Getting the right amounts of fruits, vegetables, and proteins in everyday life is super important and can be a task in and of itself! Adding the nutritional needs of a growing baby makes meeting those daily vitamin goals even more important -- not just for mom's health, but baby's too!
There's a lot to consider when choosing a prenatal vitamin, especially when they are not all created equally. Some prenatals have great amounts of say...iron, while another might have little to no iron in its formula. And there are so many different brands and types to choose from, it might get a little overwhelming for a new mom-to-be to navigate the sea of important supplements.
Consuming the recommended amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can alleviate symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness or constipation, and can help reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. Of course, if you are considering supplementing any vitamin or mineral, pregnant or not, you should consult your health care provider first.
Babies need a lot of good stuff to help them develop before they are ready for their grand entrance into the world. Here are some pregnancy vitamins and other supplements to consider before, during, and after pregnancy.
15 Nature Made Prenatal + DHA: Everything Mom Needs For Great Value
One of the most well known vitamin supplement brands on the market is Nature Made, so naturally their prenatal is worth looking into.
It offers all of your essential B vitamins, including folic acid, and had the recommended amount of DHA. Of course, cramming all of that good stuff into one tiny package means that it’s a pill on the larger side.
But depending on your personal preferences, one giant pill a day might trump multiple small ones throughout the day. It is lacking in calcium and vitamin D, but you can easily make this up by having a picnic in the park with a tub of yogurt (especially if you are pregnancy in the spring and summer months!).
Nature Made prenatals are one of the most cost efficient brands currently on the market, only costing about $15 for 90 pills -- that’s only $0.17 per pill, per day! And they are readily available in most pharmacies and retail stores, such as Target or Rite Aid. The ease of accessibility and the affordability of Nature Made prenatals may offer you one less thing to worry about during the exciting and nerve-wracking time that pregnancy can be. Give your brain a break with Nature Made, and worry about the more important things like baby names!
14 Rainbow Light Prenatals: Specialized But Incomplete And Not Cheap
This is a great company for vegetarian and vegan expectant mothers. They offer different formulas for each trimester of pregnancy, giving you and baby what you need to make it to term.
Their first trimester blend alleviates nausea and supports baby’s brain development. The second trimester formula helps with constipation and sustaining mom’s energy and blood sugar levels. And the third trimester set focuses on preventing iron deficiency and boosting mom’s energy.
There’s something enticing about having a dedicated and specialized vitamin for the different stages of pregnancy, but with that customization, comes a higher price. Each pack rings up at almost $40 per 30 pills. They do offer a more economical option of 120 count prenatal regular pill for $37 (on Amazon) or a 180 count mini pill for $30 (also on Amazon). Many moms have found the mini pill preferable over others, due to their reduced size. The cost of Rainbow Light prenatals might seem little steep, but perhaps it is small price to pay for a health, happy mom and baby.
Another thing to consider is that Rainbow Light prenatals lack DHA and sufficient calcium, but those are easy to supplement from other sources such as your diet.
13 Smarty Pants Prenatal Complete: Delicious Candy But Missing A Lot
Swallowing pills, especially large pills like prenatals, might be the last thing a morning sick mama-to-be feels like doing. Smarty Pants will come to your rescue, allowing you to take your prenatal in gummy form! This means no hard to swallow horse pills!
These prenatal gummy vitamins offer most of the vital nutrients you and your baby need, in a fun and exciting way. You can eat up to 6 gummies a day, and the best part is, it’s like eating candy.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will be able to satisfy your sweet cravings and get your vitamins in all at once, and it won’t feel like a chore. They are also quite affordable for a gummy vitamin, costing about $25 for a 30 day supply.
While these might be a fun way to get in some nutrients, it doesn’t offer any iron and has minimum calcium and DHA, which means you might have to end up taking a pill anyway. But like Premama Prenatal Drink Mix, this could be a good option for pregnant mamas who might not be able to stomach anything more substantial, but still want to make sure they’re getting some amount of their vitamins in for themselves and baby.
12 One A Day Prenatal: Convenient But Missing Important Things
Depending on the version of One A Day Prenatal you choose, you could truly be taking one larger pill a day, or taking two smaller pills once a day. Either one you choose, you will be getting all of your daily essential B vitamins, including folic acid, DHA, and iron. One A Day is another leading and trusted brand of multivitamins which are readily available in most retail stores. Convenience might play a big factor in which prenatal you choose, and having one that you know your local store will have in stock if you run out, offers a little bit reassurance regarding getting you and your baby all the nutrients you need.
Both versions of the prenatal cost about $15 for a 30 day supply, which is a little bit more expensive than Nature Made, but still very affordable. One A Day also has a gummy version available, although it is more pricey at $29 for a 30 day supply.
You will want to supplement your calcium, as One A day only provides 300 mg out of the 1000 mg recommended daily intake, and your vitamin C to aid in iron absorption and to give your immune system an extra boost.
11 Premama Prenatal Drink Mix: Great For Nausea But Missing A Lot
Sometimes during pregnancy, keeping food down can be challenge, and the last thing you want to do is take a horse pill of a prenatal vitamin (some of them are really big!).
Premama Prenatal Drink Mix is a powder you can dissolve in water and drink. Which might make it the right choice for a nauseous mama-to-be.
It’s a convenient option, as you can throw a drink mix packet in your purse, and take it on the go without having to think about how many pills of which vitamin you need to take. Premama Prenatal Drink Mix comes in two flavors on Amazon, unflavored and citrus, and costs about $20 for 28 servings. While it’s an attractive way to get your vitamins in, it unfortunately lacks adequate amounts of essential vitamins and nutrients like vitamins B1 and B3, calcium, iron, and DHA. So you’ll still need to supplement some vitamins through pills or your diet.
This is a relatively new product, and it would be great to see them reformulate the drink mix to be a more complete prenatal supplement, but for now, it’s a great option for some queasy mamas to get some prenatal vitamins and nutrients into their diets.
10 VitaFusion Prenatal Gummies: Delicious And Less Expensive
If you like the thought of a gummy prenatal vitamin, but want to easier on your wallet, VitaFusion is the perfect option.
Like the Smarty Pants brand, it contains most of the essential vitamins and minerals an expectant mother and her baby needs, in a fun and tasty gummy form. The best part about the VitaFusion brand -- it’s only $12 for a 45 day supply of 90 prenatal gummies.
The prenatal gummies are coated in sugar crystals, adding to their candy-like appeal, but with that also comes added sugar to your diet, which might not be great for moms with gestational diabetes. Unlike Smarty Pants, you only need to take 2 VitaFusion gummies a day, compared to Smarty Pants’ 6 daily gummies (though you might find that as a con if you are using your prenatal gummies as a candy substitute, too).
Like most prenatals, you will have to find other sources of calcium and iron, but that those nutrients can easily be met through your diet. You will have to consider how you will get adequate amounts of DHA, as the VitaFusion prenatal has a minimal amount of it, only 50 mg of the recommended 200 mg. Gummy vitamins are a fun and easy way to make sure you are getting your vitamins and keeping you and baby healthy.
9 Garden of Life Raw Prenatal: Natural Mom's Dream
The Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal from Garden of Life is a great option for vegetarian, vegan, or crunchy moms-to-be.
It is a whole food, raw, non-gmo product, and it is surprisingly full of most of the necessary vitamins and minerals pregnant moms need to nourish herself and her baby. The only drawbacks its lack of calcium and iron, which can easily be supplemented through your diet, and the fact that there it has no DHA -- which is understandable because it is a vegetarian product.
The Garden of Life company does, however, offer a separate eco friendly DHA supplement. This prenatal is on the pricier side, costing about $30 for a bottle of 90 capsules, which is a 30 day supply, as the recommended dosage is 3 capsules a day. But the pills aren’t the usual larger size of prenatals, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to swallow down 3 times a day.
It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, and if you’re anything like me, reviews play a big part in choosing a product, especially one so important to health. If you are looking for a more natural prenatal vitamin, and don’t mind having to supplement a few things through the foods you eat, this is a great option!
8 DHA: Good For Mom And Baby
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for brain development and protecting neurological functions.
This is especially true for your developing baby. The fetal nervous system, comprised of the brain and spinal cord, is one of the first systems to develop for your baby-to-be, with the neural plate forming soon after conception and a brain firing signals (like curling into the fetal position) as soon as 8 weeks. During the third trimester, brain development rapidly picks up, tripling the weight of baby’s brain as he or she prepares for their entry into the world.
DHA can be found naturally in oily fish such as salmon or trout, but you might not be too keen on these depending on your food cravings or aversions caused by hormones. It has been recommended that women who are actively trying to conceive, begin supplementing DHA for at least one month prior to becoming pregnant. The recommended daily intake, per the American Pregnancy Association, is a minimum of 300 mg of DHA in combination with 200 mg of EPA. Taking a DHA supplement will also benefit your health in areas such as helping reduce risk factors of heart disease such as high cholesterol.
Making sure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, via foods and supplements, will make all the difference for your developing baby.
7 Folic Acid: Mom Needs It Before She's Pregnant
Another essential nutrient for baby’s brain and nervous system development, folic acid plays a fundamental part in the formation of the neural tube, which goes on to form the brain and spinal cord.
Like DHA, it is recommended that women supplement folic acid prior to becoming pregnant, as this is when it is the most beneficial for your developing baby. Taking in the right amount of folic acid can prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Spina bifida is when the spinal cord is exposed due to vertebrae not developing and closing properly, and generally presents in the lower back. This can cause gastrointestinal issues and difficulty walking. The neural tube begins to develop before most women find out they are pregnant, which is why you should take it before getting pregnant. Taking an extra supplement to prevent these diseases is a small price to pay for a healthy happy baby.
The recommended amount per day is between 400 and 800 micrograms. You can get a small amount of folic acid naturally from foods like leafy greens like spinach, beans, and rice, but most prenatals now include the recommended 800 mcg per dose, making it one less thing you need to worry about.
6 Calcium: Avoids Complications For Moms
Calcium is good for you to stay on top of at any point in your life, pregnant or not. It is a mineral essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, and helps with bodily functions like muscle contractions. It has also been said to help ease symptoms of PMS by 50%.
During pregnancy, calcium can reduce your risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia, and it is most important during the second and third trimesters, as this is when baby’s bones begin to rapidly develop.
To absorb calcium, your body will also need vitamin D, which naturally occurs in trace amounts in food such as egg yolk. If you choose to supplement your calcium, calcium citrate is better absorbed by the body, if taken on an empty stomach. The recommended dietary allowance is about 1000 mg. Most prenatals contain anywhere between 100 and 300 mg, which is less than half of the recommended daily intake of calcium, so it is important for you to seek other sources of calcium through dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. If you are concerned about getting the adequate amount of calcium through your diet, consider taking a calcium supplement. And if one of your pregnancy symptoms happens to be heartburn, taking antacids will help you get some extra calcium in!
5 Vitamin D: Can't Depend On Prenatals For This
One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is vitamin D. Currently between 40-60% of the U.S. population is deficient in the essential vitamin. Widespread vitamin D deficiency is speculated to be caused by low-fat diets and spending too much time indoors.
Vitamin D is essential in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and is also a great immune system booster. Unfortunately, this is another vitamin that most prenatals tend to fall short on.
The recommended daily minimum is 600 IU, while the average prenatal only contains 400 IU. However, taking up to 4000 IU has been observed to help prevent preterm labor, preeclampsia, and infection. For baby, vitamin D supports healthy bone development.
If you have a dietary preference such as being vegan or vegetarian, there are two different forms of vitamin D supplements to consider. Colecalciferol is derived from animal sources like fish liver oil, and ergocalciferol, which is the vegetarian form. Should you choose to take a vegetarian derived version, it is important to consider the quality of the source. But if you’re not up for taking another pill, try to get sufficient vitamin D in naturally. Eat foods fortified in vitamin D like milk and yogurt or spend an extra 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun at least 3 days a week.
4 Iron: Needed For The Baby's Blood And Oxygen
Most prenatals will provide you with an adequate amount of the iron you need during pregnancy.
Iron is used by your body to produce blood, which comes in handy during pregnancy because your body’s blood volume can increase by 30-50%! Iron also aids in moving oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body, including to your growing baby.
Getting a sufficient amount of iron, in general, can prevent anemia, which may cause you to feel excessively tired. Anemia in pregnancy can cause your baby to be born too early or too small.
The daily recommended intake for a pregnant woman is 27 mg, and most prenatals cover this for you. But if you want to get some extra iron in through your diet, consider eating meats like beef, chicken, cooked oysters, and green vegetables like green beans, broccoli, and kale. There are also iron enriched oatmeals, pastas, and rice. For the chocolate lover in you, dark chocolate is a great source of iron, providing a whopping 11 mg of iron for 100 g of chocolate -- that essentially makes chocolate a health food!
There are 2 different types of iron, heme and non-heme, and they are absorbed differently by your body. Heme iron is found in animal products, and the body can absorb up to 30% of the iron source, while non-heme iron is found in plant sources but not as easily processed. If you are getting the majority of your iron from plants, getting enough vitamin C will aid in your body’s iron absorption.
3 Magnesium: So Many Benefits, And Mom Needs So Much
Magnesium is another nutrient that aids in growing strong and healthy bones and teeth for your developing baby.
Pre-pregnancy, magnesium can help reduce ailments such as hypertension, symptoms of PMS, and tooth cavities. During pregnancy it can help relax your muscles, which may prevent premature labor, and can even help you fight any pregnancy insomnia you might feel later in your pregnancy during the third trimester.
It can also help with nausea and loss of appetite, which are the most common symptoms of pregnancy, and regulating blood sugar levels, which will help you stay clear of gestational diabetes. The benefits of this essential mineral are invaluable to mama and baby!
Standard commercial prenatals will not provide you with the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is about 350 mg a day. A leading brand of prenatal supplements only provides 100 mg, but it is not difficult to supplement the nutrient through your diet. If you are eating the right foods, supplementation is not needed and may even be bad for you, having a laxative effect -- though this might be a benefit if one of your pregnancy symptoms is constipation. Eating foods like almonds, spinach, bran cereals, and brown rice will safely and easily help you reach the right amount.
2 Vitamin B Complex: For All The Baby's Needs
If you’re taking a commercial prenatal, you don’t that to worry so much about a vitamin B complex because a standard prenatal will likely provide you with sufficient amounts of all of your B vitamins, but if you want more control over how much of each vitamin you are getting, a vitamin B complex might be for you.
A complex is generally comprised vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12, each playing its own significant role in your body. Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, is important for baby’s brain development.
Riboflavin (B2) is important for healthy skin and good vision. Vitamins B3 and B5 are needed for hormone production, circulation, and metabolism. Pyridoxine, vitamin B6, helps the body produce neurotransmitters. To keep you looking fresh and radiant, B7 (biotin) helps with hair loss and brittle nails. Vitamin B9 is the most important of all the B vitamins. B9 is the previously mentioned folic acid, helping with brain and spinal cord development in the early weeks of pregnancy. The final B vitamin, B12, helps with the proper formation of red blood cells and crosses the placenta to the baby.
With all the benefits of B vitamins during pregnancy, it’s good to make sure you’re getting the right amount of them.
1 Probiotics: The Jury Is Still Out
The pros are on the fence with this one, but they aren’t harmful for you, pregnant or not, so they might be worth a thought. With your hormones running wild and amok, you may experience some changes in your digestive health and regularity. Some women might find themselves running to the bathroom for numbers twos more often, while others might notice that days go in between restroom visits. Either symptom can be a major source of discomfort for mama, and finding a way to subside it can make a world of difference.
Even though the verdict is still out on the validity of probiotics, the Canadian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that between 45 and 90% of certified midwives prescribe expectant mothers natural health products, like probiotics, to alleviate symptoms. Taking a probiotic is supposed to help keep the minimize the bad bacteria and promote good bacteria in your digestive tract, treating symptoms like diarrhea or constipation. A simple probiotic supplement could ease your tummy woes, but if you want to go the more natural route, yogurts with live active cultures like Activia, will work just as well. And eating a yogurt will also help you get in that much needed calcium!
Resources: Americanpregnancy.org, babycenter.com, livestrong.com, draxe.com, amazon.com