegetarians and vegans take prenatal vitamins?
- Is it safe to take prenatal vitamins if you’re not pregnant?
- Are over-the-counter prenatal vitamins good?
- What about postnatal vitamins? Are they the same?
- Which prenatal vitamins are the best?
What do the best prenatal vitamins have in common?
Most prenatal vitamin brands are sold as a one-a-day multivitamin or pregnancy supplement, containing all the vitamins and minerals your body needs during pregnancy.
The best prenatal vitamins tend to include:
Folic acid: A form of vitamin B9, folic acid is essential for preventing pregnancy complications. This nutrient helps the brain and spinal cord develop properly, reducing the risk of serious birth differences.
Vitamin D: Nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin naturally produces it when exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is essential in pregnancy. Why? Because it helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, kidneys, and nervous system develop.
Vitamin C: During pregnancy, vitamin C is vital for you and your baby’s health. As well as helping with tissue repair and wound healing, vitamin C also helps your baby’s teeth and bones to develop.
Iron: When you’re pregnant, you need twice the amount of iron that non-pregnant women need. Your body needs iron to make more blood to supply the correct levels of oxygen to your baby.
Calcium: Since your baby takes this essential mineral from your bones as it grows, it’s a good idea to take calcium during your pregnancy.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): An Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA can help your baby’s brain growth and development. There are many prenatal vitamins with DHA on the market today. Check the label to make sure it’s there.
When pregnant, you should avoid taking any multivitamins that contain vitamin A (retinol) since too much of it can damage your baby’s development.
Consuming liver and liver products (such as cod liver oil) should also be avoided, as they contain high amounts of vitamin A.
When should I take prenatal vitamins?
Many women wonder when is the best time to take prenatal vitamins. In most cases, you should start taking them as soon as you begin trying to conceive.
Some doctors even advise taking prenatal vitamins at least three months before TTC to ensure your body’s ready for pregnancy.
Why so far in advance? Well, some birth differences occur within very early pregnancy, including those prevented by folic acid.
Ideally, you should start taking a folic acid supplement around a month before you try to get pregnant.
However, don’t panic if you didn’t take prenatal vitamins before getting pregnant.
Many women don’t take them at this stage and still go on to have perfectly healthy babies. Start taking them as soon as you know you’re expecting.
Can vegetarians and vegans take prenatal vitamins?
Ensuring a healthy pregnancy can be challenging, but it can be even trickier when you have dietary restrictions.
You might be wondering if you can still take prenatal vitamins if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
While there are often hidden animal products in supplements that you’ll want to avoid, such as gelatin and lanolin, there are certain products on the market that are suitable for those on plant-based diets.
When searching for vegetarian or vegan supplements, make sure you check for both the active ingredients and any added animal products, too.
Looking for some veggie or vegan-friendly pregnancy foods? Try some of these scrummy foods to eat while pregnant.
Is it safe to take prenatal vitamins if you’re not pregnant?
Some women are tempted to take prenatal vitamins when they’re not pregnant, often due to unproven claims of stronger nails and thicker, glossier hair.
However, this isn’t usually a good idea. High levels of certain nutrients can cause unpleasant symptoms and side effects, and in some cases, can be very harmful. For instance, iron levels in prenatal vitamins (required to stave off iron deficiency) can cause constipation and nausea in non-pregnant women.
Remember: Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated for pregnant women or those trying to get pregnant, as well as breastfeeding mamas (though most women switch to postnatal vitamins after birth—more on those in a moment).
Are over-the-counter prenatal vitamins good?
Yep, over-the-counter prenatal vitamins are perfectly safe and effective.
That said, if you have health concerns or complications in your pregnancy, your doctor might prescribe a specific prenatal supplement.
If not, simply head to your nearest pharmacy and buy prenatal vitamins over the counter.
They can be purchased in many supermarkets, too, with several different brands, sizes, and price points to choose from.
In terms of which are the best over-the-counter prenatal vitamins, look for those containing folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
What about postnatal vitamins? Are they the same?
Yep, they’re pretty much the same, but they’re taken for different reasons.
Prenatal vitamins help support your health and well-being when you’re growing a baby.
They’re focused on your baby’s developmental needs so you can be sure baby is getting everything they need.
However, once you’ve met your little one, you need to rebuild those depleted vitamin stores (especially if you’re breastfeeding).
This is where postnatal vitamins come in, giving your body some extra TLC as you adjust to life as a mama.
Most postnatal vitamins have the same or similar dosages as prenatal vitamins, so you can take any prenatal ones you have left before switching to the postnatal version.
Which prenatal vitamins are the best?
There are many reputable brands out there.
If you want to see which ones are favorites with your fellow mamas-to-be—or if you’re curious about a specific type of supplement, like the best organic prenatal vitamins—check out the Peanut community.
💡 More from The 411:
Caffeine and Breastfeeding: What to Know
Can You Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?
Can You Dye Your Hair While Pregnant?
Can You Tan While Pregnant?
19 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Pregnancy Snacks: Healthy Hacks for Pregnancy Cravings
Can You Take Probiotics While Pregnant?
What To Do When You Find Out You’re Pregnant