The importance of getting proper nutrition during your pregnancy can’t be overstated. It’s crucial to the health of your baby that you receive the right balance of vitamins and minerals during this period. This will ensure they thrive in the womb and get off on the right foot when they’re born. Finding the best prenatal vitamins however isn’t easy.
You need to know what’s in them and, just as important, what isn’t. Because you don’t want to be inadvertently feeding your baby a bunch of artificial ingredients or genetically modified organisms. After extensive consideration we’ve chosen the following as the best prenatal vitamins of 2021.
1. Rainbow Light Prenatal One Multivitamin
Rainbow Light delivers comprehensive vitamin and mineral coverage for expecting mothers with their Prenatal One Multivitamin. The formula here was devised in close consultation with doctors and nutrition scientists and is designed to meet the unique dietary needs of pregnant and nursing mothers. None of the nutrients in Prenatal One were derived from animal products.
Prenatal One is also free of gluten, sugar, dairy, wheat, soy, nuts, shellfish, lactose and yeast. As such, the odds of producing an allergic reaction of any sort is remote. Prenatal One also includes a potent mix of superfoods (1) including spirulina, kale, broccoli, carrots and more. These are pure, high potency tablets that will benefit both mother and child and will help prevent anemia and constipation.
2. Nature Made Prenatal + DHA Softgels
You’ll find Nature Made supplements on a lot of “Best Of” lists because the company is known for sweating the details. Their Prenatal + DHA Softgels contain no artificial flavors or fillers, no yeast or starch and no GMOs. Prenatal + DHA is formulated to meet the vital nutritional needs of expectant and nursing mothers and their babies.
There are essential DHA omega-3 fatty acids to help build strong muscles, iron to stave off anemia, vitamin D for a healthy heart, zinc to ensure a robust immune system and much more. Nature Made vitamins are produced in a Good Manufacturing Practices facility to ensure purity and potency and are clinically proven to facilitate the absorption of key nutrients. You’ll rest easy knowing your nutrient bases are covered with Prenatal + DHA from Nature Made.
3. Smarty Pants Prenatal Vitamins
Smarty Pants Chewable Prenatal Vitamins feature vital omega-3 fatty acids for proper muscle development, folate to promote robust fetal development, vitamin D to help boost the cardiovascular system and keep expectant moms healthy while pregnant and vitamin E to support antioxidant activity. Smarty Pants Chewable Prenatals are made in the US in a Good Manufacturing Practices facility and are completely free of GMOs, milk, wheat, tree nuts, eggs, seafood, soy and gluten.
They’re formulated using recommendations drawn up the the National Academies of Science in concert with the company’s own renowned Scientific Advisory Board. The goal is to ensure a prenatal vitamin of the highest quality and effectiveness. And it’s fair to say they succeed.
4. NATURELO Prenatal Whole Food Multivitamin
Naturelo Prenatal Whole Food multis are a premium food-based multi that doesn’t rely on animal products to provide its comprehensive assortment of essential vitamins and minerals. It’s specifically formulated to provide proper nourishment not only to expectant moms but to their babies as well, with a focus on baby’s heart, bones and brain development.
Naturelo Prenatals are soy, gluten, yeast, sugar and dairy free. They are made without genetically modified organisms and feature folate to promote fetal development, vitamin D to support heart health, calcium to promote strong bones and zinc to boost the immune system. The also high in vitamins A, B, C, E and K and feature magnesium, iron, selenium and more. Made in the USA in an FDA certified facility to ensure purity and safety.
5. New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamins
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamins are made with 100% organic ingredients and formulated to be easy on your stomach and fully supportive of your developing baby. These are easily digestible tablets that you can confidently take on an empty stomach. They’re free of allergens, free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and 100% free of genetically modified organisms. In addition they’re free of sugar and animal gelatin and certified vegetarian safe.
Perfect Prenatals also address the vexing issue of morning sickness by including beneficial ginger. This is a complete prenatal multivitamin for mother and child that is also rich in iron to promote healthy red blood cell production and stave off anemia. There’s also vitamins C and A along with zinc to promote a healthy immune system and D3 to for a strong heart.
6. Mama Bird Prenatal Multivitamin
Mama Bird Prenatals contain methylated folate to help ensure fetal health and are free of soy, yeast, seafood, nuts and artificial colors, preservatives and flavors. They’re made in an FDA certified facility in the US and contain zero genetically modified organism and zero dairy as well. Mama Bird uses methylated folate rather than folic acid because it’s the most potent form known.
Even women with a genetic predisposition to resisting folic acid absorption will be able to benefit from methylated folate. Beyond that Mama Bird Prenatals contain a full array of important vitamins and minerals including Vitamins B12 and D as well as zinc, magnesium and iron to stave off anemia. You’ll pay a little bit more for Mama Bird Prenatal Multivitamins, but you’ll be able to rest assured you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need.
7. Nature’s Way Alive! Prenatal Gummy Multivitamin
Proper nutrition is vital during pregnancy but high-end vitamins aren’t always in the budget. Not to worry. Nature’s Way Alive! provide expectant mothers with an affordable way to get the high potency, bioavailable nutrients they need to ensure robust health. Alive! contains more than a dozen vitamins and minerals crucial to prenatal health, including B12 which studies have shown (2) is vital to preventing premature birth. Alive! is also soy, gluten, dairy, wheat and yeast free and contains no peanuts, artificial flavoring or preservatives and no gelatin.
They’re also rich in antioxidants. Nature’s Way Alive! are provided in an easy to swallow gummy form with natural strawberry and lemon flavoring. Chew 3 of these per day and you’ll increase your odds of a healthy, full term pregnancy.
8. Pure Encapsulations Prenatal Nutrients
Folic acid has been a hot topic in the prenatal vitamin world with research demonstrating that it is not only essential for DNA replication and vitamin metabolism but that it helps protect against structural anomalies in the fetus, including different types of congenital heart defects (3). Getting enough folic acid then is key. But not every woman is able to metabolize folic acid with the same level of effectiveness.
The solution is methylated folate which provides a mechanism for absorption missing in other forms of this necessary nutrient. In addition to folate Pure Encapsulations provides B12 to help prevent premature birth, magnesium, iron for strong blood composition and calcium for strong bones in both mother and baby. Pure Encapsulations Prenatals contain zero hydrogenated fat, no gluten, no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and are free of allergens.
9. MegaFood Baby & Me Prenatal
MegaFood Baby & Me Prenatal vitamins help provide mother and baby with the all-around nutritional support they both need. It’s formulated with ginger to be easy on the stomach and to alleviate the worst symptoms of morning sickness (4). It also provides necessary D and B vitamins as well as zinc for heart health, immune system health and to stave off the specter of premature birth.
Baby & Me also contains plenty of iron to support red blood cell production and integrity, as well as calcium for strong bones. They’re certified free of GMOs, free of gluten, dairy and pesticides and 100% vegan safe. MegaFood vitamins and minerals are made in the US under FDA supervision and sourced from real foods to ensure quality and purity and to protect the health and vitality of mother and baby alike.
10. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Prenatal Vitamins
Vitamin Code from Garden of Life are all natural prenatal vitamins formulated to meet the specific nutritional needs of expectant mothers. The nutrients here are gleaned from nearly 2 dozen organic fruits and vegetables, are rich in beneficial antioxidants and completely free of the artificial ingredients, colors, flavors and preservatives that undermine the effectiveness of so many lesser vitamin products.
Vitamin Code Prenatals contain ginger to alleviate symptoms of morning sickness, iron to support robust red blood cell production, folic acid to promote fetal health and B12 to help prevent premature birth. Vitamin Code Prenatals are gluten free, dairy free, GMO free and certified vegetarian with no questionable binders or fillers. They’re also highly recommended for lactating mothers and women who are considering having children.
What are Prenatal Vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins exist to fill the nutritional gap that often accompanies pregnancy. A woman’s dietary and nutritional needs shift suddenly and significantly when she becomes pregnant. She is indeed “eating for 2” as the old saying goes. But there’s more to that simple statement than meets the eye. Both mother to be and baby have specific nutritional needs that have to be addressed. These include the need for elevated levels of zinc to insure a robust immune system in the mother and baby, calcium to ensure strong bones, vitamin D for heart health and B12 to help stave off premature birth.
Many first time mothers in particular are unaware of exactly how to fill these important nutritional requirements and that’s where prenatal vitamins come in. They make it easy to compensate for oversights or lapses in diet that might undermine the pregnancy or the health of either mother, baby or both. They’re an inexpensive way to help ensure a healthy, full term pregnancy with the best possible outcome.
Which Type of Prenatal Vitamin Should You Take?
There are many sound reasons for taking prenatal vitamins, but not every type of prenatal vitamin is right for every type of woman. For instance:
- Should you have difficulty swallowing standard tablets or capsules you’re not alone. The best solution for this problem is to buy a high quality gummy vitamin. Gummies are chewable vitamins that are easy to swallow and easy to digest. They often come in a variety of flavors so there’s bound to be one or more that you find agreeable. A possible alternative to gummies are vitamins with slicker-than-normal coatings. In addition, some prenatal vitamins are smaller than others. For instance, vitamins that do not include calcium tend to be fairly small because calcium takes up a lot of space.
- If you suffer from morning sickness, or taking standard vitamins (especially on an empty stomach) tends to upset your stomach, look for a prenatal vitamin that includes ginger. Long a staple of traditional medicine, recent scientific research indicates that ginger can indeed help reduce nausea.
- Some women steer clear of vitamins because they cause them to develop constipation. If this happens to you it could be the result of iron in the vitamin. But foregoing iron is simply not a good idea for expectant mothers. So if you suffer from constipation while taking prenatal vitamins make sure to drink more water, eat foods rich in fiber and engage in regular physical activity, even if it’s just getting up and walking around the block.
What Should You Look For In A Prenatal Vitamin?
There are numerous prenatal vitamin formulations on the market today but most of the best prenatal vitamins all cover the same important bases, including:
- Folate – Folate, or folic acid, is a nutrient whose key role in helping to ensure a successful pregnancy has only in recent years come fully to light. Folate has been shown through numerous scientific studies to help prevent birth defects (5). Folate also plays a key role in DNA synthesis, which increases dramatically during pregnancy.
- Calcium – Both mother and baby need calcium to ensure healthy bones. The baby in particular is building their skeleton from scratch and so it’s vital that the process gets off to a strong start. Prenatal vitamins can help ensure a proper supply of calcium to both mother and child.
- Iron – Low iron levels during pregnancy can compromise the mother’s immune system, create fatigue and make her more susceptible to infections. Low iron levels also increase the likelihood of low birth weight.
- Iodine – Iodine is not discussed much but it should be. It plays an important role in the development of the brain and nervous system (6). You should always check to make sure any prenatal vitamin includes iodine.
- Vitamin B12 – We have touched on the importance of vitamin B12 already but it bears repeating. B12 is vital to proper fetal development. It helps promote a healthy nervous system, lowers the risk of birth defects, reduces the chance of miscarriage and premature birth and helps prevent low birth weight.
- B-Complex Vitamins – Besides B12 other B vitamins also play an important role in completing the nutritional puzzle during pregnancy. B1 and B2 help promote healthy skin, brain and eye development. And B3 helps stave off nausea and promotes proper digestion in the mother.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps protect the mother against the enervating effects of stress (7) and also plays an important role in facilitating the absorption of iron.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is essential for proper development of the baby’s heart and to support heart health in the mother. Vitamin D also facilitates the absorption of calcium which is so important in the development of the baby’s skeletal system.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E has been shown to play a vital role in reducing the chance of miscarriage (8).
- Zinc – No prenatal multivitamin is complete without zinc. Zinc plays a key role in the development and maintenance of a healthy immune system. And that is crucial for both mother and child. Zinc also supports nervous system health and proper muscle function.
In addition, you’ll want to be sure your prenatal vitamin does not contain artificial preservatives, flavorings, color or fillers and that they’re not loaded with genetically modified organisms or allergens that could have a negative effect on your health of that of your baby.
What are the Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins?
The benefits of prenatal vitamins are well known and widely accepted by scientists, researchers and doctors the world over. Those benefits include:
- Helping to ensure proper nutrition – There is virtually no time during your life when proper nutrition will be more important. Regardless how scrupulous you may be on the dietary front however, almost no one gets a perfect balance of vitamins and minerals in the food they eat. While there may be other times in life when a small deficiency is not a major issue, during pregnancy proper nutrition is non-negotiable. Those nutritional needs are also going to change and you need to change with them. Prenatal multivitamins can help you do that.
- Helping to reduce the risk of birth defects – It’s really only in the past century that the link between nutritional deficits and birth defects has been firmly established. In particular a number of studies have demonstrated beyond doubt the crucial role that B complex vitamins play in fetal development. Including the prevention of congenital heart defects.
- Reducing the risk of autism – Recent scientific studies have shown that taking prenatal multivitamins may help to significantly reduce the occurence of autism in newborns (9). This alone should be a compelling enough reason to make sure you take a good prenatal multi throughout your pregnancy.
- Helping to prevent premature birth – Prenatal multivitamins rich in B12 have shown an ability to help lower the risk of miscarriages and preterm birth. Taking prenatal vitamins may also have a beneficial effect on birth weight.
While your individual needs may vary from those of other women there is little doubt that any pregnant woman can benefit from taking prenatal multivitamins. If you have specific health considerations that impact your nutritional needs in some way make sure to talk to your doctor before embarking on a course of prenatal vitamin supplementation.
When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Many doctors suggest the time to start taking prenatal vitamins is prior to becoming pregnant. This will lay a solid nutritional foundation for your pregnancy and help stave off any issues before they can manifest. If you have become pregnant unexpectedly then the time to start taking prenatal vitamins is the day you realize you are pregnant.
The earlier you get vital nutrients to your baby the better their chance to thrive both during development and once they are born. You should also continue to take them after giving birth as they will help you recover from the physical trauma and ensure proper nutrition while breastfeeding. Recent studies also point to the value of vitamin D supplementation while breastfeeding (10).
Should you Choose OTC or Prescription Prenatal Vitamins?
One question that sometimes comes up in the discussion surrounding prenatal vitamins is whether you are better served by prescription or over the counter (OTC) vitamins. The fact is that both contain virtually the same nutrient combinations and doctors see little value in insisting on prescription prenatal vitamins. If, however, you should have a condition that might require an elevated amount of a specific nutrient your doctor may want to prescribe a particular formulation for you. In most cases however, high-quality OTC prenatal vitamins like the ones on this list will be more than sufficient.
The Bottom Line
Proper nutrition during pregnancy is crucial. Help ensure both you and your baby get the vitamins and minerals you both need by taking one of the high quality prenatal supplements reviewed above.
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