How To Pick The Best Prenatal Vitamin

Most pregnant woman know the importance of taking their prenatal vitamins, but they are not all created equal. Prenatals work to help make sure that the developing baby receives all of the vitamins and minerals required to grow optimally. Babies are essentially little parasites, in that they will take whatever they need from you, whether or not you have any excess to spare. Prenatal vitamins are especially important for women who are deficient in any vitamins or minerals. The most common deficiencies that I see in my practice are: iron, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium and iodine.

When Should You Start Taking a Prenatal?

There are differing theories on this, but I generally suggest that women begin taking a prenatal vitamin 3-6 months before they want to become pregnant. Why so early? The egg that is going to become your baby matures over 90 days before it is released. It is important for the egg to have all the building blocks it needs to help ensure that it will produce the healthiest baby possible. Since most women do not discover that they are pregnant until they are 5-6 weeks along, and the neural tube starts developing very early in the pregnancy, it is a good idea to be taking a prenatal vitamin, which supplies folate, before becoming pregnant.

It is very important to start taking it early for second, third or forth pregnancies, as the nutrient reserve in the body is depleted by previous pregnancies. Breastfeeding is also a large nutrient demand on the body so it is suggested to keep taking a prenatal vitamin for the duration of breastfeeding. Even if a women is not breastfeeding, it is still recommended to continue with a prenatal for 3 months postpartum.

Folic Acid vs. Folate

Fifty percent of the population has a genetic mutation called MTHFR. One of the things that is associated with an MTHFR mutation is the inability to convert folic acid into its accessible form through a process called methylation. If the folic acid cannot be converted, it is like it is not even being taken in the first place. The way to work around the MTHFR mutation is to take folate in its methylated form, which I will talk about more below. It is important to make sure that folate is able to be used because a deficiency in folate is linked to neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Drugstore Brands

Not all prenatals are created equal. The “drugstore brands” of prenatals contain synthetic forms of the vitamins and minerals that are not as easily absorbed. The biggest difference in the drugstore brands versus the better prenatals is they contain folic acid. This is a problem because 50% of women are not able to absorb folic acid. Another big difference is in the form of vitamin B12 used. Drugstore brands use cyanocobalamin, where as better brands use methylcobalamin, which further helps with methylation and use of folate. Choline is a nutrient that is very important in brain growth and development. It is recommended that pregnant women consume 450 mg/day. Drugstore brands do not contain choline.

Top Choice for Prenatal Vitamins


1) Pure Encapsulations Prenatal Nutrients 

This is my top pick because it is only 2 capsules daily, has the active form of both folate and vitamin B12, good amounts of iron, iodine and selenium, contains choline and has a blend of mixed carotenoids for optimal egg health.

Having the active forms of vitamins makes it better tolerated for women who are experiencing morning sickness, and the form of iron present does not cause constipation.



2) Cyto-Matrix Prenatal Formula

The one downside to this prenatal is that women are required to take 4 capsules/day. It is well formulated containing active folate, methyl vitamin B12, iodine and choline.



Other Necessary Nutrients for Pregnancy

While prenatals cover most of the bases need for a healthy pregnancy, there are a few gaps that need to be addressed.

1) Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Taking omega 3’s while pregnant is associated with a lower risk of allergies and asthma in babies. It is also very important for brain growth and can help to reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Quality matters when it comes to omega 3’s as it is important to make sure they are tested by a third party lab for heavy metals and other contaminants.



2) Probiotics

Taking probiotics while pregnant can help to ensure that mom’s flora is well populated before giving birth. Probiotics can help to reduce the frequency of group B strept in mom, as well as a reduction of thrush while breastfeeding. They have also been associated with a lower risk of asthma in babies. It is advised to take a broad spectrum probiotic (contains many different strains).



3) Vitamin D

Prenatal vitamins contain vitamin D, but not 1000 IU which is the recommended daily amount. Taking enough vitamin D is especially important for women who live in Canada and are not able to make vitamin D from the sun for a large portion of the year.



Like this information about prenatal vitamins? Check out my blog post on Teas That Are Safe in Pregnancy. One of the most commonly drank teas may not be a good option, can you guess what one it is? 

Be prepared for postpartum as well, checking out my blog post on The Fourth Trimester

As always, if you have any questions, please post a comment below


Dr Alexis


Dr Alexis practices online via telemedicine and is currently accepting new patients. Click here to book your appointment


Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended health benefits

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