While eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the best ways to support a healthy pregnancy, it can be difficult to meet the daily recommended vitamin and nutrient intake. This is why many professionals suggest supplementing your diet with a quality over-the-counter prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
With so many different types of over-the-counter prenatal vitamins available, how do you know which one is best for you? First and foremost, it is highly recommended you consult with your healthcare provider about the vitamins you’re taking. Some obstetricians will prescribe prenatal vitamins based on your individual nutritional needs, or they will be able to assist you in choosing the right over-the-counter prenatal vitamin for your pregnancy.
In the meantime, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the best over-the-counter vitamins to help you discern between the various types of prenatal vitamins currently available on the market.
Organic & Vegan Vitamins
Vitamins are commonly derived from animal sources. As such, if you’re in the market for a vegan prenatal vitamin, you’ll want to ensure the nutrients contained within are all plant-based. There are also vitamins that are certified to be made from organic sources.
Many organic/vegan prenatal vitamins will be made available in tablet-form rather than capsules, as capsules are usually made from gelatin, which is derived from animal ingredients.
Keep in mind there are pros and cons to each type of vitamin. Some disadvantages associated with vitamins in tablet form include:
- Limited protection (no gelatin-coating) for sensitive ingredients
- Difficulty in swallowing
- May cause gastrointestinal irritation
- Potentially poor breakdown and absorption in the GI tract
- Potential sensitivities to tablet coating(s)
Due to these disadvantages associated with tablets, it may be more suitable to find an organic/vegan prenatal vitamin that utilizes veggie capsules.
With some vitamins, you will have the choice of animal or plant-based sources, such as with vitamin D. If you are vegan, vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is the plant-based version you would choose. However, the animal counterpart, vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, has been said to be better absorbed and declines in action slower than D2 (though other studies have shown that it is as effective). Therefore, it is important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages when choosing a vegan supplement.
Prescription Prenatal Vitamins
Prescription prenatal vitamins may be an option for you during your pregnancy; however, it’s important to note that having a prescription is not a requirement.
Many women associate prescriptions with a higher quality prenatal vitamin, yet this is not always accurate.
What is important are the ingredients within the prenatal vitamin. There are multivitamins that can be an excellent prenatal vitamin because they contain adequate amounts of iodine, folate, vitamin D, vitamin B, calcium, and other vital nutrients needed in higher levels during pregnancy.
Checking in with your physician for your specific needs is always important. However, it is good to be aware that prescriptions are not always needed, as there are many natural OTC alternatives available!
One potential benefit of having a prescription for prenatal vitamins is that your insurance plan may cover most, if not all of the cost.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Prenatal Vitamins
OTC prenatal vitamins can be purchased without a prescription at grocery stores, supercenters, and drug stores, and are usually more cost-effective than those prescribed by your doctor (unless your insurance covers the prescription vitamins).
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all prenatal vitamins are created equal—many OTC brands are formulated with lower-quality ingredients, including synthetic vitamins and mineral salts. This may take some research on your part to find the brands that are held to high-quality standards and ones that include the most necessary vitamins and minerals.
For example, research has shown that natural vitamin E is more biologically active and better retained than its synthetic counterpart. When looking at your over-the-counter prenatal vitamin, you can identify the kind of vitamin E within the formula based on the label—natural vitamin E begins with “d” (d-alpha-tocopherol), while the synthetic version begins with “dl” (dl-alpha-tocopherol).
Research shows the human placenta has the ability to deliver natural vitamin E to the fetus much more efficiently than synthetic vitamin E. Research also shows a correlation between premature babies and low vitamin E levels.
Choosing Your Prenatal Vitamin
As a soon-to-be mom, it is imperative you supplement with a high-quality prenatal vitamin to support a healthy pregnancy. Fairhaven Health and Nordic Naturals are endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association.
You may find it helpful to talk with your healthcare provider as well as other expecting moms to get recommendations or to validate a prenatal vitamin you are considering.
Want to Know More?
- Pregnancy Nutrition
- Prenatal DHA
- FH PRO for Women and Men: Antioxident Supplements for Fertility and Prenatal Wellness
- Eating Seafood During Pregnancy
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. November 2004. doi: 10.1210/jc.2004-0360
2. Vitamin D2 is as effective as vitamin D3 in maintaining circulating concentrations of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. March 2008. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2308