Best Over The Counter Prenatal Vitamins
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Whether you are already pregnant or trying to get pregnant, prenatal vitamins are definitely in your near future. These are the best prenatal vitamins that will get you and your growing babe everything you need.
Between your need for a McDonald’s Big Mac, eating an entire container of cookies in one sitting, and constantly craving watermelon, it can be hard to know if you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals both you and baby need.
This is why prenatal vitamins are a must during (and before) pregnancy. They help fill in the gaps in your day-to-day nutrients and ease your mind when it comes to making sure your bump is growing well (which leaves room to worry about other things - like nursery decor!)
In this article:
- What are prenatal vitamins?
- Why are prenatal vitamins important?
- When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
- How to choose a prenatal vitamin?
- Prenatal vitamins we recommend
What are prenatal vitamins?
At your first OB/GYN appointment, your doctor probably went over some pregnancy basics, like; eat healthy, exercise, warm up your lunch meats, and take a prenatal vitamin.
Chances are your head was buzzing with excitement, so you just eagerly nodded along, only to get in your car ten minutes later and realize you forgot to ask “Wait, what the heck are prenatal vitamins?”
Don’t worry, girl. We got you.
Prenatal vitamins are supplements for pregnant women that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are really important for both you and the development of your baby.
Since your body is, you know, growing a human, making sure you’re stocked on key nutrients is the best thing you can do for yourself and your babe.
Even the healthiest eaters need to take prenatal vitamins! Your body needs more of the essential nutrients to help support to help boost your immune system (which weakens during pregnancy) and keep that sweet raspberry as healthy as possible.
Why are prenatal vitamins important?
Prenatal vitamins are super important because they make sure you and your babe are taking in the necessary nutrients and they can help prevent birth defects!
In the first eight-ish weeks of pregnancy, your baby heavily relies on your body to supply all of its nutrients, which is where that awful first-trimester fatigue and nausea comes from. Between eight and thirteen weeks pregnant, the baby begins to rely on the placenta more, which then helps you find relief from those mid-day bathroom trips and cat naps at your desk.
Babies grow unbelievably quick in-utero, going from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a peach in just thirteen weeks. Making sure you are taking the recommended dose of folic acid, iron, vitamin D, and calcium (to name a few) helps promote healthy growth and development for your rapidly growing babe.
The recommended daily amount of vitamins for women is higher during pregnancy because your body gives a lot of those nutrients to your babe through the placenta (how cool is that?!). So even if you think you’re taking in enough of these nutrients, taking a prenatal vitamin is still a good idea.
When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?
In a perfect world where all pregnancies are planned, you should start taking prenatal vitamins when you start trying to conceive. The main nutrient to look for in a prenatal pre-conception is one that’s high in folic acid, since the baby’s neural tube develops in the first four weeks of pregnancy - which is usually before a positive pregnancy test!
Realistically, a prenatal should be started as soon as you see those two pretty pink lines and continue taking them all the way until delivery. Many doctors recommend continuing prenatal vitamins post-birth, especially if you choose to breastfeed, since those nutrients are still majorly needed!
Another option is to add a prenatal vitamin to your daily routine if you are at child-bearing age, just in case. Besides, you could probably use the nutrients even if you aren’t planning on getting pregnant anytime soon.
Experiencing nausea from your prenatal vitamins (it’s a super common side effect)? Try taking them before bed! That way you sleep through the nausea, and have an easy routine established to remember to take them!
How to choose a prenatal vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins can be found at your local grocery or whole foods store, and you rarely need a prescription for them.
Like snowflakes, no two prenatal vitamins are the same. Since they aren’t regulated by the FDA, the variety between prenatal vitamins is usually quite vast and can be very overwhelming.
When shopping for prenatal vitamins, there are a few key vitamins that are especially necessary for a pregnant woman
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you check for these four key nutrients (and amounts) in your prenatal vitamin:
- Folic Acid: (at least) 400 mcg daily
Folic acid is a B vitamin your body needs for growing and developing. It helps prevent neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid can be found in leafy greens (like spinach), citrus fruits, beans, bread, pasta, rice, and cereal (so eat your carbs, girl!).
- Iron: 27 mg daily
Iron is used to make a substance in red blood cells, which then carries oxygen to your tissues and organs (like your placenta). Pregnant women require double the average recommendation of iron so their body can make more blood, which means more oxygen for your tiny gymnast. Foods like spinach, broccoli, legumes, red meat, and quinoa are all high in iron.
FYI: Iron is more easily absorbed when eaten with vitamin c rich foods!
- Vitamin D: 600 international units (IU) daily
Vitamin D is essential for healthy skin and eyesight, and also works with calcium to ensure your baby’s bone growth and teeth development. Did you know vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight? However, especially while pregnant, it’s important to practice sun safety. As an alternative, salmon, eggs, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice are great options to up your vitamin D intake!
- Calcium: 1000 mg daily
We’ve all heard that milk makes your bones strong, right? Well, it’s not milk that makes your bones strong, it’s the calcium that’s in it. Calcium is responsible for healthy bone and teeth growth, so drink up Mamacita! (Milk, that is.) Cheese, yogurt, beans, lentils, broccoli, and almonds are all great sources of calcium!
Other vitamins to look for in your prenatal vitamins are:
- Vitamin C: 85 mg
- Vitamin B12: 2.6 mg
- Vitamin E: 22 mg
- Vitamin A: 770 mcg
Another term you might see when looking for the perfect prenatal is DHA. DHA stands for Docosahexaenoic acid (yes, that’s a real word), but we are going to stick to calling it DHA.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps grow your pumpkin’s brain and nervous system, which happens in the third trimester. After birth, DHA helps with brain and motor development, coordination, and eyesight. The recommended daily amount of DHA for a pregnant woman is 200mg.
There are several different forms of prenatal vitamins; soft gel, gummy, and pills. Depending on what you’re most comfortable with will determine the type of prenatal you’ll want. For the moms that have a hard time swallowing (and keeping down) pills, try gummies or soft gels. Remember that gummies don’t contain iron, so you’ll have to find an iron supplement for that.
Prenatal vitamins we recommend
If you’ve spent what felt like hours pacing the grocery store aisle, desperately comparing every ingredient, you aren’t alone (I promise!). To make this entire process easier, we went ahead and found a few promising options for you.
- Budget-friendly: Nature Made Multivitamin Prenatal
Baby got your wallet? Then this prenatal was made with you in mind!
Nature Made Multivitamins are high in folic acid, iron, zinc, and Vitamin D and made without preservatives, synthetic dyes, or gluten. The cherry on top? This soft gel prenatal only has to be taken once a day.
- Best gummy option: Vitafusion Prenatal Gummy Vitamins
Having to swallow a horse-sized pill can ruin anyone’s day. Thankfully, gummy prenatal vitamins were invented. Vitafusion’s prenatal gummies provide as much vitamin C as ten tangerines, as well as folic acid and DHA. Keep in mind: This prenatal gummy contains no iron. An additional iron supplement may be needed.
- Plant-Based option: Honest Company Whole-Food Based Prenatal
Prefer a fruit and veggie based diet? We’ve got just the thing for you!
Honest Company’s Whole-food prenatal is made with an organic blend of fruits and veggies, non-GMO vitamins and minerals, and digestive enzymes sourced from papaya, pineapples, and kiwi.
Packed with folic acid, iron, and vitamin D, spirulina, and ginger, these pills can even be taken on an empty stomach.
- With DHA: One A Day Prenatal Vitamin
Not a huge fan of fish but still want to make sure your babe gets all the omega-3’s they deserve? These One A Day prenatal vitamins have more than enough folic acid, iron, and vitamin D to get you to labor day, and 535 mg total of omega-3’s and DHA.
- Best all around: Pink Stork Total Prenatal
Chocked full of folic acid, vitamin D, iron, and DHA, these easy-to-swallow vegetarian tablets will fit every pregnancy need! They are made for every stage of pregnancy, from pre-conception to breastfeeding, and follow the FDA’s recommended daily values of key nutrients.
When starting to look for prenatal vitamins, think about what nutrients are crucial for your diet. If you are dairy free, calcium is a must. Does fish make your stomach turn? Check for DHA. Vegetarian? Find a prenatal that’s high in protein! Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to find prenatal vitamins for every diet.
Feeling stuck or overwhelmed? Ask your doctor for a suggestion! They probably know your needs as well as you do and can help recommend a prenatal vitamin that fits all of your needs.
- Emily Rader