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HOW TO CHOOSE A PRENATAL VITAMIN

Updated: Apr 1

Trying to choose a good prenatal vitamin from the hundreds of products on the market can be a challenging, frustrating, and confusing experience.

How to choose a prenatal vitamin

We understand not everyone wants to read an entire article, so if you want to see what prenatal we recommend and skip the article, here it is.


So we are going to set aside some of the more in-depth quality control discussions for another day and focus on some basics such as packaging, delivery method, and what nutrients, types, and amounts you should look for.


First up is a small bit about some dishonest marketing that a number of companies are using. There are a lot of prenatal vitamins on the market claiming to be things like whole food or food-based. There are, in fact, no whole-food prenatal vitamins on the market. You can see our article here that goes through many of the marketing terms these companies use. However, the bottom line is that they are not being honest. So if you see any companies using words or pictures to make you think their products are whole food or made from food, avoid them because they are clearly not being honest with you.


One of the first things to look for in choosing a good prenatal is a basic but very important one, the packaging. Prenatal vitamins should be packaged in dark glass, opaque plastic, or sachets in a box. This is because light will cause certain nutrients to break down. Shockingly one of the best-selling prenatal vitamins on the market is packaged in a clear container. This is an absolutely terrible idea and shows that the company has a serious lack of judgment and quality control. Stay far away if you see prenatal vitamins (or any other supplements) packaged in clear containers.


Next up is the delivery format. The chewable and gummy formats are not really suitable for prenatal vitamins. There is simply no way to fit enough of the nutrients, in their proper forms, needed for a healthy pregnancy into a chewable or gummy. You will be missing a lot of essential nutrients. Liquids are a poor choice because many vitamins are unstable when left in a liquid solution and break down, resulting in a loss of nutrients. The best choices for prenatal vitamins are powders, tablets, and capsules. Avoid one-a-day products as they are either going to be using poor forms of nutrients, lack adequate amounts, or be missing key ingredients like choline.

How to choose a prenatal vitamin

Capsules and tablets might be boring, but your health is too important to leave to candy.


A good prenatal should, to start with, contain the basic nutrients in good forms and amounts. Two things to keep in mind are that you do not need to get 100% percent of every nutrient from your prenatal as you will get some from food. Also, make sure to check the serving size on the package so you know how many pills you have to take to get the listed amounts. For example, one bottle may have a serving size of five pills and another a serving of two pills. Remember to always take your prenatal vitamin with a full glass of water and some food.

  1. Vitamin A

    1. Look for products that contain a combination of preformed vitamin A (retinol) and carotenoids or just vitamin A (retinol). Some people do not convert carotenoids like beta carotene into vitamin A very well, so a combination of both or just vitamin A will ensure that you are getting enough.

  2. B1 (Thiamine)

  3. B2 (Riboflavin)

    1. Choose those that use the methylated form, riboflavin-5-phosphate, as many people have a genetic issue that affects their ability to convert riboflavin into riboflavin-5-phosphate.

  4. B3 (Niacin or Niacinamide)

    1. Niacinamide form b3 does not cause the unpleasant flushing that niacin can cause.

  5. B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

  6. B6 (Pyridoxine)

    1. Choose those that use the methylated form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, as many people have a genetic issue that affects their ability to convert pyridoxine hcl (hydrochloride) into pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

  7. B7 (Biotin)

  8. B9 (Folate)

    1. Avoid products that contain folic acid. Instead, look for L-methyl folate or 5-MTHF forms of folate. Many people have a genetic issue that affects their ability to convert folic acid into l-methyl folate. In addition, many people get too much folic acid in their diet already from fortified foods. Avoid products that just list folate, as many of these products actually have folic acid but are lying and saying folate.

  9. B12 (Cobalamin)

    1. Avoid products that use cyanocobalamin. Many people have a genetic issue that affects their ability to convert cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin. Instead, look for products that use methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin. Also, avoid products that just say b-12 or cobalamin as it is important actually to know what form is being used.

  10. Vitamin C

  11. Vitamin D

    1. Look for those that contain at least 1,000iu of d3 per serving.

  12. Vitamin E

    1. Look for prenatal vitamins that use mixed forms of natural tocopherols, not just alpha-tocopherol or synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol.

  13. Vitamin K

    1. There are multiple forms of vitamin K found in supplements. The most common are K1 and K2 ( MK-7 and MK-4). Look for products that have a combination of vitamin K types or only the MK-4 (the best form). Avoid products that only use the K2 MK-7 form, as this form may not pass well from the placenta to the fetus.

  14. Calcium

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins containing calcium carbonate or tricalcium phosphate; instead, look for those that use citrate, chelate, malate, or MCHA, as these are better absorbed and will be easier on the digestive system.

      1. Keep in mind that calcium is very bulky and takes up a lot of space, so you will not be able to get 100% of the daily value in a prenatal capsule.

  15. Iron

    1. A good prenatal should have a least 15 mg of iron per serving. Look for chelated forms of iron, like bisglycinate, as these are easier on the stomach and less likely to cause constipation. A prenatal with a multiple pill serving will be better as you can split the dosage up during the day, increasing absorption and reducing stomach upset.

  16. Magnesium

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use 100% oxide (occasionally, a company will use a small amount of oxide to make it easy on the stomach, but the rest is a good form) or carbonate forms. Instead, look for forms such as citrate, glycinate, or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and be easier on the stomach and digestive system.

      1. Keep in mind that magnesium is very bulky and takes up a lot of space, so you will not be able to get 100% of the daily value in a prenatal capsule.

  17. Selenium

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the sodium selenite form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate, methionine, yeast-bound, or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and be easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  18. Zinc

    1. Zinc is so important for fetal development. According to the NIH, pregnant women are one of the groups most at risk of zinc deficiency:

      1. Pregnant women, particularly those starting their pregnancy with marginal zinc status, are at increased risk of becoming zinc insufficient due, in part, to high fetal requirements for zinc. Lactation can also deplete maternal zinc stores, and for these reasons, the RDA for zinc is higher for pregnant and lactating women than for other women.

        1. Based on that information from the NIH, make sure your prenatal vitamin contains zinc.

    2. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  19. Copper

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  20. Manganese

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  21. Chromium

    1. Look for forms such as GTF, chelates, and picolinate, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  22. Manganese

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  23. Molybdenum

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  24. Potassium

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  25. Boron

    1. Avoid prenatal vitamins that use the oxide form. Instead, look for forms such as citrate or chelates, as these will be better absorbed and easier on the stomach and digestive system.

  26. Vanadium

There are three other nutrients that are so incredibly important but often do not get mentioned and are not present or present in very small amounts in most prenatal vitamins.

  1. Choline

    1. Choline is so incredibly important to the health of the developing fetus. It performs a number of critical roles. Pregnant women need about 450 mg per day. The average consumption in the United States is about 278 milligrams per day for women. So look for products that contain at least 200 mg of choline (400-500 would be ideal) per serving in order to ensure you get to your 450 mg needed. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting a prenatal vitamin with choline. It is so ridiculous that so many do not contain or contain just a very small amount of this vital nutrient. Frankly, products without a good amount of choline should not even be able to be labeled as prenatal vitamins. It's strange how the best-selling prenatal vitamin talks about the importance of choline on its website but then only puts a paltry fifty-five milligrams in its product; shame on them.

  2. Iodine

    1. Iodine is an essential nutrient that supports the proper brain development of the fetus. Pregnant women need about 220 mcg per day. According to the NIH, a substantial portion of the US pregnant population are deficient in iodine. Intakes vary, averaging between 144 to 181 mcg per day. Women who did not consume dairy had even lower levels. Look for prenatal vitamins containing at least 150 mcg of iodine to ensure that you are getting enough between food and supplements. Selling a prenatal vitamin without iodine is doing a real disservice.

      1. If you have hyperthyroidism, please talk to your doctor before consuming any supplements with iodine.

  3. Omega-fatty acids, such as DHA.

    1. These are very important for a healthy pregnancy. Over 90% of women do not get enough of these valuable fatty acids. However, this is one nutrient that should not be included in a prenatal. You might be thinking, well, if it is so important, shouldn’t it be in the vitamins?

      1. Omega-fatty acids, like DHA, should not be in the prenatal pill because when fatty acids are exposed to minerals such as iron, they oxidize and go rancid very quickly, or they need to be protected in some way from the other ingredients. Examples of protection would be microencapsulating the fatty acids or binding them to calcium. No company should be using a delivery system where fragile fatty acids (like DHA) are exposed to minerals. Check out our top choices for omega-3 here.


We hope that this article gave you some valuable information and helps you make a more informed choice when choosing a prenatal vitamin. You can view our top choice for prenatal vitamins here. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our pregnancy center for more great information on everything from healthy eating during pregnancy to breastfeeding!


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