You Better Shop Around: Prenatal Vitamins
Updated: May 20
There you are, standing in the aisle of your drugstore of choice, looking at all of the options of prenatal vitamins to take. As you stare at the plethora of choices, you realize that this decision is not going to just affect you, but also your unborn child. Of course, you want the best for your baby, but which vitamin is the best? Is the chewable best because it can be easily digested? Is the coated one best because it’s easy to swallow? Are there different ingredients in other prenatal vitamins? Can the $9 store brand be as good as $30 expensive brand?
The answer? Yep.
Certain minerals and vitamins in pregnancy are vital in helping to reduce birth defects and encourage good development of the baby. But it is difficult to choose what works if there are so many choices. So, let’s review some of the DO’s and DON’Ts of choosing a prenatal vitamin:
DO read the label: The vitamin you choose should have the recommended amount of minerals and vitamins for pregnancy including; folic acid, iron, calcium, and more.
DON’T assume: Just because it says vitamin, doesn’t mean it has the recommended minerals and vitamins need to support a pregnancy. Don’t start taking a vitamin formulated for men unless it is recommended by your provider.
DO look for folic acid: It is important to introduce folic acid into your diet before you get pregnant and to continue during the pregnancy. For most women, 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid helps prevent a birth defect in the newborn’s brain and spine. A good prenatal vitamin should contain between 400 – 800 mcg of folic acid. In some pregnancies, 400 mcg may not be enough, so check with your doctor.
DON’T take less than recommended amount: Some prenatal vitamins are broken into two or even three tablets to give the recommended daily amount of supplements. A vitamin that you should take twice a day may have the same amount of vitamins and minerals of a once a day tablet. Not taking the amount of tablets as instructed could cause you and your unborn child to get less of what you need.
DO choose a vitamin that works well with your body: Prenatal vitamins come in all different sizes and shapes; tablets or liquids; coatings and even flavors. If you have chosen a vitamin that contains all of the right ingredients, but it makes you sick, pick a different one. People can have different responses to medications and supplements, and prenatal vitamins are no exception.
DON’T make your own “cocktail” of vitamins: We get it, everyone wants a healthy pregnancy, and everyone wants to have a smart kid. However, taking triple the amount of recommended prenatal vitamins, along with power mineral drinks and nutritional powder is NOT going to guarantee that your pregnancy goes perfectly, or that your kid will get into an Ivy League school. Some vitamins and minerals may be stored in the body for a while and can make you sick if you have an excess amount. Just like anything, too much of even a good thing can be bad.
DO ask your doctor if you need more than what is recommended: If you have medical conditions that can adversely affect the pregnancy, or if you have had complications in your previous pregnancy, make sure and ask your doctor or midwife which vitamins and minerals are right for you. You may require a special prescription or specific over-the-counter brand, which will be tailored to your special situation.
DON’T choose the most expensive, just because: This is simple. You wouldn’t buy the most expensive car if it were exactly the same as the cheaper car, right? Good prenatal vitamins will have what is recommended for a normal healthy pregnancy. We’re not saying don’t buy the expensive vitamins; we’re just letting you know that there are enough choices of prenatal vitamins, perfect for pregnancy, that can fit anyone’s budget.
QUICK NOTE: Make sure you’re choosing and taking your prenatal vitamins the right way.
Your unborn baby depends on the nutrients you eat and drink; and your prenatal vitamins help to supplement your diet. Make sure the vitamin you choose is right for you and your baby.