A Plethora of Prenatal Vitamins: How Do You Choose?

Even the healthiest mom-to-be needs some extra help to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals for growing a healthy baby. When morning sickness hits, it’s hard to keep all that nutritious *cough* food down, so prenatals are a must. Prenatal vitamins also help protect against neural-tube defects that can happen in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy.

With a plethora of vitamins available, how do you find the one that’s right for you?

Folic Acid

Folic acid is an essential component in any prenatal vitamin. This synthetic form of the naturally occurring B-Vitamin folate is vital in early development to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly, a condition when the majority of the brain and skull doesn’t develop. It also reduces the risks of congenital heart disease, preterm birth, and oral clefts. The U.S. Public Health Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting 400mg daily.


Blood production goes into overdrive when you’re pregnant. The amount of blood swirling around will almost be twice as much while you’re growing your baby. Iron is needed to make more hemoglobin for all the extra blood. Iron also is needed for your growing baby and a healthy placenta. Normally, a non-pregnant woman needs about 18mg a day, but when pregnant the The CDC recommends a minimum of 27mg daily. Keep in mind, more isn’t always better. Too much iron can be dangerous. Ask your OB or midwife for guidelines specific to your needs.

One of the not so pleasant side effects of iron is constipation. Be sure to eat plenty of veggies, fruits, beans, and lentils. Drink plenty of water or other fluids that you can keep down to keep everything moving along. Eating smaller more frequent meals will also help your tummy to digest food without working overtime. And eating this way is also a good way to help reduce morning sickness. If things aren’t moving, call your OB or midwife and ask about using a stool softener for a while.


As you can imagine, calcium is important to build your baby’s bones, but getting enough is also crucial to the mother’s health as well. If your baby doesn’t get enough from you, your body will draw it from your bones to ensure your baby gets what it needs to develop its circulatory, muscular, and nervous system. Pregnant and non-pregnant women have the same daily recommendations for calcium – 1300mg a day.


DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid essential for healthy brain and vision development. The March of Dimes recommends 200mg daily. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are some plant-based DHA options for prenatal vitamins. DHA tablets from algae is a fish-free option. If your appetite allows, you can easily get 200mg daily by eating an ounce of flax or chia seeds or one cup of cooked spinach or kale. Prefer berries? If you eat a little over a cup of blueberries you’ll meet the quota. Wild rice is often easy on the tummy and if you eat a cup, you’ll get about half of the DHA you need for the day.

Beyond the Basics

Beyond folic acid, calcium, and iron, prenatal vitamins usually contain other vitamins and minerals like niacin, thiamin, zinc, riboflavin, iodine, and vitamins B12, C, D, and E. Discuss your diet and activity plans with your OB or midwife. Your individual eating habits and activity levels will dictate what vitamins and minerals you need.

Pill Popping Woes

Prenatal vitamins can be huge! Not exactly the easiest thing to swallow with a full glass of water on an empty stomach—especially when you’re contending with nausea! If the horse-size pills are just too large to get down, try shopping for a mini pill instead. Have you always had an aversion to taking pills? Try pills that dissolve or are chewable. You can even find prenatal vitamins in gummy form. Still yet another option is a powder prenatals. You can sneak your vitamins and minerals into a smoothie, or just add to your water bottle.

These non-traditional options may cost a bit more and might not be available at your corner drugstore, but they’re easily found online. Remember, you may not necessarily have to use a non-traditional prenatal the whole pregnancy. By the second trimester, you may be able to cope with swallowing a pill as your morning sickness subsides.

As far as nausea goes, many pregnant women have found taking a prenatal before bed prevents queasiness because you’ll likely sleep through any minor tummy trouble.

What are some of the things you look for in a prenatal vitamin? Share your favorite brands with us!

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