Which prenatal vitamins should I take?
It can be confusing to sort through all of the prenatal vitamin options. How do you know which type is right for you? We’ll discuss some of the factors you should keep in mind when you’re making your decision.
Defining prenatal vitamins
You may be wondering what prenatal vitamins are, what they do, and what they’re made of. We’ll answer these questions so you can make a confident decision about which type is right for you.
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are supplements that promote a healthy pregnancy for you and your developing baby. These vitamins contain larger amounts of certain micronutrients, such as folic acid and iron, according to your needs in pregnancy. Health care professionals often recommend prenatal vitamins to help fill in nutritional gaps and suggest that you start taking them at least one month before conception to prepare your body for what it’ll need to keep you and your baby healthy.
Prenatal vitamin ingredients
Read the nutrition label to find the subtle differences between general multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. Look at the amount of folic acid, iron, calcium, and iodine as you compare your options. Folic acid is especially important to the development of your baby’s brain and spine. Since there’s a complex balance of necessary nutrients, we suggest chatting with your primary care provider about which prenatal vitamin might be the best for you.
What do prenatal vitamins do?
Prenatal vitamins can help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet and create a healthy environment for your baby to grow. These supplements work alongside a balanced diet and other healthy habits, like daily exercise and sleep. Chat with your primary care provider about which prenatal vitamins might be best for you if you are considering pregnancy, currently pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Types of prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins can be prescribed or found over-the-counter. There are several different types of prenatal vitamins ranging from tablets to liquid forms. No matter the type of prenatal vitamin, or its form, the purpose remains the same. These supplements are designed to promote a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby, so how do they differ?
Prescription vs. over-the-counter prenatal vitamins
Most prenatal vitamins contain a base set of micronutrients that have known beneficial qualities. The biggest difference between prescription vs over-the-counter prenatal vitamins is the number of certain nutrients contained in each. Prescription prenatal vitamins often have slightly higher amounts of folic acid and iron compared to over-the-counter prenatal vitamins. The benefit of over-the-counter prenatal vitamins if they tend to be more affordable than prescription versions.
Reading the directions before buying may be helpful to your decision process. More studies are required on the safety and efficacy of some added ingredients, so check with your primary care provider if you’re concerned about the reliability of the prenatal vitamins you’re considering.
Forms of prenatal vitamins
Prenatal vitamins come in all sorts of forms including (but not limited to) gels, tablets, capsules, and gummies. There are vegan and organic options as well. Choosing which prenatal vitamin to take depends upon your circumstances as well as preferences. Be wary of anything outside of the suggested ingredients list your primary care provider gives you. The most important ingredients include micronutrients like folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium.
Considerations when comparing types of prenatal vitamins
You may have heard that you should avoid most over-the-counter medications and supplements while pregnant, but prenatal vitamins are considered an exception to this rule. Both prescribed and over-the-counter supplements provide the extra nutrients your body needs in pregnancy. There are several factors to think about when you’re trying to decide which prenatal vitamins to take. Here are some guiding questions:
How much folic acid does the prenatal vitamin contain?
What form does the iron take and is it likely to cause nausea or constipation?
How much does it cost?
Will I remember to take it according to directions?
What’s the quality of the supplement?
Are there extra (unnecessary) ingredients?
What’s missing from my diet?
Am I taking any medications that can interact with the prenatal vitamins?
Do I prefer over-the-counter or prescription options?
Some studies state over-the-counter options often have larger amounts of certain micronutrients. Iron, folic acid, and vitamin B6 are some of these exceptions. More studies are needed to gain a greater understanding of the efficacy and safety of individual prenatal vitamin options.
It can be beneficial to chat with your primary care provider for advice specific to your situation.