Be Your Healthy Best With The Best OTC Prenatal Vitamins (2018 Guide)
Whether you're trying to get pregnant or you're pregnant already, prenatal vitamins are a "must-have" item.
Even if you're the healthiest of eaters, you should stock up on over-the-counter prenatal vitamins because they ensure you get absolutely every kind of nutrient you need.
There are also numerous benefits of taking them (for mom and baby), and your doctor is also going to be checking up on you to make sure you are using them.
But, one dilemma I faced when I was pregnant wasn't whether or not I should take them, but choosing from the dozens of brands that were on the shelves. I needed to compare all the prenatal vitamins!
So which are the best prenatal vitamin brands?
Benefits of Taking Prenatal Vitamins
Prenatal multivitamins basically fill the gap when it comes to certain vitamins and nutrients that you may be missing in your diet and from the regular vitamin you usually take.
Studies show that babies who have a folic acid deficiency while developing are more likely to be born with spina bifida. Or, babies who are malnourished can be born too early, or have a low birth weight.
Plus, the more vitamins you have, the faster your baby’s cells are able to reproduce and in turn, help your baby develop on schedule.
Nutrients For Mom
Also, when you're growing another life inside your body, the baby takes all of the nutrients first, leaving you with the left overs!
>>Related: Choosing the best probiotics for pregnancy
This is not good for a mommy-to-be who needs strength, energy, and proper nourishment throughout the next nine months.
Improved Hair, Nails & Skin
In addition to keeping you and your baby strong, prenatal vitamins are also great because they help improve your hair, nails, and skin, which can also take a beating during pregnancy.
At the end of the day, a good OTC prenatal multivitamin is a specialized formula that delivers you and your baby with everything you could possibly need every day!
Which Nutrients Should You Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin?
You should only take an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin if it absolutely, 100% contains the following nutrients:
#1. Folic acid. Folic acid is key when trying to conceive or when you first find out that you are pregnant. It helps prevent defects of the neural tube, which turns into the spinal cord and brain. Bank on taking 800-1,000 mg of this powerhouse a day.
#2. Iron. Iron is super important because it helps your body transport oxygen and it helps prevent low birth weight in your baby. When you also take it you help lower your chances of becoming anemic, which can be common in pregnancy. Your prenatal should give you at least 25 mg a day.
#3. Calcium. Calcium builds your baby’s bones and teeth, and it helps you to remain strong while carrying your baby. While your vitamin should contain 200-300mg of calcium, your doctor will also tell you to make sure you eat and drink foods high in calcium in addition to your vitamin because you need a crazy amount each day.
#4. Vitamin D. A nice dose of Vitamin D will help you absorb the calcium, so your doctor will recommend you eat and drink foods that are rich in Vitamin D, but if your prenatal contains it as well, it’s just an added bonus.
#5. DHA. DHA helps brain development and vision in your baby. If you are afraid to eat fish (many pregnant women), your prenatal will help you get what you need. Most of them contain about 200 mg, so if you don’t consume many foods with this nutrient, your vitamin will comp for it.
#6. Iodine. New research suggests that taking a prenatal that contains iodine may increase your baby’s intelligence. In addition to this new finding, Iodine is detected in every organ and tissue in your body. It is also important to take because it directly impacts thyroid function and it helps boost metabolism. Aim for 150mcg.
You'll also find many other vitamins added if you read the back of the bottle, but doctors agree that six above are huge to take in on a daily basis.
When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?
If you're trying to conceive like I was, I took prenatals for almost a whole year before actually getting pregnant.
If your pregnancy is a surprise, then start taking them as soon as you get a positive test!
It's essential that your baby gets as much folic acid as possible, as early on as possible to prevent later birth defects such as spina bifida.
Doctors note that if you want to protect your baby and nourish them to the fullest extent possible, you should definitely consume prenatal vitamins when you’re actively trying to conceive because babies grow at a fast rate as soon as they are conceive, which is well before you’ll even get a positive pregnancy test.
What Time Of Day Should You Take Your Prenatal?
Many doctors advise you to take your prenatal vitamin with a meal.
While lots of women take them with breakfast, others suffer from morning sickness and have difficulty taking a vitamin or keeping one down.
You technically can take the vitamin whenever you want throughout your day, so don’t be afraid to take it before bed, if that’s the routine that you want to establish.
I also found it helpful to keep my vitamins in my desk drawer at work, so if I was running late, and didn’t have time to take them, I knew they were waiting for me at work.
Common Side Effects
Some of the biggest side effects of taking prenatals include:
Be sure to discuss these side effects with your doctor and report any and every side effect you experience.
You may need to switch your vitamins and your physician can help you do so by writing you a prescription for one or making another over the counter suggestion.
Prenatals: Not For Just Anyone
You may think you can take any old prenatal, but it’s important to remember you should always run your supplement choices by your doctor first.
Some prenatal vitamins are not ok for just anyone to take!
If you have experienced an allergic reaction in your past, you may need a specialized formula, safe from any hazards or allergens.
You should also be very careful if you’re taking medication because some vitamins don’t mix well and can cause an interaction with what you’re currently on.
They could also make you sick or feel nauseous, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to conceive or if you’re newly pregnant.
Finally, many women suffer from anemia and other iron related issues, in which their iron levels are too high.
So, it's also important to keep a close eye on your iron intake: too much could cause major constipation, which can put a total damper on your digestive tract.
Best OTC Prenatal Vitamins
Vitamin Code by Garden of Life (click here to check the price on Amazon) is our top OTC prenatal vitamin pick on the market today.
They are a little different from some of the kinds your find on the shelf at the store because they are raw.
They are completely vegetarian based pills that are also gluten-free and dairy-free, so they really are for anyone and everyone to take (well, maybe not men).
Like I described above, these supplements are for you and your baby (and after your baby is born). It will boost everyone’s immune system and even ensure healthy digestion.
Many moms complain that their prenatal causes them to get constipated, but Garden of Life’s product promotes elimination with is probiotic and other natural ingredients like ginger.
You’ll find every nutrient you need in these pills and it even has 800 mg of folate. Users remarked that the pills were very high quality, as the pills are made from the finest ingredients.
You should take the vitamins three times per day for maximum absorption. To do you a favor, I looked into it and if you are afraid you’ll forget to take the pills at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can take all three at once.
It’s safe and just as effective.
Nature Made is a really good brand that a lot of women are familiar with. Priced affordably (click here to check the price on Amazon), their Prenatal Multi also contain DHA (Omega-3 fish oil), which is very important.
You only need one soft gel each day, so you can take it with one meal and be done.
The pills are easy to swallow (each pill is about the size of a penny) and the contain all of the ingredients that I outlined before.
In addition to having everything your baby needs, it has everything that you need, too. It supports your nervous system, as well as your bones.
Moms who use these vitamins remark about how many supplements you receive (90 soft gels) for the price and the quality.
Plus, you can find them in all major retailers, so they should be stocked in your town’s pharmacy.
Because Nature Made Prenatal Multi contain iron, the only criticism that the pills have received is that from time to time, it may hurt your tummy a bit and cause some nausea.
So, be sure to always take the vitamin after eating a hearty meal, and never on an empty stomach.
Rainbow Light Prenatal One (click here to check the price on Amazon) is a favorite among a lot of moms I know.
Not only is it 100% natural, it is one also of the best prenatals for being gentle on the stomach.
These vitamins are made to be free of animal products, and are actually screened for vegans/vegetarians to use them but they became so popular that everyone is trying them.
It is also guaranteed of an Allergen Safeguard so it’s free from gluten, soy, yeast (all the main culprits of allergies). It also has about 90 million bioactive probiotics, so you will not have any digestion issues.
In addition to being allergen free, it also does not have any kind of artificial flavors, colors, sugar, sweeteners, or preservatives that pop up from time to time in other brands.
Even though the vitamins are awesome, you should know that dark spots can develop on them if they are exposed to moisture.
The brand claims this does not impact safety, but for maintenance purposes, the vitamins should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
It is suggested that you only take one vitamin each day, and it will deliver every milligram that is recommended that you take in from your doctor.
A bit on the expensive side, many expecting moms agree that New Chapter Perefect Prenatal (click here to check the price on Amazon) are worth the cost.
The brand believes their vitamins have been expertly formulated because they deliver all the vitamins, minerals, and herbs you need to get pregnant and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
The vitamins are fermented with cultures that have helpful probiotics to keep you regular, and they are filled with whole foods so you will never feel sick if you take them on an empty stomach (even though it contains 100% of the iron you need each day, which is usually rough on the stomach).
They also have an energy support (in the form of B vitamins) to keep you on your toes throughout your pregnancy.
The vitamins are made with certified organic vegetables and herbs, is non-GMO project verified, and it’s even gluten free and kosher if you have special dietary needs.
Everything you could possibly want or need is wrapped up in one little vitamin! What a great gift to give to your baby each day.
A very popular brand among many moms, One A Day Prenatal Vitamin is also very affordable (click here to check the price on Amazon).
And, you get an extra DHA liquid gel pack to use in conjunction with the prenatals, making these a great DHA supplement during pregnancy.
The vitamins do a great job at supporting both you and your baby, and it provides 100% of the folic acid that you need to get. Iron is also added to the pills, which are easy to swallow.
After your initial appointment with your doctor, they will most likely suggest this brand. It’s widely known, widely used, and easy to find.
The only main criticism is that many women wish that the DHA was added to the vitamin, so they didn’t have to swallow two pills, but the brand’s idea is to take the vitamins in stages, so the DHA isn’t needed if trying to conceive.
But, overall, it’s a very popular vitamin filled with everything you need.
I love gummies, and when I found out that they were made in a prenatal form by SmartyPants (click here to check the price on Amazon) I was psyched!
You may be wondering: are gummy prenatal vitamins effective?
SmartyPants Gummies not only taste like candy, but they give you tons of goodies that your growing fetus needs.
They are affordable, and this brand passes on the yucky stuff that can sometimes be found in gummies (high fructose corn syrup, synthetic colors, flavors, sweeteners).
The vitamins are actually eco-friendly because the DHA and EPA fish oil is used from small fish sources. A lot of moms also love that the folic acid comes in a different form (called I-methyl folate), which is said to be the most easily absorbed form of folic acid.
If you're looking for an iron-free prenatal vitamin, these may be your best bet.
The reason companies don’t include iron in their gummy vitamins is because there is a risk of overdosing on the iron (yes, too much iron is actually a bad thing), since the gummies taste so good and are easy to pop.
So, if you feel like gummy vitamins are right for you, just be sure to pick up an iron supplement and run it by your doctor first.
Vitafusion’s prenatal gummy vitamins (click here to check the price on Amazon) are not only tasty, but are totally loaded with what you need to nourish your own body as well as your baby’s.
The gelatin vitamins are easy to chew and have a natural lemon flavor which expecting moms can tolerate. It is suggested that two vitamins be taken daily, in order to be most effective and beneficial to your baby.
Because it contains high quality fish oil (which is safe for pregnant women to consume in controlled amounts), it helps you feel stronger, energized, and get sick less often. The gummies are also easy on the stomach because they do not contain, which is perfect if you suffer from morning sickness.
This prenatal also has a great amount of folic acid and 50 mg of Omega-3 DHA, which helps with the brain and eye development of your baby.
Zahler prenatal vitamins (click here to check the price on Amazon) are great for expecting moms to take on a daily basis.
The supplement has 25 vitamins and nutrients in it, plus 300 mg of DHA, which helps aide the brain and vision development of your baby. Moms who take the vitamin feel revitalized and gain peace of mind knowing that they are providing their growing baby with an optimal formula.
Your baby’s vision, bone function, neural tube development, immune system, and mental health are all taken into consideration each time you consume the vitamin.
The pills must be swallowed, but are small enough, making them easy to do so-even with the most “challenged” of gag reflexes.
The vitamins do contain iron, so they should be taken with food, but rest assured you’ll get no smell or lingering taste of iron itself after taking them.
They will also not upset the stomach and will give you steady energy throughout your day.
Zenwise Health prenatal vitamins (click here to check the price on Amazon) are an expecting mom’s dream.
They are specially formulated with powerful vitamins and minerals that help promote a healthy pregnancy, but also give an awesome nursing experience for moms post-delivery.
They include all natural ingredients that are loaded with 800mcg of Folic Acid, and other nutrients that help the brain and skeletal system of your baby successfully develop.
The pills don’t just keep baby healthy, but moms too. They help support cardiovascular health, and are easy to digest. They have probiotics to keep things moving, and are great sources of Vitamin D, E, B, and C!
Moms often get food aversion throughout their pregnancy, so enjoying a hearty plate full of kale and chicken may make them nauseous just at the thought.
That’s why prenatal vitamins are so important; they supplement all the necessary nutrients moms may be missing in their daily food regimen.
#10. Life Science
Rounding out our list of the top prenatal vitamins are these from Life Science (click here to check the price on Amazon).
If you’re planning on getting pregnant, or if you are pregnant, the vitamins have an awesome combination of good for you ingredients.
Composed in a soft gel form, the vitamins are easy to swallow, which is important because nausea can really set in and can make it difficult to swallow large pieces. They contain no fishy aftertaste and are unflavored, which is important to many moms.
This vitamin really stands out among the rest because it contains a high (but healthy) amount of DHA per soft gel, which is important for moms to get during growth phases of pregnancy and also during the breastfeeding process.
It is loaded with Vitamin D3, which also helps boost mood and benefit your emotional well-being. The vitamins are designed for all the needs of a mom-to be in training, and a postpartum mom.
Needless to say, your growing baby will also benefit from all the nutrients it will be getting, in addition to your steady and balanced, nutritious diet.
You should use a vitamin that you absolutely love. After all, you’re going to be taking it for quite some time.
Be sure to check out some of my recommendations above to get your daily dose of vitamins, nutrients, and other essentials that you need to keep healthy, and help create a healthy baby!