Choosing a prenatal supplement can seem like an almost impossible task. After all, there are countless options available, including those by prescription. Then, you also have to consider whether or not you’ll be able tolerate their smell and taste, what specific nutrients they contain, and more...
In fact, by the time you finally find the right one for you, you may have already delivered your new bundle of joy.
To help you narrow down your options, the following offers information on what you need to look for in a prenatal supplement, along with what you should avoid. You’ll also find reviews on our top 5 prenatal supplements. However, before we get started, there’s one really important question to answer. Do you actually need a prenatal vitamin?
Who Needs a Prenatal Vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins are formulated specifically for the needs of pregnant women, women trying to get pregnant, and breastfeeding women. If you’re not in one of these categories, you should look for a supplement that better suits your nutritional needs.
Physicians report that you could experience side effects if you choose to take prenatal vitamins when you do not need them. (1) These side effects include:
Upset stomach, heartburn, or constipation
Liver damage due to the large doses of iron often found in prenatal vitamins
A vitamin B12 deficiency, which has the potential to cause neurological symptoms, including numbness and tingling in your extremities
Other chronic conditions that result from taking too much of a vitamin. For example, excessive vitamin A supplementation is associated with weakened bones and can increase your risk of a bone fracture as much as seven times. (2)
Here's Why You Need a Prenatal Vitamin
Again, prenatal vitamins are intended for women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. In these situations, prenatal vitamins provide critical nutrients, particularly folic acid and iron, that both you and your baby need throughout pregnancy.
Folic acid, which can be hard to get through diet alone, plays a crucial role in your baby’s brain and spinal cord development as well as in the role of cell division and DNA production. (3) It is also necessary to prevent major neural tube defects.
Other reasons you need a prenatal vitamin include:
- They are usually formulated with calcium and omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA (docosahexaenoic), that assist in your unborn baby’s brain and eye development. (4)
- Maternal vitamin supplementation, even without additional folic acid or iron, is associated with a 31% decreased risk of intellectual disability and ASD in children, though researchers concede this warrants further study. (5)
- Taking prenatal vitamins for 1 month before conception could reduce your risk and severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. (6) If you’ve ever experienced morning sickness, you’ll really appreciate this fact.
- Prenatal vitamins that include vitamin D supplementation have been found to reduce your likelihood of having an underweight newborn or baby who died in the womb or during infancy by 28%. (7)
- They help you maintain your overall health during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
What to Look for in a Prenatal Supplement
There are several key things you want to look for when selecting a prenatal supplement. They include:
Look for specific vitamins and minerals. According to WebMD, folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamin D should definitely be on the list of ingredients. (8) They go on to say that the ideal prenatal vitamin should include:
♦ 400 mcg of folic acid (prescription prenatal vitamins may have up to 1,000 mcg)
♦ 400 IU of vitamin D
♦ 200 to 300 mcg of calcium
♦ 70 mg of vitamin C
♦ 6 mcg of vitamin B12
♦ 10 mg of vitamin E
♦ 3 mg of thiamine
♦ 2 mg of riboflavin
♦ 20 mg of niacin
♦ 15 mg of zinc
♦ 150 mcg of iodine
♦ 17 mg of iron
Finally, don’t forget about the omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, particularly DHA, are necessary for your baby’s brain development. With that being said, they are not included in all prenatal supplements, meaning you’ll want to check the list of ingredients to be certain.
Speak with your physician about the need for prescription vs. an OTC prenatal supplement. Prescription supplements often have higher concentrations of nutrients, which can be difficult for some women to tolerate. In most cases, an OTC prenatal supplement is sufficient unless you are seriously lacking certain nutrients in your diet.
What to Avoid in a Prenatal Supplement
Don’t assume more is better. Some vitamins can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. For example, your supplement should include no more than 800 mcg or 4,000 IU of vitamin A. (9)
Avoid supplements with additives. Remember, your baby will also be consuming any artificial colors, dyes, flavors, and preservatives.
Avoid forms that make you sick. Don’t resign yourself to swallowing a huge pill. Prenatal vitamins are also available in liquids, gummies, and capsules. If one makes you sick, try something else.
OUR SPECIALIZED RANKING SYSTEM
Now, that you have a better understanding of prenatal supplements and how you can benefit from their use, it’s time to look at some of the most popular models on the market. At Smarter Reviews, we employ a comprehensive evaluation system to analyze and measure the full value of products. This is based on component quality, safety, potential effectiveness, return policies, and overall customer satisfaction. We call our method the Smarter Reviews Ranking System.