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Which prenatal vitamins are best?

A prenatal vitamin is a multivitamin that is specially formulated to offer the key nutrients that both babies and mothers need during pregnancy. A health care provider can prescribe a prenatal vitamin, but most consumers purchase over-the-counter prenatal vitamins. Those planning to get pregnant may start taking a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive, then continue taking them during pregnancy as well as postpartum, especially if they are breastfeeding. 

The top choice for a prenatal vitamin that is both effective and affordable is 21st Century Prenatal Tablets. However, every prenatal vitamin is formulated slightly differently to meet expectant mothers’ unique dietary needs. 

What to know before you buy a prenatal vitamin

Prenatal vitamin ingredients  

Key ingredients to look for in a prenatal vitamin include folic acid, vitamin D, calcium and iron. It is important to note that prenatal vitamin ingredients are not formulated to increase fertility. The dietary supplements included in a prenatal supplement are meant to facilitate a healthy pregnancy by supplementing common nutritional gaps.  

Vitamin toxicity 

Consuming megadoses of vitamins should be avoided. Ingesting higher vitamin levels than recommended can be toxic and lead to serious health issues. Beware of claims that taking high doses of prenatal vitamins promotes fertility or leads to stronger nails and thicker hair. 

Taking high levels of vitamins for extended periods is actually detrimental to our health. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K are especially toxic when taken in excess. Unlike water-soluble vitamins that are excreted in urine, fat-soluble vitamins build up in the body, damaging tissues, especially the liver. 

Prenatal vitamin manufacturers

The established guidelines for dietary supplements in the United States are set by the Food and Drug Administration. These standards are known as Good Manufacturing Practices and are a voluntary regulation vitamin manufacturers may choose to obtain. The GMP label on a bottle of prenatal vitamins indicates they were manufactured under stringent requirements and adhere to GMP guidelines to assure quality and safety. 

What to look for in a quality prenatal vitamin 

Capsule, liquid or powder

Prenatal vitamins come in a variety of forms, including gummies, chewable, liquids and powders. Anyone who has a difficult time swallowing pills should opt for a chewable or liquid prenatal vitamin formula. 

When considering which prenatal vitamin form is the best, it is important to consider the capsule design. Softgel capsules are typically used to hold liquid ingredients, while dry ingredients usually come in a tablet that combines two pieces. There are advantages and disadvantages to each capsule design. Softgel capsules are more vulnerable to UV light deterioration and should be stored in a dark place if they are removed from the bottle for an extended period before use. Vitamin tablets made of two pieces are typically not affected by UV light but are often much larger than softgels, making them harder to swallow.

Prenatal vitamin bottle capsule count 

Consider the size of a bottle when comparing the prices of prenatal vitamins. Some brands sell bottles with a month’s supply of 30 capsules, while others sell larger bottles with 60 or even 90 capsules. 

When reviewing the price of a prenatal vitamin, the recommended daily capsule amount and serving size of the bottle are important factors. Prenatal formulas that recommend multiple vitamins be taken per day will run out quicker and become more costly than a single daily vitamin formula.   

Vegetarian prenatal vitamins

Anyone who avoids animal products should read the ingredient lists on prenatal vitamins closely. A variety of ingredients in dietary supplements are derived from animal sources. The capsule formula is also an important consideration because some are produced from gelatin, which is not vegetarian-friendly. Luckily, there are a variety of prenatal vitamins on the market that are formulated for vegetarians, vegans and others with dietary restrictions. 

How much you can expect to spend on prenatal vitamins 

Expect to spend between $10 to $40 for a bottle of prenatal vitamins with 30 capsules. 

Prenatal vitamins FAQ

Should you continue to take prenatal vitamins after giving birth? 

A. There are a variety of reasons mothers continue taking prenatal vitamins after giving birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourages breastfeeding mothers to continue taking a prenatal vitamin. 

What is the best time of day to take a prenatal vitamin? 

A. Consistency is key when taking a prenatal vitamin. To avoid nausea, it is best to take a prenatal vitamin with a meal. Keep in mind there is no time of day that is proven to increase absorption. As a routine, taking vitamins either first thing in the morning or right before bedtime may help build consistency into busy daily schedules. 

What are the best prenatal vitamins to buy?

Top prenatal vitamins 

21st Century Prenatal Tablets

21st Century Prenatal Tablets

What you need to know: This dietary supplement contains 800 micrograms of folic acid and is a prenatal formula designed for pregnancy and the postnatal period.

What you’ll love: 21st Century products are manufactured in the U.S. in an FDA-approved, GMP-certified facility. 

What you should consider: Large pills can be difficult to swallow. 

Where to buy: Amazon and iHerb

Top prenatal vitamins for the money

Thorne Research Basic Prenatal Folate Multivitamin for Pregnant and Lactating Women

Thorne Research Basic Prenatal Folate Multivitamin for Pregnant and Lactating Women

What you need to know: A gentle prenatal formula for women who are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive. 

What you’ll love: Special attention was paid to sourcing pure ingredients and excluding additives or coatings. 

What you should consider: B12 levels are higher than other prenatal formulas. 

Where to buy: Amazon and iHerb 

Worth checking out

Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Multivitamin

Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal Multivitamin

What you need to know: A comprehensive prenatal formula that aligns with a vegetarian diet. 

What you’ll love: The unique formula includes a blend of organically grown fruits and vegetables that are antioxidants.

What you should consider: Ingredients include vitex, which affects hormones. 

Where to buy: Amazon and iHerb

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Elizabeth Foley writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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