Find Urgent Care today

Find and book appointments for:

Prenatal Vitamins: Why they matter and how how to choose

Prenatal vitamins can provide you with the nutrients you need to give birth to a healthy baby. If you are pregnant, your doctor or OB-GYN can help you choose a quality brand of prenatal vitamins to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamins: Why they matter and how how to choose

Prenatal vitamins can provide you with the nutrients you need to give birth to a healthy baby. If you are pregnant, your doctor or OB-GYN can help you choose a quality brand of prenatal vitamins to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.

What are prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins, also known as pregnancy vitamins, are nutritional supplements that contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients essential to experiencing a healthy pregnancy and birth. These vitamins may be taken once a day or several times a day, based on the brand you use and their instructions for use.

According to Ohio State University, prenatal vitamins can help you meet all nutritional requirements associated with a healthy pregnancy, even if you’re already getting sufficient nutrition from your diet. Prenatal vitamins can also help reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida, and minimize unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy including nausea, fatigue, and fainting. Ohio State University reports that when taking prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy, you can boost fetal growth and improve fetal neural development in your baby.

What to look for in prenatal vitamins

Quality brands of prenatal supplements contain a variety of important vitamins and nutrients that can benefit both you and your baby during pregnancy. Ohio State University recommends taking a prenatal vitamin that contains calcium, iron, and B vitamins, including folic acid (vitamin B9). The Minnesota Health Department recommends using a prenatal vitamin that also contains iodine.

Ask your OB-GYN for a list of all the prenatal vitamins ingredients you should be taking so you can find a brand that’s best for you. Your OB-GYN may recommend taking specific vitamins and supplements to make up for certain nutrients you may not be getting in your daily diet, such as omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin D.

Folic acid, calcium, iodine, and iron

Many healthcare providers recommend taking a prenatal supplement that contains folic acid, calcium, iodine, and iron.

Folic acid

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is essential for preventing birth defects in the brain and spine, such as spina bifida. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority recommends taking at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day throughout pregnancy, and eating foods that contain high amounts of this B vitamin. Lentils, spinach, black beans, peanuts, and orange juice are some of many foods that contain folic acid, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Solv App

Quality healthcare is just a
click away with the Solv App

Book same-day care for you and your family

Find top providers near you
Choose in-person or video visits
Manage visits on-the-go
Get the FREE App

Calcium

Calcium can promote the growth of strong, healthy bones in your baby and also can prevent you from losing bone density during pregnancy. Columbia University recommends choosing a prenatal vitamin with 200 to 300 milligrams of calcium to supplement the amount you should already be getting from the foods you eat. Tofu, fatty fish, soybeans, and kale are some of many foods that are high in calcium, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Iodine

Iodine supports the development of your baby’s brain and central nervous system. Oregon State University reports that taking iodine during pregnancy can also reduce the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and neurological impairments in your baby. The National Academy of Sciences recommends taking 150 milligrams of iodine per day during pregnancy.

Iron

Iron supports the development of your placenta and boosts your body’s blood production to supply a higher amount of oxygen to your baby. Iron can also help prevent anemia, which tends to be common during pregnancy due to the increase in blood flow. The Minnesota Health Department recommends using a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 27 milligrams of iron.

What about other prenatal nutrients?

Prenatal vitamins for pregnancy that contain folic acid, calcium, iodine, and iron are highly likely to also contain adequate amounts of other nutrients, reports the Minnesota Health Department. These nutrients may include vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C, potassium, and others, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients.

Ask your midwife or OB-GYN about other nutrients and supplements you should be taking throughout pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can review your diet and medical history, and make the best nutrition recommendations for you.

Prenatal vitamin side effects

Iron is likely to be the only ingredient in prenatal vitamins that may cause side effects, reports Ohio State University. Iron tends to affect the gastrointestinal system to cause constipation and indigestion. Women who experience these effects when taking prenatal supplements should try another vitamin with a slower-release form of iron, recommends Ohio State University.

Other nutrients in prenatal vitamins won’t usually cause side effects, though excessive amounts may increase the risk of certain health problems, according to Rochester University Medical Center. Rochester University Medical Center also reports that large doses of folic acid may cause loss of appetite and kidney damage. Ohio State University reports that too much vitamin A may have harmful effects on the fetus.

Generally, it is recommended to read the directions on your prenatal vitamins, and take them as directed for the best results. Contact your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your prenatal supplements. Your healthcare provider can educate you about nutrients and recommend the best prenatal vitamin brands to take daily.

  • How long should I take prenatal vitamins?

    Ohio State University suggests taking prenatal vitamins when you are trying to conceive and throughout your entire pregnancy. It also recommends continuing to take prenatal supplements for the duration of breastfeeding, given how lactation requires high amounts of iron and calcium.

  • What’s the best time to take prenatal vitamins?

    The Minnesota Health Department and Ohio State University recommend that you start taking prenatal vitamins when you are trying to become pregnant. Read the directions label on your prenatal vitamins to find out whether you should take the vitamins at a specific time every day, or ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.

  • Does taking prenatal vitamins help you get pregnant?

    According to the NIH, there is no evidence to suggest that taking prenatal vitamins can help you get pregnant. However, the NIH recommends taking a vitamin with folic acid before you want to become pregnant, as it can reduce the risk of birth defects.

    Taking vitamins and nutritional supplements before you conceive may boost your health and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, according to the NIH. Ask your doctor for recommendations on vitamins and supplements you can take before you conceive.

    If your goal is to become pregnant, use Solv to find highly rated doctors and lab services in your area that offer prenatal care and pregnancy testing. Solv gives you the ability to read reviews on healthcare providers and lab test services in your area, and book a same-day appointment with a quality provider.

10 Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.