Proper prenatal care is not only important for a healthy pregnancy, but also gives babies a good head start in life by providing essential vitamins and minerals for growth and development. In fact, according to the U.S. Government, Centers for Disease Control, just 400 micrograms of folic acid, taken daily during pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects by 70%. The neural tube that eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord is formed in the first month of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Spina bifida and anencephaly are the two greatest birth defects associated with deficiencies in folic acid.
Prenatal Vitamins for Healthy Mothers and Babies
In addition to a healthy diet, modified exercise and regular appointments with a healthcare provider, prenatal vitamins are one of the easiest things a woman can do for her growing baby. Prenatal supplements, while supporting the growth and development of the baby, also help prevent anemia in pregnant women as well as other pregnancy-related complications. Since the human body will sustain the baby first, (before the mother) it is important that women get plenty of essential vitamins, and minerals throughout the entire pregnancy.
*Some doctors also recommend taking prenatal vitamins early, even before conception, and after pregnancy, if a mother choses to breastfeed her baby.
Best Prenatal Vitamins
A good prenatal vitamin will include proper levels of folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc and copper. They may either be synthetic, or food-based, depending on the preference and needs of the mother. Synthetic prenatals offer higher levels of individual vitamins, while food-based compounds are more easily digested and absorbed.
Knowing which prenatal vitamin to choose is not always easy.
These top 10 prenatal vitamins have been tested for levels of A, B3, B6, C, D, and folic acid. Testing was conducted at an independent, FDA-registered laboratory that evaluated each product. Detailed chemical analysis was performed that includes measuring for levels of active ingredients and possible contaminants.
MegaFood Baby and Me Prenatal Multivitamin
The MegaFood corporation offers two forms of Baby & Me and Baby & Me 2 (without herbal blend) prenatal vitamins. Both are food-based, non-GMO products formulated without pesticides/herbicides and made from high quality farm fresh food. Baby & Me contains high levels of vitamin D, iodine, iron and zinc for a good cross-section of nutrients. This prenatal supplement, while adequate in vitamin K and B levels, may contain lesser amounts of calcium and magnesium than other over-the-counter formulas. Because they are food-based compounds, Baby & Me products tend to be easier on the stomach and digestive system.
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Multivitamin
Vitamin Code offers food-based prenatal formulas processed at a lower heat to help retain vital nutrients. Their products are non-GMO, and contain no fillers. These compounds contain at least twice the D3 as other prenatals, as well as good stores of vitamin C, iodine, iron, and each of the vitamin B’s. Zinc, copper, and vitamin K, while all part of the RAW formula, may be lower than other prenatal vitamins. This product also contains seeds and grains, which could be problematic for women with food allergies.
Zahler Prenatal Vitamin + DHA
Zahler Prenatal Vitamin + DHA contains 800 mcg of folic acid (twice as much as the minimum recommended daily value during pregnancy) and high levels of iron, necessary for some women, prone to anemia. It is one of the prenatals that includes 250 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an essential fatty acid for growth and brain development in infants. DHA deficiencies in babies and children are linked to many learning disabilities, which prompted manufacturers to bring it into prenatal vitamins and many baby formulas.
Thorne Research Basic Prenatal Multivitamin
Thorne Research Basic Prenatal Multivitamin contains bioavailable vitamins, for easier absorption in to the body. This formula is high in iron (45 mg) and folate (1mg) and is an excellent choice for women with food allergies, or sensitivities. Because this formula does not contain wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy, egg, dairy, lactose, artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, Thorne prenatals support clean eating and are easily tolerated by most women.
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal is made from organic, non-GMO whole foods and includes class 1 herbs, and live probiotics. This formula is gentle on the body and high in iron and folate. For energy support, New Chapter includes whole-food cultured vitamin B. Because it is made with 15 organic fruits, vegetables, and grains, this prenatal can be taken even on an empty stomach, which is important for women who suffer stomach upset during pregnancy. This product does contain wheat and soy, however, which may be a problem for individuals with gluten or food allergies.
Oceans MOM Prenatal DHA
Oceans MOM Prenatal DHA provides 350mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to support pregnant and nursing mothers. Normally obtained from diet, this omega-3 fatty acid supports brain and eye development in infants and can become depleted during pregnancy. DHA is critical in the final trimester of pregnancy, and early in an infant’s life. This formula provides supplemental DHA from a distilled blend of fish oils to mothers who breastfeed as well. Oceans MOM boasts,“no fishy aftertaste” which is a concern for some women, especially while pregnant.
Rainbow Light Prenatal Petite Mini
Rainbow Light Prenatal Petite Mini combines the potency of a powerful prenatal vitamin with the gentle release of plant-sourced probiotics, necessary for optimal digestive health. Packed with twice the amount of folic acid than some prenatal vitamins (800 mcg), small mini tabs deliver high levels of iron, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin D3, that supports healthy skin, eyes, and bones, as well as the immune system. This formula contains no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, as well.
Deva Vegan Prenatal Multivitamin
Deva Vegan Prenatal Multivitamin is a 100%, vegan prenatal supplement that scores high in its ability to provide optimal levels of vitamin B12 (promotes blood formation) and folic acid, without overloading the body with toxic amounts of vitamin A, E, or K. Particular importance is given to the balance of nutrients required for healthy pregnancy, and the quality of supplemental compounds. Because the body’s demand for calcium is high during pregnancy, both fetal and maternal bone requirements may not be met through this vegan supplement. Since D2, (vegan sourced) vitamin D is used to create necessary calcium; Deva recommends supplementing with further support if necessary.
Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA
Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA offer mood and nerve support to expectant mothers, while providing an excellent source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for brain and visual function in developing babies. These prenatals contain plenty of D3 (cholecalciferol in olive oil) for healthy skin, eyes, bones, and immune support, as well as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fatty fish. These non-GMO supplements are not made with gluten, milk products or artificial colors or flavors.
Rainbow Light Prenatal One
Rainbow Light Prenatal One supplements offer quality nutritional support for pregnant and lactating mothers with value in mind. At just $0.15 a serving all essential vitamins and nutrients are included, along with extra enzymes and probiotics for healthy digestion. Rainbow Light boasts a clean formula that does not contain animal products, shellfish, soy, nuts, yeast or artificial colors or flavors. This makes these prenatals ideal for women with food allergies and aversions during and after pregnancy.
Not all prenatal vitamin supplements are right for every individual. Choosing the formula that best supports a healthy mother and baby, before, during, and after pregnancy is important for overall health, development, and wellness.
1 Cdc.gov. (2017). About Us | Folic Acid | NCBDDD | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/aboutus.html [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].
2 E, B. (2017). [Calcium-supplementation in pregnancy–is it a must?]. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17685081 [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].
3 Jaclyn M Coletta, A. (2017). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3046737/ [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].
4 University of Maryland Medical Center. (2017). Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). [online] Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].
5 Nichd.nih.gov. (2017). What is prenatal care and why is it important?. [online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/Pages/prenatal-care.aspx [Accessed 24 Mar. 2017].