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8 Things to Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin

Guest Post
By Ali Macy, Director of Marketing & WAG Coach
Working Against Gravity

Congratulations mama! If you’re growing a tiny human, you’ve probably wondered what makes a “good” prenatal vitamin. What should you look for in your prenatal vitamin, and are there ingredients to avoid?

Today, we’re giving you a quick overview of how to pick a trustworthy prenatal vitamin. That said, formulations and quality control measures change frequently, so we always recommend doing your own up-to-date research, talking to your doctor or OBGYN, and reading (and rereading!) supplement labels.

Let’s dig into it.

Why Do You Need a Prenatal Vitamin?

Nutrient needs—like iron, zinc, magnesium, folate, and vitamins D and E—increase during pregnancy, and many women don’t get adequate amounts of these key vitamins and minerals from their food [1].

Eating a variety of whole foods is important to fill nutrient needs as your body generally absorbs and breaks down nutrients from food more readily than from a supplement. That said, doctors and OBGYNs almost always recommend a prenatal supplement during pregnancy. 

As Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, says, “A prenatal vitamin is an insurance policy, but don’t assume you can get everything you need in a pill.”

Starting 1-3 months before conception (or when you start trying to conceive) is a good rule of thumb, but it is never too late to start taking a prenatal vitamin. From there, most health professionals recommend taking your prenatal vitamin throughout your entire pregnancy and while breastfeeding (or pumping) if that is how you feed your little one.

Taking your prenatal vitamins with a meal helps minimize potential nausea. If you take multiple capsules daily, splitting your dosage may be helpful to limit nausea and improve nutrient absorption.

Some women find that taking their prenatal vitamins right before bed interferes with sleep due to B vitamins’ impact on energy levels. Others don’t notice a difference and may actually prefer to take them before bed as another nausea-limiting precaution. Finding the best time to take your prenatal will likely take a little personal trial and error.

What to Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin

Here are a few things to look for as you scan prenatal vitamin labels [1]: 

  1. “Activated” B vitamins
    1. Folate: 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (or L-methylfolate)
    2. Vitamin B6: pyridoxal-5”-phosphate
    3. Vitamin B12: methylcobalamin and/or adenosylcobalamin
  2. Iodine
  3. Choline
  4. Magnesium
  5. Selenium
  6. Vitamin K2
  7. Vitamin D
  8. A portion of Vitamin A from its activated form, retinyl palmitate

The FDA doesn’t regulate prenatal supplements, so you won’t find FDA-approved options. However, supplement companies can voluntarily send their products to independent non-profit organizations like the USP or NSF to be tested for quality and purity and receive a seal of approval. 

Prenatal supplements without this seal aren’t necessarily bad choices, but choosing a supplement with a USP or NSF badge can give you a little extra reassurance that you’re picking a high-quality option.

DHA, an omega-3 fat imperative for a baby’s brain and eye development, isn’t usually included in sufficient doses in prenatal vitamins. Many women find that they need extra DHA supplementation to hit the 300mg DHA minimum requirement. We say “minimum” because 300mg is far below the 1,200-2,200mg doses that have been shown to benefit a growing little one [1].

It is a major bonus if you can find a prenatal with enough omega-3s to hit these higher values! Otherwise, speak with your OBGYN about additional supplementation.

  • Folic Acid: About 60% of people cannot adequately break down this synthetic form of folate.
  • Additives 
  • Toxic elements like aluminum, titanium, thallium, and nickel

The “best” prenatal vitamin for you depends on many factors like your budget and subscription options, pill type, daily dosage, and any personal nutrient needs. So, we’ve compiled a list of resources where you can explore high-quality prenatal vitamin options and decide which may be best for you and your growing baby.

Please remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any supplement, especially during pregnancy.

One of our favorite brands is from our partners at GutPersonal. Their prenatal was developed by dietitians, and has gone through rigorous testing, both 3rd party and in-house, to guarantee no heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, Cadmium, lead & more. You can use code MINT10 at checkout for a discount!

Other resources to check out.

There are so many prenatal vitamin options out there; it’s okay if you’re a little overwhelmed. The guidelines above will help you make an educated initial choice and bring it to your healthcare provider for approval.

From there, if you want support optimizing your nutrition before, during, or after pregnancy, a 1-on-1 nutrition coach can help you get the vitamins and minerals needed to reach your goals during this unique time in your life. Use the code MINT at checkout to get $50 off your first month with a WAG nutrition coach.

This article includes affiliate links. WAG only recommends products and resources we’ve tried and loved!

Resources:

  1. Nichols, L. (2018). Real food for pregnancy. (n.p): Lily Nichols.
  2. https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/motherhood/getting-pregnant/everything-you-need-to-know-about-prenatal-vitamins
  3. https://www.babylist.com/hello-baby/best-prenatal-vitamins
  4. https://www.parents.com/best-prenatal-vitamins-7503447
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/best-prenatal-vitamins

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