As a clinical nutritionist and pregnancy doc, I get asked quite frequently which prenatal multivitamin I would recommend. I took the opportunity while I was pregnant to try out my usual picks to gather some “on-field” intel with them.
Here are my top choices for multivitamins while you are pregnant, combining my personal experience and clinical expertise:
This one isn’t just a prenatal multi. The box comes with a daily little packages that includes your multivitamin, a fish oil, a calcium/magnesium supplement, and choline. Metagenics is a very high quality nutraceutical company and the little packages made remembering everything once a day easy. The price point is a little higher, but not if you compare what the cost would be to source everything individually. My biggest complaint with this one is that the fish oil supplement does not have an enteric coating, which means some people may be prone to “revisiting” or getting the fish oil burps.
This one comes in two varieties: Trimester I & II and Trimester III & Post-natal. I like that they split it up and are trying to support the needs of different phases. I also like that this is a food-based supplement. My patients who are sensitive to supplements or prone to nausea tend do very well with this one. It’s a two tablets a day dose.
This one is a little cheaper and still meets my base criteria. Douglas Labs is a good brand with high standards. It is also a two-a-day. Douglas Labs used to make a Prenatal Pack similar to the Metagenics one, but their packaging machine broke over a year ago and they have not started making them again yet, which is a big pain in the butt because it was nice having a cheaper option for the packages.
Another good nutraceutical brand and also not quite as pricey as some of the other ones. The biggest difference with this one is that it comes in a three-a-day form. Some people prefer to space out their supplement intake, while for others remembering even once a day can be a daunting
task. If you are on the side of liking to space out your intake, then this one might be a better choice for you.
You may have noticed that I did not list any of the supplements available at Costco on this list. That was not a mistake! Quality matters a lot when it comes to nutritional supplements and independent assays of shelf-bought products continually come up with scary results; either what they say is in the package isn’t, or worse, there is stuff in there not disclosed on the packa
ge. It’s just not worth the potential health impacts just to save a couple bucks, especially while pregnant or nursing.
A Few More Considerations for Prenatal Multivitamins
If you would like to try out some supplements that are not on my list, that is totally fine. I don’t have close ties to any one company or any incentive to promote a particular brand. We could outline specific instructions for each nutrient, but that would just take way too long. Here are some important general guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a prenatal (or any) multivitamin.
- ALWAYS make sure that the B12 and folate in your multi are in the “methylated” form. (Basically, just look for the word “methyl” in the long science-y word on the back. If the supplement you are looking at does not include the specific version of each nutrient, put it down. Assume they are not disclosing that information for a reason). Technically, this is more important for certain people than it is for other, but unless you know your MTHFR gene status (and understand what that means), I would strongly recommend that you err on the side of methylated B12 and folate.
- How many pills will you realistically take in a day? As I mentioned above, a multi can come in variations from one-a-day to three-a-day. The trend of spacing out nutrient intake throughout the day is totally fine… as long as you will actually do it! Be honest with yourself and choose the multi that works best for you.
- Make sure the form of iron in your multi is non-constipating. Generally, chelated forms work well. You may notice that the form of iron in the supplements above vary. People do tend to respond differently to different forms, so if one is not agreeing with you, try another.
- Make sure it is a multi-nutrient. We say multi-vitamin because that is less of a mouthful, but make sure your prenatal multi has minerals in there too! A few important players are iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.
- If it isn’t working for you, switch it up! If you are experiencing nausea or constipation, try a different brand (or a few different brands) before giving up entirely.
- Eat healthy. A supplement, no matter how fabulous, is just that: a supplement. It is meant to support a healthy diet, not replace. So focus on getting your nutrients from real food as much as possible. Mother nature pairs nutrients and provides them in ways much better that what we mere mortals can’t replicate. Your multi, though highly recommended, is not going to over-ride a crappy diet or lifestyle.
- Don’t wait until you are pregnant. Some of these nutrients (like folic acid) are crucial players during the earliest stages of development, before most women even know if they are pregnant or not. It is a good idea for all women of child-bearing age to be on a good quality multi with (methylated) folate. If you are a planner like me, include replenishing your nutrient stores as part of your baby-prep plan. This will also give you more of a nutrient-availability buffer incase you go through a phase early in pregnancy of wanting to eat nothing by crazy bread from Little Ceasars.
Hope this helps you navigate and make the choice that is right for you! If you are in Kelowna and want an easy source for your supplements, contact AltaVie Integrated Family Health and we can hook you up.