Prenatal vitamins provide important vitamins and nutrients to women of childbearing age, most of which are hard to get directly from food. The most important nutrient in prenatal vitamins is folate. The CDC recommends that all women between the ages of 15 and 45 consume 400mg of folate every day to prevent the birth defects spina bifida and anencephaly. Folate is naturally found in some foods such as liver, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans, and synthetic folic acid has been added to many processed foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, rice, and pastas. (You can read more about sources of folate from the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.) Even with a folate-rich diet, most women still elect to supplement their diet with a prenatal vitamin that contains the daily recommended dose of folate and other vitamins and minerals shown to be important for a developing baby.
I had no idea there were so many different prenatal vitamins on the market until my doctor recommended I go ahead and start taking one.
What I Looked for in a Prenatal Vitamin
You can ask for a prescription prenatal vitamin from your doctor, but there are plenty of over-the-counter prenatals that you can pick up at your local drug store, grocery store, or health-food store. To make your life even simpler, you can do like I did and buy your prenatals online and have them shipped directly to your home every month.
You will first need to do some research to decide what prenatal works best for your lifestyle. When I was searching for a prenatal I looked for three things:
- Folate — I reasoned that since the #1 reason for taking a prenatal was folate, I wanted to make sure the folate in my prenatal was good quality and had a high level of bioavailability. My research led me to conclude that I wanted a prenatal with l-methlyfolate instead of folic acid because it is more bioavailable.
- Convenience — At first, I selected a whole foods prenatal. I liked that the vitamins were all sourced from non-GMO whole foods, but you have to take 1 capsule 3 times a day. I simply could not remember to take the vitamin three times a day. It was also expensive, costing over $30 for a month’s supply. I eventually decided I really needed a once-daily vitamin.
- Affordability — I wanted a budget-friendly prenatal, but I was not willing to accept subpar ingredients. Similar to choosing healthy foods over cheap convenient foods, investing in a quality prenatal vitamin can save you money over time if it leads to a healthier pregnancy and baby. Still, there are price differences among high-quality prenatals and savvy online shoppers can find deals to help limit this new monthly expense.
The Perfect Prenatal Vitamin for My Needs
In the end, I selected the Prenatal Once Daily from The Honest Company. It checked all my boxes — the folate comes from l-methylfolate, you take one capsule once daily, and at $19.95 a month it was more affordable than others I researched. I was also able to get free shipping and save more by bundling with other The Honest Company household and personal care products. The prenatal is also available on Amazon and ships free for Prime members.
Morning Sickness and Prenatal Vitamins
I was very happy with my prenatal vitamin routine until a few weeks into my pregnancy when I was hit with nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP). More commonly known as morning sickness, NVP affects approximately 75% of pregnant women to some extent. I had a particularly rough time. I could barely keep any food down and would vomit every time I tried to take my prenatal vitamins. My doctor assured me that the baby would be okay if I had to stop taking my vitamins until my symptoms subsided, but she suggested I try to find an iron-free supplement. This turned out to be no easy task. Iron is very important during pregnancy and nearly all prenatals include this vital mineral.
Thankfully, I found SmartyPants Prenatal Complete gummy vitamins. I was still able to get my folate from l-methylfolate and the iron-free gummies were much easier to keep down. I did have to give up the convenience of a once-daily, but it was possible to take all six gummies in one sitting. An organic option is now available for the prenatal gummies, and you can find them on Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.
Once my symptoms subsided I went back to my once-daily prenatal for the convenience and cost-savings, but I was so thankful to have something I could take while struggling with NVP.
Futher reading on prenatal vitamins: