This week I dove into the world of prenatals after yet another client asked “What are the best prenatal vitamins?” After all, the number of options can be overwhelming. We used to tell women to buy a generic prenatal. “We aren’t really sure that taking them makes much of a difference.” That was what research evidence indicated about 10+ years ago. But as with all things, scientific knowledge about the importance of nutrition and food has advanced by leaps and bounds.
Research now indicates that some supplements may be crucial to health and disease prevention. Our food consumption and quality has changed significantly, and our exposure to environmental toxins increased.
Best Prenatal Vitamins
After pouring over the labels of many vitamins, my current favorite is Prenatal One by Rainbow Light. It is stocked by Target, Amazon, and most local co-ops, and offers quality ingredients at a reasonable price ($8-9/month). It contains adequate B vitamins, iron, folic acid, iodine, and a smidge of choline, all considered essentials during pregnancy and lactation. Downsides: it has the less bioavailable form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol), non-methylated folate, and little calcium. Unfortunately, it is estimated that up to 40% of people cannot metabolize folic acid adequately due to a gene variant (MTHFR). And folate is crucial for healthy fetal development in the first trimester of pregnancy. Because Prenatal One is food based, and despite its short comings, this is the best prenatal vitamin I have found!
While I also like the Garden of Life and MegaFoods products, they tend to be much more costly. They also add proprietary food blends, which make the ingredient list look fancy, but don’t have a meaningful impact on your health. Pixie dust really.
The second runner up is Deva Vegan Prenatal ($5-6/month), which has the same ingredients as Prenatal One, with the exception of the more bioavailable form of vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Deva is one of the best prenatal vitamins, and the most affordable to boot!
Best Gummy Prenatal
For those who cannot swallow pills, Smarty Pants Prenatal Complete gummies ($28/month) may be your best bet. But eating gummies comes at a price; 50 calories of added sugar per day + a MUCH higher cost. 50 calories is the equivalent of 3+ teaspoons of sugar, potentially detrimental for folks with dental problems, obesity, or insulin resistance. Girl, you have to walk half a mile to burn 50 calories! In the grand scheme of things, adding sugar to your diet for 9 months in order to get proper nutrients doesn’t make sense. Plus, Smarty Pants skimps a bit on the B vitamins and does not contain any calcium or iron, both of which are in high demand while growing a baby. The edge that Smarty Pants does have is the use of methylated folate (remember the MTHFRs above). So why not consider it for at least 1-2 months prior to pregnancy and into your 8th week, then switch to Rainbow Light or Deva brands?
In the future, I look forward to new products that include most of the things pregnant folks need, in optimal amounts, leaving out the unicorns, rainbows, and sugar. You don’t have to bust the bank to find the best prenatal vitamins for you. In the meantime, I ask my prenatal clients when they start care, “which supplements are you taking?” and “can you take a picture of the ingredients for me?” We fill in gaps from there.