The best prenatal vitamins in 2021
- Prenatal vitamins provide essential nutrients to help conception and healthy growth of a fetus.
- Our top pick, Deva Prenatal One Daily, is Consumer Labs-verified to have all needed nutrients and no heavy metals in one pill, at a low price.
- You should always check with your doctor before starting any new vitamin regimen.
- This article was medical reviewed by Regina Cardaci, PhD, RN, a clinical assistant professor of midwifery at NYU Meyers College of Nursing.
Taking a daily prenatal vitamin is essential for anyone who’s expecting a baby. They’re filled with specialized nutrients (folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin A, B-complex, C, D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids) important for helping a baby develop properly in vitro — including before you may realize you’re pregnant. And many formulas also support the general health of a potential mom-to-be.
When you’re hoping to conceive, are already pregnant, or are trying to stay healthy while breastfeeding, ensuring that your body is functioning with all cylinders firing is crucial. Even if you make a Herculean effort to eat healthily, it’s common for your daily diet to fall short of optimal nutrient levels.
According to Dr. Sheryl A. Ross, MD, an OB-GYN and author of “She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.”, a complete prenatal vitamin can act as the perfect “insurance policy” that you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you both need.
And while a prenatal is a must once you’re pregnant, many doctors, midwives, and nurse practitioners recommend that all women of childbearing age (18 to 44 years old) who could get pregnant add a daily prenatal vitamin to their self-care routine.
That’s because prenatal vitamins are crucial for things like supplementing levels of folic acid which helps prevent neural tube defects. This is most at risk early on in a pregnancy, often before a woman even finds out she’s pregnant.
Since the ingredients in a prenatal are safe and helpful for non-pregnant women as well, anyone could take one daily during child-bearing years just in case. Dr. Brain Brimmage, an obstetrician who delivers babies at UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh, NC told Insider it’s important to take these pills even if you’re still just considering carrying a child, and at the very least start 1 to 3 months before conception.
Here’s the catch: Like all supplements and vitamins, prenatals are not regulated by the FDA, so there’s no one confirming their safety or efficacy. As a recent New York Times article outlines, not all prenatal vitamins actually contain the amount of recommended nutrients they claim, and there’s a rather pervasive issue of the vitamins being contaminated with heavy metals, especially lead.
For the prenatal vitamins we’ve recommended in this guide, we did extensive research into which brands and formulas were the most trustworthy, and which had been verified by third-party labs like LabDoor or Consumer Labs. At the end of this guide, we go into detail on how we chose the products on this list, as well as what to look for in a prenatal vitamin and how to shop for one.
Here are the best prenatal vitamins you can buy:
- Best prenatal vitamin overall: Deva Prenatal One Daily
- Best budget prenatal vitamin: Nature Made’s Prenatal Vitamins with DHA
- Best organic prenatal vitamin: New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin
- Best anti-nausea prenatal vitamin: SmartyPants Prenatal Formula
Best prenatal vitamins overall
The Deva Prenatal One Daily features all the nutrients crucial for a healthy mom-to-be and growing fetus, minus DHA, at levels and quality verified recently by third-party testing, in just one pill a day.
Pros: Accurate nutrient amounts, features choline, one pill a day, vegan
Cons: Niacin might cause skin flushing for some, will require additional DHA supplements, riboflavin makes your urine bright yellow
In 2020, Consumer Labs tested 27 multivitamin supplements including three prenatals and Deva Prenatal One Daily came out as their top pick. Deva features all the nutrients a prenatal should — vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, iodine — and in the amounts purported by the label.
What’s more, it has choline which many other options don’t, despite the fact that studies show choline may help with a fetus’ neurodevelopment and placental functioning, as well as reduce the risk of birth defects and most women don’t get enough of the nutrient from their diet.
Consumer Labs does point out this prenatal contains more B vitamins than the daily requirement, including 45 mg of niacin, which is above the 40mg level at which niacin sometimes causes your skin to flush. The form in Deva is niacinamide, which is less likely to cause flushing, but it’s still something to be aware of in the less-likely event that your checks feel hot and look red.
The only key nutrient this prenatal doesn’t have is DHA, which is helpful for a baby’s neurological development, so you’ll want to supplement with an additional 200mg DHA, our medical reviewer Regina Cardaci, PhD, RN, a clinical assistant professor of midwifery at NYU Meyers College of Nursing pointed out.
The supplement comes in average-sized (about the length of a penny) oval pressed pills, so without a gelatin casing, it’s vegan as well. However, because it isn’t a capsule, these prenatals have a rather earthy smell when opening the bottle and, to a milder degree, a slight taste. Those with very sensitive stomachs might have a hard time.
It’s also worth noting that because of the riboflavin, these will make your urine (and breast milk if you’re post-partum) bright yellow — which isn’t dangerous, but can definitely be alarming, and is good to mention to your doctor or nurse if you have to give a urine sample so they don’t think you’re dehydrated.
Best budget prenatal vitamin
Nature Made Prenatal Multi +DHA vitamins offer all the vitamins and minerals one needs while pregnant in just one pill per day, while keeping costs low.
Pros: All the essential and specialized nutrients you need for your child-bearing years, all-in-one multivitamin, inexpensive
Cons: Not vegetarian, some users report a fishy odor
For starters, Nature Made Prenatal Multi +DHA vitamins meet the standards recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for prenatal vitamins and minerals. The pills are free of artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, yeast, or gluten, and are USP-verified for quality and safety.
You can score all your vitamins in just one softgel, which is about the size of a penny — so while it’s not “small,” most people shouldn’t have trouble getting one down every day.
Nature Made offers prenatal vitamins with and without added DHA from fish oil. We’re recommending the option with, as DHA is a particular omega-3 fatty acid that’s helpful in pregnancy. Some users do report a fishy taste or odor with these pills, but after one of our reviewers took them every day for three months, she didn’t experience any “fish burps.” The pills are large, but also gel-coated for easier swallowing.
This vitamin also has 1.5 mg of vitamin B1, which is important in brain development.
To top it off, at $27 for 60 softgels, this prenatal is the most budget-friendly on our list.
The only thing of note: Nature Made Prenatal is lower in calcium and vitamin D than some of the others on this list, so you may want to supplement if you don’t already get enough (though it’s worth noting that most Americans get enough calcium from their diets alone).
This vitamin was a contender for our best overall pick thanks to its ideal nutrient-levels, cheap cost, and omnipresent availability and most every drug store, grocery store, and health food store. However, we ran into conflicting information regarding how reliable the label is:
On the one hand, this prenatal is USP-certified, which is reassurance from one of the most reliable third-party testers that this formula contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
But at the same time, Lab Door, a trustworthy company who also ran independent testing on the formula, found that six key nutrients measured at least 10% over the label value. The worst offenders were vitamin B6 which was 73% over its 2.6mg label claim, and EPA, which was 285% over its 28mg label claim. Cardaci pointed out that this is not a big deal since B vitamins are water-soluble so any excess will easily be excreted, and the 108 mg of EPA is still within recommended amounts.
Additionally, Lab Door does state the product did meet purity standards. This vitamin has not been tested or evaluated by Consumer Labs, though the brand has not had any recalls since 2016.
So, even though our experts and medical reviewer deemed this vitamin to still have safe and effective amounts of the essential nutrients for child-bearing women, the simple fact of the label being inaccurate slightly tarnishes the vitamin’s trustworthiness.
Best organic prenatal vitamin
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin has all the nutrients you need in a prenatal, sourced from organic, whole foods.
Pros: High-quality, specialized nutrition formulated from whole food sources
Cons: Serving is three pills per day; synthetic folate; brand promotes unverified claims surrounding topics like breastfeeding which may or may not be true.
Like all good prenatals, New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin contains folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin A, B-complex, C, D, zinc, and omega-3-fish oil. But uniquely, it sources ingredients from organic, whole foods, which can be important to people who prioritize an organic, whole-foods diet.
The prenatal is also fermented — a component that, in theory, makes the nutrients more bioavailable and absorbable, Miranda Hammer, R.D., a dietician who lists her practice on Robyn, a database for prenatal practitioner, told Insider.
The New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin is also one of Dr. Ross’s favorite brands. One of our reviewers took these vitamins every day for a month, and here’s what she loved: Even though she wasn’t pregnant at the time — just trying to conceive — she was still particularly prone to nausea. Taking pills in the morning, taking pills on an empty stomach, or just about anything triggered her nausea.
However, New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamins are taken in three small doses throughout the day, rather than one big pill all at once. Our reviewer thinks breaking up the ingredients into smaller, more manageable doses really helped stave off her nausea.
Some of the doctors quoted in this piece agree: Taking medications before you go to bed could also help stave off nausea, Dr. Jill Rabin, vice chair of education and development of OB-GYN at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center told Insider. “If you have any nausea, you may be sleeping through it.”
Of course, the fact that you need to remember to take them three times a day could be a drawback for some. (This is always why it’s always important to make sure you’re reading the serving size of a vitamin; some prenatal vitamins have a serving size of one pill while some are three or four and you might not be getting everything you need if you aren’t taking the full serving.)
New Chapter’s prenatal also includes methylated folate (MTHF), which is a more bioavailable form of folate. “Folic acid has to go through a conversion process in the body in order for it to be utilized. Some individuals have a genetic mutation that impedes the conversion process, so the methylated folate is the better-utilized form,” says Hammer.
“What is truly essential is making sure the supplements are third-party tested,” she added. This vitamin is NSF-certified and third-party tested.
One note: A 2020 analysis from Consumer Labs did find that New Chapter Perfect Prenatal had slightly less vitamin A and slightly more iodine than listed on the label. Many staple healthy foods (including sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, peppers, and dairy like Greek yogurt) are rich in vitamin A so slightly less in your vitamin will most likely be compensated if you’re focused on a whole-foods, organic diet as this category denotes.
It’s better to have less vitamin A than too much, as it’s not water-soluble so extra can be stored in the body, Cardaci pointed out. (In rare instances, this can cause toxicity, she added.)
The analysis also found the Perfect Prenatal had more iron than listed, although they simultaneously point to a 2019 report in JAMA Open that showed even with taking supplements, 36% of pregnant women still get too little iron, so that may not be a bad thing (unless you’re experiencing nausea).
Best anti-nausea prenatal vitamin
SmartyPants Prenatal Formula delivers impressive nutrition (with important nutrients sometimes missing from prenatal vitamins like thiamin), has thoughtful ingredients, and is easier on the stomach than prenatals in pill form.
Pros: Great taste, methyl folate for more available folate, good for those who have difficulty swallowing pills
Cons: Serving size is four gummies, doesn’t contain iron
“Nausea is, by far, the most common issue when taking prenatal vitamins, especially in the first trimester,” said Dr. Brimmage. Sometimes, switching to a gummy prenatal vitamin can help with that, as does cutting back on iron.
SmartyPants Prenatal Formula is a gummy vitamin that does not contain any iron — which Dr. Brimmage says is okay as long as you aren’t already significantly anemic. “Even if you are [anemic], keeping down a gummy prenatal vitamin without iron is better than not keeping down your prenatal vitamin with iron at all,” he added.
For this reason, SmartyPants’ prenatal is likely much more tolerable if you’ve been suffering nausea and upset stomach, particularly in the first trimester. “Iron tastes really bad,” Dr. Brimmage pointed out.
One of our reviewers, who suffered from extreme nausea and vomiting in her pregnancy, had no trouble keeping these vitamins down.
SmartyPants’ prenatal also includes methylated folate (MTHF), which is a more bioavailable form of folate. “Folate is needed to prevent neural tube defects,” Hammer said.
These vitamins don’t have any artificial coloring, and they deliver the right levels of recommended nutrients including folic acid, omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids, B vitamins, plus it has iodine, which is important in helping with the development of the baby’s nervous system and brain, Hammer said.
Though this prenatal hasn’t been tested or evaluated by either Consumer Labs or Lab Door, the brand does do third-party testing on all their formulas, and its prenatal received the Clean Label Project’s Purity Award, the highest overall rating for product purity and value.
What else we considered
MyKind Organics Prenatal Multivitamins ($41.32): These are another great option if you’re looking for a multivitamin that is certified organic, GMO-free, and vegan. A few added ingredients such as palm oil, along with a slightly higher price tag let New Chapter edge this brand out for a daily organic pill.
Vitafusion PreNatal Gummy Multivitamins ($10.99): Vitafusion’s gummies deliver good nutrition while being easy on the taste buds and wallet, but they don’t include vitamin B1 (thiamin).
Ritual Essential Prenatals ($35): These vitamins seem like a great option with the brand’s commitment to transparency and the prenatal’s vegan omega-3s, bio-available folate, and delayed-release capsules. However, its formula doesn’t include calcium or vitamin C under the claim that most adults get enough of both. Our medical reviewer Regina Cardaci flagged this as inaccurate, adding that most women do not get enough calcium and both this mineral and vitamin C are especially important during pregnancy to build strong bones and teeth and, in the case of vitamin C, help the body absorb iron.
How we chose the products on this list
We personally tested many brands of different prenatal vitamins throughout various stages of conception and pregnancy. We also drew on past personal experiences with issues such as nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and investigated common concerns and complaints with prenatal vitamins among pregnant women, like bad taste and smell.
We read the current scientific literature and consulted with medical professionals as well. The doctors quoted throughout this piece include three different OB-GYNs as well as a registered dietitian who reviewed product selections and consulted with us on what to look for, as well as what to avoid, in prenatal vitamins.
When considering various options, we looked for:
- Proper nutrients – The number one guideline we looked for was whether a prenatal included all of the important vitamins and minerals and in the amount recommended by our experts, below.
- Serving size – Some prenatals deliver all the nutrients in a single pill, others in three pills that you can take all at once or spread throughout the day. A single capsule is nice for those who are busy and who don’t like taking pills; however, some people report less nausea if they space out their pills.
- Pill form – Some prenatals come as a pressed powder, a liquid in a capsule, or as a gummy. This is largely a matter of personal preference, though special dietary restrictions like vegan or gluten-free may play into which form is best.
- Taste and smell – Common complaints against prenatal vitamins among pregnant women are a fishy tastes (from omega-3 fatty acids) or poor-tasting (due, in part, to iron). Because you have to stomach this every day, we looked for options where neither taste nor smell were an issue.
What to look for in a prenatal vitamin
“Women who are trying to get pregnant [or are pregnant] need additional folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin A, B-complex, C, D, zinc and omega-3-fish oil,” Dr. Ross said. Our medical reviewer Regina Cardaci, PhD, RN, a clinical assistant professor of midwifery at NYU Meyers College of Nursing pointed out that thiamine is also crucial in any prenatal for brain development.
The synthetic form of naturally-occurring folate, folic acid is the most important nutrient in your prenatal. “For most women, you want 400 micrograms (mcg) per day, though 600 to or 800 mcg per day is fine,” Dr. Brimmage said.
If you’re at an elevated risk of neural tube defects — you have a personal history of them, a family history, genetic variations, are obese, for example — you’ll need slightly more, around 1,000 mcg per day for medium risk and 4,000 mcg per day for high-risk women through the first trimester. Then you can drop to 400 mcg per day, Dr. Brimmage explained.
Iron is another important nutrient to look for in a prenatal since many women become anemic during pregnancy. Iron is needed to help bring oxygen to the fetus and support the extra blood flow that’s required for the placenta, Dr. Brimmage said. During pregnancy, it’s recommended women get 27 mg of iron a day.
However, iron can also be a problematic ingredient. “Some women experience constipation due to the increase in iron in some vitamins, so switching to a prenatal with lower iron may be an option or ensuring optimal hydration and fiber intake can also help,” said Hammer.
Iron is also notorious for worsening nausea or upsetting the stomach, added Dr. Brimmage. So if you’re suffering from extreme nausea and vomiting, you might want to avoid it in a prenatal. If you do, talk to your healthcare provider to ensure you’re getting the appropriate amount of iron through your diet or other supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, are also important: “There’s some evidence to suggest that DHA may be beneficial when taken prenatally for a baby’s neurological development and some evidence that it may reduce the risk of preterm birth,” said Dr. Brimmage. Plus, he notes most women in the United States don’t eat enough fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. The exact dosage is up for debate, but most experts recommend at least 200 mg of DHA daily. If you’re vegan, you want to look for a vegan-specific DHA.
An often overlooked vitamin that is important to look for in a prenatal is thiamin or vitamin B1. First and foremost, is crucial in healthy brain development of the fetus. This is especially important in a supplement if you have bad nausea or vomiting in pregnancy (particularly a condition like Hyperemesis gravidarum) since levels of the vitamin can become depleted if you can’t eat or keep down vitamin B1-rich foods or supplements. Look for 1.5mg per serving.
How to shop for a prenatal vitamin
Most people assume that the more expensive a vitamin is, the higher quality it must be. But don’t be fooled: “There’s really not probably enough of a benefit from the ones that are really expensive to justify them being two or three times the cost,” said Dr. Brimmage. Higher cost doesn’t denote quality, and for that reason, we’ve kept all recommendations reasonable.
Avoid health-washing claims
It’s recommended to take claims like “breast support blend” (a term included on one of these prenatals’ ingredient list) with a grain of salt, Dr. Brimmage explained. Claims like that aren’t necessarily bad or dangerous, and Dr. Brimmage notes that he’s never seen a prenatal in this country that he’s worried about. But these kinds of phrases aren’t necessarily true or effective since vitamins aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Read the ingredients
With gummy prenatals, you want to be mindful of artificial coloring, notes Hammer. And if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll want to look for a prenatal — gummy or capsule — that fits your dietary requirements, keeping an eye out for gelatin, says Hammer.
Dr. Brimmage says that while extra sugar, specifically in gummy prenatal vitamins, can seem like a concern, compared to the overall amount of sugar that most people eat in a day, the amount you could potentially get through a prenatal is very small and probably not something you need to stress about.
Look for third-party testing
Because vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, there is no universal source saying the formula in your hand is indeed safe, effective, or actually contains what the label claims. Because of this, for any prenatal vitamin, third party testing is also always something good to look for, Dr. Jill Rabin, M.D., vice chair of education and development of OB-GYN at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center told Insider.
Third-party testing is a seal that indicates a company uses an outside testing facility to verify the ingredients in the products as well as its safety. Look for the USP Verification Services or NSF seal, two of the most well-recognized and well-respected third-party verifiers.
We also suggest running any supplement through Consumer Lab or Lab Door before you purchase. Both test the ingredients of supplements for everything from the accuracy of dosage to harmful contaminants like arsenic, lead, and mercury. Lab Door is free but has a smaller database of brands and has potential conflicts of interest as it sells the clean supplements through its site. Consumer Lab costs $4 a month, but has no affiliations with any supplements and has data on almost every brand.
What to check before buying
Otherwise, doing your own research — on a company’s website or by contacting a company in question — can pay off as well. Companies should be forthcoming about the testing they do, the ingredients in its products, and its manufacturing processes.
During the research process for this article, we spoke with:
- Dr. Sheryl A. Ross, MD, an OB-GYN and author of “She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.”
- Dr. Jill Rabin, MD, vice chair of education and development of OB-GYN at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center
- Dr. Brian Brimmage, MD, an obstetrician who delivers babies at UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh, NC
- Miranda Hammer, RD, a dietician who lists her practice on Robyn, a database for prenatal practitioners
Medical review of this piece was completed by Regina Cardaci, PhD, RN, a clinical assistant professor of midwifery at NYU Meyers College of Nursing.
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