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How To Choose The Best Prenatal Vitamin: The Ultimate Guide

I’m Kayli Anderson, dietitian and natural foods chef. PBM is your headquarters for empowering, woman-centered plant-based nutrition and lifestyle guidance. 

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Choosing the best prenatal vitamin can feel confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re a plant-based mama-to-be! Picking the right prenatal for your needs is really important for both you and baby, and the truth is that most prenatals fall short in many nutrients, particularly if you’re predominantly plant-based or vegan. Let’s break down why you need a prenatal vitamin, what to look for, and which prenatal vitamins are currently at the top of the PBM list. 

how to pick the best prenatal vitamin

Why You Need a Prenatal Vitamin

Taking a prenatal vitamin is a must for all mamas. While you might love the idea of meeting all your needs with real food, the fact is that modern life makes that challenging for most women. A prenatal does not take the place of a healthy, nourishing diet, but the right prenatal provides important insurance during a time in your life when meeting your needs is extra important. Taking a good prenatal vitamin increases your chances of getting pregnant and increases the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy.

Many of the nutrients in a prenatal play key roles in the growth and development of your baby and help keep you thriving and balanced throughout your pregnancy, and even post-pregnancy. Many women begin their pregnancy journey already depleted. Add increased needs to this, and nutrient depletion can follow you (and worsen) into postpartum, affecting your energy, emotional wellbeing, and overall health. A prenatal will help you top off nutrient stores so you (and baby) stay nourished throughout pregnancy, and beyond!

When Should You Start Taking a Prenatal Vitamin?

It’s a good idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin as soon as you start planning a pregnancy. Ideally, you begin taking one at least 3 months before conception. This gives you time to top off stores of important nutrients like folate that are necessary in the earliest days of pregnancy. If you don’t have the luxury of planning that far ahead, simply begin taking a daily prenatal as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. 

What To Look For In Prenatal Vitamins – The Basics

If you’ve ever visited the supplement aisle at any grocery or health food store, then you’re no stranger to the overwhelming amount of choices when it comes to multivitamins and supplements. Prenatal vitamins are no different. So, how do you sort through all the options and choose the best prenatal for you? With any supplement, here are a few basic things to look for:

Purchase from a trusted source.

It’s best to buy supplements from a health food store or directly from the brand’s website if possible. Avoid buying from discount retailers where proper storage and handling of supplements cannot be guaranteed. Better yet, ask for the help of the staff at a health food store or a trusted healthcare provider.

Choose plant-based/food-based forms.

In general, look for supplements that use plant-based and food-based forms of nutrients instead of synthetic forms. A couple of big exceptions to this are vitamin B12 and vitamin D since real food forms of these are either hard to come by or are animal-derived. Avoid supplements that contain additives and fillers.

Look for outside certifications.

Like other supplements, prenatal vitamins are not evaluated by the FDA, so there is no guarantee that they actually contain what they claim to. To ensure some level of confidence, look for supplements that have been tested and verified by third-party organizations like Consumer Lab, NSF International, or U.S. Pharmacopeia.

Find supplements that align with your values.

You might also want to look for other qualities in the supplements you choose. For example, those that are certified Vegan or Cruelty-free, recyclable packaging, sustainable sourcing practices, or gluten-free.   

Related:  Plant-based Pregnancy: Your Ultimate Guide

The truth is, you might be hard pressed to find a supplement that meets all of the above criteria and contains adequate amounts of key nutrients (more on that below). Choose the one that comes the closest to meeting your needs.

Prenatal Multivitamin Checklist For Plant-based Mamas

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to flip the bottle over and take a closer look at the specific nutrients and amounts that it contains. Here’s your nutrient checklist for predominantly plant-based and vegan mamas. 

Methylfolate

At least 600mcg, ideally 800-1,000 mcg

Iodine

At least 150mcg, ideally 200-220 mcg

Iron

At least 27 mg

Selenium

At least 30mcg

Vitamin D3

At least 15mcg (600 IU)

Vitamin B12

At least 25mcg

Bonus Nutrients To Look For in a Prenatal

Omega-3 DHA

400 mg algae-based DHA

Most prenatals will not include DHA, and separate supplementation will be necessary for anyone who does not regularly consume fatty fish.

Choline

400 mg

Choline is a new kid on the block when it comes to prenatal nutrition. It is a B vitamin that plays a major role in cognition and is necessary for early brain development, communication between cells, and gene expression. Some evidence indicates that low plasma choline levels are associated with neural tube defects. 

Zinc

15-45 mcg

Most prenatal will include your daily zinc needs. In addition, aim to eat 2-3 servings of beans and lentils everyday.

Others

Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C have both been shown to support fertility

PBM’s Prenatal Vitamin Review – The Best Prenatal Vitamins

Evaluating prenatal vitamins takes a lot of time and effort, so we’ve taken the work out of it for you. Since these are general suggestions, you should always consider your unique needs and talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

NutriGold Prenatal Multi Gold (vegan)

For plant-based mamas, add additional choline and DHA

Thorne Basic Prenatal 

For plant-based mamas, add additional choline and DHA

Related:  3 Ingredient Bean Burgers

Not verified vegan, may use animal-derived vitamin D3

Garden of Life Raw Prenatal

For plant-based mamas, add additional vitamin B12, choline, and DHA

mykind Organics Prenatal

For plant-based mamas, add additional vitamin B12, choline, and DHA

Want More Plant-based Pregnancy Tips?

Grab the free PBM Pregnancy Checklist to make sure you and baby are getting everything you need. Also, check out this post – The Ultimate Guide To Plant-based Pregnancy.

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