5 Things You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins

5 Things You Need to Know About Prenatal Vitamins

Burcu Kaya Walschot

Getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals to support your pregnancy can be made a little easier by taking a prenatal vitamin. But how do you choose? And what makes them beneficial? 

Just like everything else about pregnancy, there’s a lot of information out there. 

That’s why we’ve written this guide to help make choosing the right prenatal vitamins easier. 

As with anything during your pregnancy, make sure you check with your care team before choosing and taking a prenatal vitamin. They’ll be able to give you information about your unique needs.

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What is a Prenatal Vitamin, Anyway?

Prenatal vitamins are dietary supplements, which means you take them in addition to eating a balanced diet. 

According to experts, a varied diet should provide most of the nutrients you’ll need for a healthy pregnancy. A prenatal vitamin’s job is to top up anything you may not be getting quite enough of from food.

How are Prenatal Vitamins Different from Other Vitamins?

The main difference between multivitamins and prenatal vitamins is that prenatal versions contain more folic acid and iron. 

According to experts, folic acid can “help prevent neural tube defects. These defects are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.”

Iron can support fetal growth and help prevent anemia. 

Where Can I Get Prenatal Vitamins?

While some prenatal vitamins require a prescription, many are available over-the-counter (OTC). 

OTC prenatal vitamins can be found at your local pharmacy, supplement store, or directly from the manufacturer online. 

If you decide to take an OTC version, it’s still important to let your care team know which one you choose. This can help them make recommendations and monitor any side effects you may experience.

Wait, side effects?

Yes, some people feel nauseated when taking prenatal vitamins. It’s not guaranteed to happen for you, but it’s something to keep in mind. 

To help keep queasiness at-bay, experts recommend taking your prenatal vitamin at bedtime with a small snack.  

The iron in prenatal vitamins can sometimes contribute to constipation, too. Drinking plenty of water and eating more fiber can help, though you should consult your care team if this happens consistently. 

What Should I Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin?

Your first stop for finding the right prenatal vitamin for you should be your care team. They may have a preferred brand based on your specific needs. 

In general, the Mayo Clinic recommends finding a prenatal vitamin that includes: 

  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D

There are also different formats for vitamins, which can help you narrow down your options. 

Some people like tablets while others prefer a gummy format. There’s even a drinkable, effervescent prenatal vitamin!

Figuring out which prenatal vitamin format you like best may take a couple tries before you find one you stick with. 

What about DHA? Should I be taking something with that in it?

DHA (aka docosahexaenoic acid) is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid. This kind of fat can help with fetal growth and development. It is recommended you get “200 milligrams of DHA each day to help your baby’s brain and eyes develop.”

While it is possible to get DHA from fish, orange juice, milk, and other dietary staples, taking a prenatal vitamin with DHA can help ensure you're getting enough each week.

Just be sure to read the label when you’re choosing your prenatal vitamin. Not all prenatal vitamins have DHA in them, so ask your care team about DHA supplements if your preferred brand doesn’t include it. 

Making Your Choice

After checking with your care team for any special things you should consider, choosing a prenatal vitamin is ultimately up to you. Your choice should be the one that you feel best taking.

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