11 Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022
Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022
July 27, 2022
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Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022

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Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022.
Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022

You already know that good nutrition is important during pregnancy, and you’re likely doing your best. But let’s be honest: it’s hard to know if you’re really getting all the vitamins and minerals you and your baby need.

That’s where prenatal vitamins come in. They don’t replace a balanced diet, but instead act like backup—making sure you don’t fall short on the essential nutrients you need during pregnancy.

We spoke with Dr. Cordelia Nwankwo, a board-certified ob-gyn based in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Nathan Fox, ob-gyn, creator of the Healthful Woman podcast and Babylist Health Advisory Board member, about the importance of prenatal vitamins and how to choose which ones are right for you.

In this article:

What Are Prenatal Vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins help provide your body with the vitamins and minerals that you need during pregnancy.

“Prenatal vitamins are important before and during pregnancy to help your body meet the demands of pregnancy and aid in your baby’s development,” says Dr. Nwankwo.

So what exactly do prenatal vitamins do? According to Dr. Nwanko, they can to ensure you’re getting the nutrition your body needs during pregnancy.

“Your balanced diet should be the foundation of your nutritional vitamins. Your body is able to absorb more from your diet than from supplements. However, your prenatal will help fill in the gaps.”

Do You Need to Take Prenatal Vitamins When Pregnant?

Yes, you need to take prenatal vitamins while pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are specially designed to deliver the specific types and amounts of nutrients needed during various stages of your baby’s development, so a run-of-the-mill multivitamin won’t cut it. They also ensure you have enough nutrients so your own body doesn’t become depleted.

Folic acid, for example, is essential for baby’s brain and spine development in the earliest stages. Your body needs twice as much iron during pregnancy than it did before you were pregnant. And many prenatals also have vitamin D and calcium to build strong bones and teeth during the third trimester.

Do you need a prescription for prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are readily available over the counter and a prescription is generally unnecessary. “There’s not much difference between over the counter and prescription prenatals, and both are adequate,” assures Dr. Nwankwo.

“Sometimes prescription prenatals may have special formulations—for example, they may have a stool softener added to help with constipation, or they may have additional iron. The pills may also be smaller and easier to take. But it’s not necessary,” she says.

If you want to take a prescription prenatal, be sure to check with your insurance first to see if they’re covered; if so, you’ll likely need your doctor to give you a prescription for them.

When Is the Best Time to Take Prenatal Vitamins?

You should start taking prenatal vitamins at least a month and ideally three months before conception and throughout your entire pregnancy from four weeks pregnant to whenever labor and birth starts.

In fact, it’s often best to take a prenatal vitamin every day if there’s a chance you could get pregnant at all, even if you’re not planning for it. That’s because crucial neurological development takes place during the first month of pregnancy, when folic acid would offer the most protective benefits. (If you are trying to conceive and think you might be pregnant, check out our guide to the best pregnancy tests.)

“I recommend starting prenatal vitamins as soon as you start thinking of trying to conceive. Ideally three months before conception,” Dr. Nwankwo says.

What is the best time of day to take prenatal vitamins?

It doesn’t make a difference what time of day you take your prenatal vitamin, says Dr. Fox. If you’re experiencing nausea, many pregnant people find that taking their prenatal with a meal can be helpful. Some people even take theirs in the evening with a bedtime snack.

How long should you take prenatal vitamins?

You should take your prenatal vitamin daily throughout your entire pregnancy. If you’re planning on breastfeeding, Dr. Nwankwo recommends you continue to take a prenatal for a minimum of about six months, if not throughout.

If you’re already pregnant and haven’t been taking prenatal vitamins, no need to worry; just start as soon as you can.

How to Choose the Best Prenatal Vitamins

When shopping for prenatal vitamins, look for these four primary nutrients that are especially important during pregnancy, per Dr. Nwankwo and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

  • Folic acid: 600 mcg Helps with neural tube development and can help prevent neural tube defects like Spina Bifida.
  • Iron: 27 mg Helps to prevent anemia, which can affect delivery of oxygen to the baby via red blood cells. (Keep in mind that most gummy prenatal vitamins don’t contain iron.)
  • Calcium: 1,000 mg Helps with bone health. Keep in mind that most prenatal vitamins don’t contain this much calcium, so if you don’t get enough from your diet, talk to your doctor about taking a separate calcium supplement.
  • Vitamin D: 600 IU Helps support healthy bone development and your immune system.

The following vitamins are also essential during pregnancy, and you may not get enough of them through diet alone. Having these in your prenatals are helpful too:

  • Vitamin A: 770 mcg (Note: The safest form of Vitamin A is beta-carotene or other carotenoids.)
  • Vitamin C: 85 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 1.9 mg
  • Vitamin B12: 2.6 mcg
  • Choline: 450 mg

Consider it a bonus if you find a prenatal vitamin that also contains omega-3 fatty acids. There’s strong evidence indicating that omega-3 fatty acids (particularly DHA)–a fat found in some types of fish–may play an important role in the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. The March of Dimes recommends you get 200 mg of DHA a day through diet or supplementation.

When you’re selecting a prenatal, keep in mind that each vitamin can differ in the types and amounts of nutrients it contains because specific vitamin ingredients aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (The FDA, the government agency that ensures the safety and efficacy of drugs, medical devices and our nation’s food supply and cosmetics.) If the vitamin you choose doesn’t contain the full recommended daily amount of a nutrient, be sure to eat foods that are high in that vitamin or mineral.

Folate versus folic acid

You also may notice that some prenatal vitamins contain folate while others contain folic acid. According to Dr. Fox, although most people (including most doctors) use the terms interchangeably, they are technically different—but that generally isn’t an issue for most pregnant people.

“Folate is the natural form of the vitamin (vitamin B9) and folic acid is the synthetic version. For almost everyone, it doesn’t make a difference which one they take. There are some rare reasons why one would choose folate, but again that is quite the exception,” he says.

What Is the Best Prenatal Vitamin?

“The best prenatal is the one you’re actually going to take consistently,” says Dr. Nwankwo.

Vitamins come in multiple forms: pill, soft-gel capsule and gummies. For some, swallowing and holding down a pill can be difficult especially when you’re queasy due to morning sickness. If that’s your situation, try a soft-gel capsule or a gummy vitamin. (Just remember that gummy vitamins do not contain iron, so you may want an extra iron supplement for that.)

Here are some of the most popular choices to consider when deciding on the best prenatal vitamin for you.

Best Affordable Prenatal Vitamins

Nature Made prenatal vitamins are a great value and readily available at most drugstores. They provide your full quota of folic acid, iron and vitamin D as well as other essential vitamins. They even contain the full recommended amount of DHA (great if you don’t regularly eat fish). The bonus? You only have to take one soft gel capsule a day.

Keep in Mind

These Nature Made vitamins are skimpy on calcium, with only 150 mg. If you don’t get enough calcium between that and your diet, you may need a supplement that has more of this vital nutrient.

Best Prenatal Gummy Vitamins

Real talk: keeping anything down can be a major challenge for some parents-to-be. But some swear that vitamin gummies do the trick.

Smarty Pants gummy vitamins come in lemon, orange and strawberry-banana flavors and have zero artificial colors, sweeteners, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. You’ll need to eat six a day to get the amount of folic acid and vitamin D required for pregnant women. And you’ll even get a bit of DHA too (48 mg).

Keep in Mind

You won’t get iron from any gummy vitamin, but this one also lacks calcium. Ask your doctor if an additional supplement is necessary to get the iron and calcium needed during pregnancy. The same brand also makes a popular capsule prenatal.

Best Vegan Prenatal Vitamins

Finding a vegan-friendly prenatal vitamin can be tricky. Three key nutrients, vitamin B12, Omega-3 DHA and iron, are most commonly sourced from animals. (Think meat, fish, eggs and milk.) Ritual vitamins, however, use either bioidentical ingredients (meaning they’re made in a lab) or nutrients sourced through other vegan-friendly methods. The brand’s founder and CEO is even a vegan.

“Ritual provide the best overall value and contain quality ingredients,” says Marissa West, ACE CPT and Nutrition Specialist and CEO of West Kept Secret. Ritual prides itself on ingredient transparency, offering visibly supply chain information on where each of the 12 key nutrients in their prenatal vitamins are sourced. These prenatals contain an abundance (1,000 mcg) of folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid) from Italy, DHA from Canada and vitamin D3 from the United Kingdom, as well as other vitamins and minerals. And for sensitive stomachs, the two capsules a day are designed not to dissolve until they reach an area of your digestive tract that’s less likely to trigger nausea.

Keep in Mind

These supplements lack calcium, and although they have 18 mg of iron, they don’t meet the daily requirement. You’ll have to be focused on getting plenty of those key nutrients through your diet instead. And the price indicates a monthly subscription.

And if you’re looking for a vegan gummy prenatal vitamin, West recommends Garden of Life. They’re unprocessed with clean gummy technology and do not include ingredients typically seen in candy or other gummies like pig gelatin, cornstarch, artificial flavors or colorings.

Best Natural Prenatal Vitamins

MegaFood prenatals use nutrients paried with real food to deliver the nutrition you need throughout your pregnancy. They’re also a good option for vegetarians, since they’re made without dairy, eggs, fish or shellfish, or for anyone with certain food allergies. (They’re also gluten-free and made without tree nuts and peanuts, soy and sesame.)

Keep in Mind

You need 27 to 30 mg of iron a day when you’re pregnant, but Baby & Me 2 only contains 18 mg. Also, this supplement doesn’t contain calcium, so you’ll need to make sure you’re eating plenty of iron- and calcium-rich foods too.

Best Prenatal Vitamin Softgels

A softgel is a middle ground between a gummy and a standard vitamin capsule, and a good option if you’re having trouble getting the latter down without gagging. The One A Day Prenatal offers just what it promises: one pill each day packed with all the nutrients you need before, during and after pregnancy, including folic acid, DHA, iron and calcium. The softgels are easy to swallow and free of artificial sweeteners, flavors, wheat and dairy.

Keep in Mind

Although easier to swallow than traditional pills, these softgels are on the larger side, so take that into consideration.

Best Prenatal Vitamin Packs

The first thing that stands out about Perelel’s prenatal vitamin packs is that they were formulated by a panel of obstetricians and maternal-fetal medicine doctors. The second is what’s inside; instead of just one vitamin, each packet contains a core prenatal plus other capsules that support the different nutrients you need at different times during your pregnancy. (Think a probiotic, extra calcium and even a beauty capsule to support hair, skin and nails.)

The packs are formulated by trimester and include a first, second and third trimester pack. There’s even a Mom Multi-Support Pack for post-pregnancy.

Keep in Mind

Each packet contains a handful of different capsules, so if you’re having trouble stomaching pills and vitamins during your pregnancy, this may not be for you. And these prenatals contain iron but not calcium.

Best Prenatal Vitamin Supplement with DHA

If you’re looking to up your intake of DHA during your pregnancy, this prenatal is a good supplement to take in addition to your daily prenatal vitamin. With 480 mg of DHA per serving, it surpasses daily intake recommendations of omega-3s for baby’s brain development. It’s also certified to be free of environmental toxins, including heavy metals, and has earned a seal of approval by NSF International (a third party that tests supplements for quality and safety).

Keep in Mind

This isn’t a prenatal multivitamin—it’s a DHA supplement. Though it does contain 400 I.U. of vitamin D3 in addition to the DHA, you should take this in addition to a regular prenatal.

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Best Prenatal Vitamins with Iron

Honest prenatals are a once daily non-GMO vitamin formulated from highly bioavailable (AKA easily absorbed by your body) forms of nutrients, digestive fruit enzymes and organic ingredients. These prenatals are full of vitamin D, iron and folic acid, as well as spirulina. They can even be taken on an empty stomach.

Keep in Mind

These vitamins also fall shy of the daily calcium requirement for pregnancy, with only 200 mg. But if you regularly drink milk or eat yogurt, that could be a non-issue for you.

Best Liquid Prenatal Vitamins

Liquid prenatal vitamins may be a good choice if you’re having a tough time swallowing pills and you’re not into gummies. (Though they do have a flavor, so keep that in mind.) The Pink Stork liquid contains 100% or more of the daily recommendation for many important nutrients. It’s gluten-free, non-GMO and contains no animal products. Plus, it claims its 18 mg of iron are non-constipating.

Keep in Mind

You may need a calcium supplement, since this liquid only contains 20 mg of the nutrient. It also comes in a traditional capsule form.

Best Gentle Prenatal Vitamins

The thought of taking a prenatal vitamin when you’re struggling with morning sickness can make your stomach turn even more. This prenatal from New Chapter may be gentler on you, thanks to the addition of ginger. It’s also certified organic, vegetarian, non-GMO, gluten free and Kosher, and has a lot of the vitamins and minerals you want, including folate and iron (the iron also is fermented to also gentler on your system).

Keep in Mind

There’s no DHA in this one, and there’s only a little bit of calcium, so you’ll want to take additional supplements.

Best Store Brand Prenatal Vitamin

It’s no surprise that everyone’s favorite one-stop online shopping resource is now in the vitamins business. Solimo, Amazon’s own brand of everyday essentials, makes a prenatal gummy vitamin that includes nine vitamins and minerals (including folic acid), omega-3s, choline and more. They’re also extremely affordable.

Keep in Mind

These vitamins are gluten-free but they’re not vegan, as they contain fish oil and pork gelatin. And there’s no iron or calcium.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.