Pregnancy Nutrition

How to Choose the Best Prenatal Vitamins

Did you get your big fat positive or are trying to conceive? If so, you need to make sure your body’s getting the right amount of vitamins.

Vitamins are vital to a healthy pregnancy. Both you and your baby need certain nutrients to survive the labor of pregnancy.

Prenatal vitamins safeguard your little one(s) from birth defects. They also protect your body from depletion throughout gestation.

Recent studies reveal that by taking a prenatal vitamin, 50 to 70 percent of NTDs are preventable.

If you’re unclear about how to choose the right vitamin for your pregnancy, read on. Learn here how to choose the best prenatal vitamins.

Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription

Before you decide to conceive, start taking a prenatal vitamin. If you’re pregnant but aren’t at least eight weeks into your pregnancy, begin a prenatal. Most OB-GYNs won’t meet with you anyway until you’re at least that far along.

If you don’t know whether to call your PCP for a script or pick off the shelves, consider the ingredients.

Over-the-Counter Prenatals

OTC prenatal vitamins contain the basic amount of nutrients as the prescription versions. The difference is preservatives and extra ingredients.

Over-the-Counter vitamins sell several ways–whole foods, vegan, vegetarian, or packed with preservatives.

Generic brands contain oils, lecithin, synthetic dyes, starches, sugars, and diglycerides. The TAC links dyes and certain preservatives to cancer and neurological dysfunction in children.

These additives are counterproductive to the nutrients you and your baby need. They’re better than nothing, but not the best choice.

If you choose an OTC prenatal brand, lean towards organic and whole food labels. These brands offer food-based nutrients without additives and dyes. Plus, if you have gluten, soy, or dairy allergies, some sell gluten-free and vegan.

Prescription Filled Prenatals

The moment you get your BFP, contact your primary care physician. They’ll meet with you to confirm your pregnancy. And, they’ll prescribe a prenatal that fits your health profile.

If you have wellness issues like low iron, allergies, or other conditions, they can prescribe the right prenatal formula for you.

The added benefit is that you get a supercharged formula with DHA, Omega 3 Fatty Acid, and extra iron.

Necessary Nutrients

Prenatals are important because they contain the necessary nutrients. These nutrients are for proper growth and survival of your baby.

Don’t be mistaken. Vitamins are supplements not meals. They don’t take the place of a healthy diet. You’re still responsible for eating a diet that’s healthy and safe for you and your baby.

Prenatal Minimums

It’s suggested that moms-to-be take a prenatal supplement that has 400mcg of folic acid. 27mg of iron is also recommended during pregnancy.

Folic acid is in the B vitamin family. It promotes energy in the body and helps form red blood cells. For pregnant women, it prevents NTDs, which affects the baby’s brain and spine.

Iron prevents anemia and supports the forming of healthy red blood cells in babies. It also supports mothers, since some moms suffer iron depletion during the pregnancy.

Necessary Nutrients

A good prenatal vitamin contains all the key ingredients to support mother and baby. It should supplement vitamin shortages and provide the minimums.

Look for these minimums in your prenatal:

Folic Acid

The recommended minimum is 400mcg but health professionals suggest 800mcg during pregnancy. Women who struggle with obesity need higher prescribed dosages.

Higher BMIs put pregnant women at greater risk of Neural Tube Defects. Age is a factor as well. Women in their 30s and 40s should take more than the minimum to promote a healthy pregnancy.


Most whole foods vitamins are iron-rich. Poultry, beans, and fortified cereals and bread contain strong levels of iron. Eat a healthy amount daily, and choose a vitamin that doesn’t fall below the minimum.

Vitamin D and Calcium

Contrary to popular belief, calcium and vitamin D are not the same thing. Calcium is a mineral in the body that builds bones, helps muscles contract, and the heart to beat. Our bones and teeth contain the majority of it.

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that work to help the body absorb calcium. Until your newborn’s exposed to sunlight, vitamin D aids your baby’s skin and eyesight.

When calcium and vitamin D work in tandem, they support the development of the baby’s bones and teeth.


B6 helps to settle and sustain the nervous system. And for pregnant women that’s a plus, considering morning sickness.

Its prescription name is pyridoxine. When combined with doxylamine, it reduces morning sickness. Make sure your prenatal contains at least 2mg of B6.

DHA and Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acid promotes healthy brain development in fetus’ and newborns. It breaks down into types–EPA and DHA, and ALA. DHA and EPA are omega 3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish. ALA shows up in nuts and seeds.

It’s rare for OTC supplements to carry Omega 3 Fatty Acid. Ask your PCP or OBGYN to prescribe a vitamin that contains the 200mg minimum.

Other Vitamins and Minerals

Watch for smart doses of vitamins A, C, E, zinc and copper. Make sure these and other minerals–thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12–exceed the DRI.

Benefits of the Best Prenatal Vitamins

The best pregnancy supplements do more than provide the recommended dose of vitamins. Good prenatals should

  • Help balance your diet. The average person does not eat a perfect diet every day. Neither do pregnant women. The benefit of taking a prenatal is so your baby doesn’t miss out on essential vitamins and minerals. The added advantage is neither do you. It’s still important for you to eat a healthy diet. But on your bad days, prenatal vitamins come to the rescue.
  • Ease Morning Sickness. 80% of pregnant women experience morning sickness in the first trimester. The best vitamin has b6, which reduces nausea.
  • Prevent Premature Birth. A prenatal that contains B12 targets low birth weight in babies and prevents preterm birth.

Don’t skip out on these benefits. They’re designed for both you and your baby.

Start Taking a Prenatal Vitamin

You can buy generic vitamins anywhere. But the best prenatal vitamins serve you and your baby throughout your pregnancy.

If you’re trying to conceive, find an OTC brand that’s close to prescription quality. As soon as you receive a positive, discuss your options with your PCP and start taking a prenatal asap.

Check out our nutrition guide for healthy ways to guide you through your pregnancy.


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

NOTE: Some of the links in this post might be affiliate links.  This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, we’ll receive a small commission – at no extra cost for you, which helps us cover the costs for the blog.

Stephanie McClane About Author

Stephanie McClane is a mother of three and enjoys sharing the knowledge she gathered throughout her pregnancies. After approaching her last two pregnancies from a more holistic prespective and having two natural births, she was inspired to share her experiences with other moms-to-be.

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