What’s the Deal With Prenatal Vitamins?


With too many prenatal vitamin brands on the market to count, each boasting different benefits—from ease of digestion to most optimal absorption—and different formulations (from tasty, sweet gummies to easy to swallow tablets), it can be difficult to decide which prenatal vitamin is best for you. Below, we discuss what expectant mamas like you should consider when it comes to prenatal vitamins.


Why are prenatal vitamins important?

Prenatal vitamins contain many key nutrients, but arguably the most important is folic acid (also known as folate or folacin). Folic acid is a key vitamin that helps to prevent neural tube defects. Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains 0.4 – 0.6 mg of folic acid. For women with a personal or family history of neural tube defects or who are considered high risk, it is important to talk to your provider about the amount of folic acid you should be supplementing with since you may require a higher daily dose.[1]

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

It is recommended that women who are thinking about or actively trying to conceive should begin taking a prenatal vitamin at least 2 to 3 months before becoming pregnant. Of course, if you are already pregnant, just make sure to start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as you find out that you’re expecting.

What should you be looking for in a prenatal vitamin?

A standard prenatal vitamin should satisfy the requirements for most pregnant women. Make sure to confirm that your prenatal vitamin contains at least 0.4 mg of folic acid. Additionally, both iron and vitamin D are important during pregnancy. Iron deficiency is more common in pregnancy, so ensuring adequate supplementation is important. Make sure your prenatal vitamin contains about 16 to 20 mg of iron.[2]


What should you do if you are experiencing unwanted side effects?

Unfortunately, constipation and nausea can sometimes occur when taking prenatal vitamins. The extra iron you’re consuming in the prenatal vitamin can be one of the culprits responsible for constipation, although it is also a common symptom experienced in early pregnancy (thanks to a major uptick in progesterone). Make sure to drink plenty of water and increase your intake of high fibre-rich foods like beans, oats, bran, broccoli, apples, oranges, and plums to help offset constipation. If you notice you’re experiencing nausea with your prenatal vitamin, try taking it at night, before bed, rather than first thing in the morning.


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[1] https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and babies/prenatal_health_and_your_baby

[2] https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/food-nutrition/prenatal-nutrition-guidelines-health-professionals-iron-contributes-healthy-pregnancy-2009.html