No surprise that the food cravings and hunger pangs during pregnancy are real because your grocery cart looks like a rainbow of food packs. To be honest, these food cravings are not even close to the healthy eating recommendation which is given to all pregnant women by their OB & Gyn. A balanced diet, healthy eating, and meal planning will not only help the mother the baby to get optimum nutrition.
But is it really possible to follow the ‘ideal dietary guide’ during pregnancy? Perhaps not, which is why you have to know about the best prenatal vitamins for pregnancy. If you are unsure on which brand to try and what is the best time of the day to take prenatal vitamins, here is a complete guide for the mommies and daddies to be.
What are prenatal vitamins?
Prenatal vitamins are basically dietary supplements that are used to fulfill the nutritional deficiency. Before and during the pregnancy, the body undergoes a lot of changes and not all of them are pleasant. It is possible for some women to completely lose appetite, not eat well, or no urge to eat healthy food. But how would a pregnancy sustain if the mother is not feeding her body the essential nutrients?
For example, the first thing doctors suggest to pregnant mothers or those to conceive is folic acid. It is a type of Vitamin B which is necessary for growth and development. The recommended dose of folic acid is 400mcg every day, during the conceiving period and initial weeks of pregnancy. This vitamin helps to sustain the pregnancy and lowers the neural tube defects (NTDs) in the baby.
It means folic acid is a prenatal supplement that helps in a healthy pregnancy, but it is not the only nutrient that a woman may need. Collectively, all such supplements are categorized as prenatal supplements and a doctor can recommend which one does a woman needs along with a folic acid supplement.
Do you need these vitamins?
Prenatal supplements are not just any other multivitamin pills. They contain special nutrients that are required for the growth of the baby and the good health of the mother. There are many best over the counter prenatal vitamins available which can be used without a prescription. But you can’t be sure about which one do you need, without discussing it with a doctor.
For example, if you are folic acid which is mandatory for a pregnant woman, you may also need vitamin D and calcium supplements which will form the baby’s bones, teeth, and skeleton. Now, vitamin D supplements and calcium supplements are easily available in the market but not everyone woman necessarily needs them. If she is able to fulfill these nutrients from dietary sources, there is no need to use the supplement. But most women are recommended with these supplements individually or a combination from time to time. Again, only a certified health professional can determine the use of prenatal supplements for a woman.
The right time to start prenatal vitamins
The best time to take prenatal vitamins is during the conception period. If you are planning to have a baby and trying for it, it is better to start taking prenatal vitamins right away. After your pregnancy is confirmed, you can choose to continue after discussing it with your doctor. Most women are advised to use different prenatal vitamins throughout their pregnancy to whenever the labor starts.
These prenatal supplements are taken every day and there is no time fixed for it. If there is an underlying problem in pregnancy, the nutrients from these supplements overcome them, increasing the chances to get pregnant.
If a woman is already pregnant and still confused with the use of prenatal vitamins, no worries. It is better to start right away.
Directions to use a prenatal vitamin
A prenatal vitamin is pretty much the same thing as any multivitamin supplement. The only difference is that it is designed to meet the nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman which is slightly different than other, non-pregnant women.
There is no best time of the day to take prenatal vitamins because they work independently of time and hours. However, there are some supplements that can’t be taken together or can’t be used along with prescription medicines. Usually, a doctor educates the mother to be about supplement and medicine safety. If you are still not sure, feel free to question your primary healthcare provider.
How to choose a prenatal vitamin brand?
Talking about the variety of supplements, there are hundreds of companies, brands, combinations, and potencies available each one of which serves a different purpose. The prenatal vitamins are readily available everywhere without any requirement of a prescription. If these prenatal vitamins are not added to your health insurance plan, you may look for the best over the counter prenatal vitamins. But if the insurance plan covers it, you might need a prescription from your doctor for these vitamins.
The prenatal supplements come in different types of nutrients, dosages, and types. Many of these vitamins are not regulated by the drug regulatory authorities, which is why there are many scam products available too. But it is hard to tell if a supplement is legit or a scam without searching or reading about it. Even if not a scam, there are chances that a company is concealing the real ingredients list, potency, and bioavailability of their formula. That is why shopping for the best prenatal vitamins is tricky.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are four basic nutrients that every pregnant woman needs. Their dosage can be different for every woman but the standard dosage is as follows.
- Vitamin D (600 IU)
- Folic acid (600 mcg)
- Calcium (1000mg)
- Iron (27 mg)
In addition to these primary nutrients, the following vitamins are also required for a healthy pregnancy. Most women fail to get them from the diet alone, which is why they need a prenatal supplement that contains;
- Vitamin A (770 mcg)
- Vitamin B6 (9 mg)
- Vitamin B12 (6 mcg)
- Vitamin C (85 mg)
If any prenatal vitamin company is offering a multivitamin that also contains omega-3 fatty acids, it is highly desirable. Research proves that some species of fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids which is required for nervous system development in the baby.
These supplements are available in various forms such as soft-gel capsules, pills, powders, serums, and gummies. Those who find it hard to swallow a pill can try an alternative.
Best prenatal vitamins options to look for
Here is a complete guide on the best prenatal vitamins one should try. This list is made after going through best-selling options and evaluating their benefits. To help readers find the best option, these options are differently categorized.
Best affordable prenatal vitamins options
NatureMade Prenatal Multivitamin Multi +DHA
If you are short on budget, you may like to search for the best affordable prenatal vitamins. NatureMade Prenatal Multivitamin +DHA is a soft-gel supplement that is loaded with folic acid, zinc, and iodine. It comes in a 90-capsules pack. It costs less than $20.00 per pack and is available at all leading pharmacies and online stores.
This is a great value for your hard-earned money. Taking one capsule of this supplement will cover the daily quota for folic acid and iron along with essential vitamins and minerals. One plus point is that it comes with DHA so you don’t have to use a separate supplement for DHA. But it has low amounts of calcium and if your doctor has recommended you more than 150mg calcium per day, you might need to get that extra calcium from a diet or another supplement. Overall, this supplement is one of the best affordable prenatal vitamins available.
- Best Prenatal Gummies options
SmartyPants Organic Prenatal Formula
If you are more into gummies, you will be happy to know that there are some best prenatal gummies for moms-to-be available in the market. As swallowing pills during the early stages of pregnancies is hard for most women, the vitamin gummies can do the magic for them. The Smarty Pants Organic Prenatal Formula is available in lemon, orange, and strawberry-banana flavors. There are no artificial colors, sugar or flavors added. The company makes sure that there are no additives inside it.
But the only problem with these gummies is that unlike soft-gel capsules, a user has to take more quantity of these gummies to get the same amount of nutrients. So the best prenatal gummies are more flavorful but definitely not a one-time thing.
Note there is no iron added in most prenatal gummies brands. Some of them also lack calcium like SmartyPants Organic. It doesn’t mean that the gummies are not a good supplementary option. They are good for someone who can’t eat the pills or capsules but a doctor may like to give additional iron or calcium supplements if the gummies don’t contain much of them.
Vitafusion Prenatal Gummy Vitamins
Are you searching for the best prenatal gummies that are gentle on the stomach? The Vitafusion PreNatal gummies contain all the necessary nutrients that a pregnant woman needs. It comes in a delicious lemon and raspberry flavor which doesn’t even feel like you are taking a supplement. It has no extra sugar but its taste can overcome the sugar cravings as well. Additionally, it contains a sufficient amount of DHA and vitamin D but a relatively low amount of iron. For best, combine it with an iron supplement for complete nutritional uptake.
- Best prenatal vitamins added with DHA options
Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA
There are very few options in prenatal supplements that contain DHA in them. Although
DHA levels have to be maintained throughout the pregnancy and most women are advised to use DHA supplements separately. But if there are any good prenatal vitamins with DHA, it is highly desirable. The Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA contains 480mg DHA in every soft-gel capsule. It makes up for the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids which are required for the brain development and growth of the baby.
This product is 100% toxins free, heavy-metal free, and approved through quality testing by NSF International. It is not technically a prenatal supplement but for the amount of DHA and vitamin D that it offers, it is among the best prenatal vitamins recommended to pregnant women. However, they may need another supplement to make up for the iron, calcium, folic acid, and other essential vitamins needed.
Zahler Mighty Mini Prenatal + DHA
Zahler Mighty Mini Prenatal + DHA fulfills the daily DHA requirement of a pregnant woman. Thankfully, this DHA is obtained from the algal oil which makes it fit for vegan-users. This is a one-capsule per day supplement which are in soft-gel capsules.
Despite being high in DHA, it contains a relatively lower amount of calcium. So the best is to use a separate calcium supplement along with it.
- Best natural prenatal vitamins options
MegaFood Baby & Me 2
MegaFood Baby & Me 2 is one of the best natural prenatal vitamins available. Although it is a little expensive than other prenatal supplements for the nutrients inside it, this price is justified. This brand is verified for safety and contains an approval seal issued by NSF International. It is an independent body that tests the quality and safety of a supplement.
The problem with most inexpensive prenatal supplements is that their ingredients are lost during the absorption phase. So, despite them ‘loaded’ with nutrients, the body fails to derive these ingredients and use them. This is why most low-price supplements fail to show the real effects. But it doesn’t mean you should buy any pricey supplement that you see. It is necessary to evaluate a product and estimate if it is worth spending this much money or not.
In the case of MegaFood Baby & Me 2, although it is among the best natural prenatal vitamins available it contains only 18mg of iron. Combing it with an iron supplement will probably help to get the daily dietary needs.
Best prenatal vitamins with iron added
Honest Prenatal Once Daily
Honest Prenatal Once Daily is a tasty and easy to swallow tablet which is loaded with iron. Each tablet is coated with a natural vanilla extract which makes it pleasant to eat for the mother to be. It has high amounts of digestive enzymes from natural ingredients like pineapple, kiwi fruit, and papaya, along with ginger and other vitamins that are gentle for the stomach. That’s why this supplement can be taken empty stomach or first thing in the morning, without taking breakfast.
It contains iron, folic acid, and vitamin D, and a little amount of calcium. Ideally, it should be added to a calcium-rich diet i.e. milk, and yogurt rich or take a separate calcium supplement along with using Honest Prenatal Once Daily.
Best prenatal vitamins with folic acid added
Ritual Prenatal Vitamins
If you do want to use a separate folic acid supplement, you can try the Ritual Prenatal Vitamins which is loaded with folate/folic acid. It doesn’t list down the complete ingredients inside it but it is definitely an abundant source of folate. Every capsule contains 1000mcg folate inside. For those who don’t know, folate is the natural form of folic acid which is better than its chemical alternative. This product also contains DHA, vitamin D3, and other vitamins. This supplement has a low amount of calcium which is not a problem because calcium supplements are separately available. Excluding calcium, it contains all the necessary vitamins that a pregnant woman needs.
Best liquid prenatal vitamins
Pink Stork Liquid Prenatal Vitamin
Some women may prefer taking liquid prenatal vitamins because of Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) during the first trimester where swallowing everything becomes impossible. This form of prenatal supplement typically lacks any flavor which makes them easy to use. Pink Stork Liquid Prenatal Vitamin contains all the necessary ingredients which are recommended to a pregnant woman. Additionally, it is a gluten-free and non-GMO prenatal supplement with no animal residues inside. The best is to combine this liquid prenatal vitamin with any calcium supplement as it contains 20mg calcium only.
- Best preconception prenatal vitamin
Theralogix Theranatal Core
The period before pregnancy is confirmed, during which a woman tries to conceive is called the preconception period. Although prenatal supplements should ideally be used after the pregnancy is confirmed but if a woman starts using them from the conception period, it increases the chances of a successful pregnancy. One best choice for a prenatal vitamin to be used during the preconception perdiod is Theralogix Theranatal Core. It contains up to 1000 mcg folic acid as well as 2000 IU vitamin D plus other vitamins in every capsule. Using it daily increases the chance to conceive a baby.
Pregnancy Cravings and Hunger Pangs
More than 80% of women experience different food aversions and cravings during pregnancy. It is possible to want something at one time and hate it after some time. The food cravings are not constant and they change as the pregnancy proceeds.
The problem with these pregnancy cravings is that they urge women to eat unhealthy, junk, and zero nutrition food. For example, a donut, pickles, ice-cream, and pizza. There is still no clarity on why women suddenly develop these food cravings as well as food aversions during their pregnancy. But some studies show that it is because of the hormonal changes.
Cravings are not bad if they show up occasionally or if a woman craves something healthy and highly nutritional. It only becomes a problem when they eat only as per their cravings completely leaving other healthy food options.
Side effects of prenatal vitamins
A common question that most people ask is about the side effects of prenatal supplements. It is a common observation that everything has side effects, but is it really the case with the best prenatal vitamins too?
There are some people who feel nauseated or cramped after taking these supplements but it cant be regarded as a ‘side effect’. The reason why these supplements hit some women differently is because of the diet, medicines, and other supplements that they may be taking.
If a woman suspects that she is uncomfortable with one type of prenatal supplement for example soft-gel capsules, she can look for any other form which she finds comfortable. In any way, it is not an excuse for not taking prenatal supplements. If the undesirable effect shows up every time after taking the prenatal vitamin, talk to your doctor, or use a different brand next time.
The final word
Pregnancy is a developmental phase for the body where it needs a number of nutrients. Most of the time, these nutrients can not be obtained from diet alone and doctors advise these mothers to be to try prenatal supplements. While there are so many choices available, the selection of the best prenatal vitamins is based on personal preference, dietary need, and budget. Make sure that you are eating healthy during conception and pregnancy. This way, the baby and mother, both will enjoy good health throughout pregnancy and even afterward.