9 Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022, According to Experts
Best Prenatal Vitamins of 2022
February 7, 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?

The short answer: yes.

A run-of-the-mill multivitamin won’t cut it when you’re pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are specially designed multivitamins that deliver the extra amounts of nutrients needed during various stages of your baby’s development. For example, they contain folic acid, which is important for baby’s brain development in the earliest stages. And many have vitamin D and calcium to build strong bones and teeth during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Plus, prenatal vitamins help make sure you have enough nutrients such as iron, to not only provide to your baby but so your own body doesn’t become depleted.

When To Start Taking 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.

And how long do you take prenatal vitamins? If you’re planning on breastfeeding, Dr. Nwankwo recommends you continue to take your prenatal vitamins 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.

What To Look for In Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are readily available over the counter and a prescription is generally unnecessary. (Note: check with your insurance to see if they cover prenatal vitamins. If so, you’ll likely need your doctor to give you a prescription for them.)

If you’re concerned about which to choose, don’t be. “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. “It also doesn’t matter whether you take a tablet or a gummy, just make sure it has the right amount of vitamins you need.”

Every vitamin can differ in the types and amounts of nutrients it contains because specific vitamin ingredients aren’t regulated by the FDA. 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.

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 prevent anemia, which can affect delivery of oxygen to the baby via red blood cells. Keep in mind that most gummies don’t contain iron.)
  • Calcium: 1,000 mg (Helps with bone health. Note 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.

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. or 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 Are the Best Prenatal Vitamins?

“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 Budget Prenatal Vitamin

If you’re watching your wallet, Nature Made prenatal vitamins are a great value. Not to mention, you can probably find them at your local drugstore. They provide your full quota of folic acid, iron and vitamin D as well as other essential vitamins.

The Nature Made prenatals 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

Okay, 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.

Best Prenatal Vitamins with DHA

If you’re looking to up your intake of DHA during your pregnancy, this prenatal is a good supplement. 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, if you’re looking for iron, folic acid or other vitamins and minerals, you should take this in addition to a regular prenatal.

Best Natural Prenatal Vitamins

Sure, MegaFood vitamins are pricey, but there’s a good reason why. This brand has an independent seal of approval by NSF International, a third party that verifies supplements meet high quality and safety standards.

Unlike other brands that use less-expensive but harder-to-absorb ingredients, Baby & Me 2 is loaded with “food state” nutrients—in other words, they’re naturally derived from foods (many of which are organic), which makes them easy for your body to actually use. You get the perfect amount of vitamin D and more than enough folic acid by taking the recommended two pills a day.

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.

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Best Prenatal Vitamins with Iron

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but the Honest Co. uses a coating of natural vanilla instead to make their once-a-day prenatals easier to swallow. Digestive enzymes derived from pineapple, papaya and kiwi, plus ginger and B6, help the pills better settle in a sensitive stomach too.

These prenatals are full of vitamin D, iron and folic acid, as well as spirulina. They have many organic ingredients, and 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 Prenatal Vitamins with Folate/Folic Acid

If you’re all about knowing where your food comes from, you’re going to love these vitamins. Ritual not only specifies the exact form of their vitamins and minerals (since there can be more than one option), but also where each nutrient is 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.

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 that not everyone loves.) 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. May be worth a try!

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 vitamin that includes nine vitamins and minerals (including folic acid), omega-3s, choline and more. These gummy vitamins have 10,000+ positive reviews (and growing) and are extremely affordable.

Keep in Mind

These vitamins are gluten-free but they’re not vegan, as they contain fish oil and pork gelatin.

Choosing What Prenatal Is Right For You

When thinking about which prenatal vitamin to buy, consider what you typically eat and where your diet may fall short. If you’re a vegetarian, iron supplementation might be crucial. If you don’t eat dairy, calcium might be a must-have. Hate fish? Then look for a vitamin that contains DHA.

If you still feel unsure about which prenatal vitamin is best for you, ask your doctor for a recommendation. You’ll rest easier knowing you’re taking a supplement that helps your body keep up with the increased demands of pregnancy.

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.