Prenatal Nutrition: The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins

prenatal vitaminWhat is the best way to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need for you and your developing baby? From eating nutrition-dense foods, of course! Check out our Weekly Meal Plans to find out how to get all the vitamins and minerals you and your little one need! Even so, taking a prenatal vitamin is recommended to help meet your increased needs during pregnancy.  Bonus: Research reveals that women who take a daily multivitamin before conception may experience fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting during the first trimester.

Because little regulation exists in the nutritional supplement industry, it is up to consumers to find a safe, reliable prenatal vitamin.  Different brands vary greatly in quality and the amounts of vitamins and minerals they contain. It can be confusing, so use these tips to help find the perfect prenatal vitamin for you.

Folate and iron are the most important micronutrients during pregnancy.  Folate is especially vital during the first few weeks of pregnancy, and all women able to have children are advised to get 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Once you know you’re pregnant, the recommendation is 600 mcg.

Our Registered Dietitian’s Personal Preferences/Recommendations

I like MegaFood’s Baby and Me Prenatal, which scored #1 on Labdoor’s quality ranking.  It has a pleasant taste and quality, food-based ingredients.  Unfortunately, this product is on the expensive side and you have to take four, fairly large tablets daily.  So for those with trouble swallowing supplements, I recommend Rainbow Light Prenatal Petite Mini-Tablet.  Like the MegaFood supplement, it is food-based, but easier to swallow, and you only have to take three mini-tablets a day.

I like the liquid iron supplement Floradix for mothers whose providers would like them to take extra iron, as it tends to be less constipating and is in an easy-to-take liquid.

My favorite DHE/EPA supplement is Barlean’s Fish Oil Swirl in the mango peach flavor.  This is the only fish oil I’ve been able to take without the “fishy” aftertaste. Seriously, this stuff tastes good — really good!

Here is a guide of what to look for in a prenatal vitamin:

  • Folic Acid: 400-600 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 400-600 IU
  • Calcium: 150 mg
  • Vitamin C: 70-85 mg
  • Thiamin: 3 mg
  • Riboflavin: 2 mg
  • Niacin 20 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 1.9 mg
  • Vitamin B12: 6 mcg
  • Vitamin E: 10 mg
  • Zinc: 15 mg
  • Copper: 0.9 mg
  • Iron: 17 mg
  • Iodine: 150 mcg

DHA and Choline are important in brain development, so ask your healthcare provider if you should consider using these supplements if they are not already in your prenatal vitamin.  (They often are not.) Recommendations for DHA are 300 mg/day and 450 mg for choline/day.

Many companies hire third-party certifiers to verify the quality of their product to make up for the lack of industry regulation. Look for an independent seal of approval from Consumer Lab, NSF International or USP (United States Pharmacopeia).  For a fee, Consumer Lab and Natural Medicines review and rank supplements.  Labdoor provides a prenatal vitamin ranking based on quality and value, which you can check out here.

If nausea is making it hard to keep your prenatal vitamin down, try taking it at night, with a small snack.  Easy-to-swallow and gummy versions also are available for those with a sensitive gag reflex.

Keep in mind that less is more when it comes to supplementing during pregnancy.  You want a vitamin that fills in the gaps of your diet — but without potentially harmful fillers.  Too much supplementation can lead to toxicity, which can be harmful to both you and your growing baby.

Please work with your midwife or doctor to find a supplementation regimen that is best for you.