Pregnancy + Parenthood

What's the Best Prenatal Vitamin for Vegans?

6 min read
Click to learn what to look for in a quality vegan prenatal multivitamin.
Click to learn what to look for in a quality vegan prenatal multivitamin.

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There’s a lot to consider at the start of your pregnancy—and if you follow a vegan diet, questions about your diet and choosing a prenatal vitamin that fits your lifestyle are probably particularly top-of-mind. The good news: While we recommend chatting with your ob-gyn to ensure that your diet is providing the nutrition that you and your baby need, finding a high-quality, vegan prenatal multivitamin to fill any gaps is one thing you can definitely check off your list.

What nutrients should vegans look for in a prenatal multivitamin?

You probably know that while you can get a lot of the nutrients you need through plant-based foods, you have to be wary about others. That’s true whether you’re pregnant or not, but practicing extra caution when you’re expecting isn’t a bad idea. A 2015 review from the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology notes that while it’s possible to support a healthy pregnancy with a vegan or vegetarian diet, it’s important for pregnant women to pay attention to three nutrients in particular.

  1. Let’s start with omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health—and prenatal DHA provides support as your baby develops. It’s not always easy for vegans to get enough omega-3 through diet alone, since a primary source is fish. On that note, the struggle with finding a vegan-friendly DHA supplement is that many capsules on the market use fish oil.

Look for: a vegan-certified prenatal vitamin that uses DHA sourced from microalgae—like our Essential Prenatal.

  1. Next up: vitamin B12, the eternal struggle for vegans and vegetarians everywhere. (We can practically hear the groans.) B12 is a key player in cell reproduction, and when we’re running low in this essential nutrient, it can manifest as brain fog and low energy. The problem? It’s found mostly in meats.

Look for: a vegan-certified prenatal vitamin that uses a bioidentical form of vitamin B12—aka a version of the nutrient that’s made in a lab, but is molecularly identical to the version found in nature. Your body can better use this active form.

  1. Your iron needs are something else to consider, since iron teams up with vitamin B12 and folate to build red blood cells. Vegans can have a tricky time getting enough iron to begin with, since iron-rich food sources include eggs and shellfish. And since your needs increase during pregnancy, it’s wise to look to supplementation.

Look for: a vegan-certified prenatal vitamin with chelated iron, which is easier on the stomach than other forms.

While those are the three nutrients worth flagging for vegans specifically, we also recommend looking for nine others in your vegan prenatal vitamin: folate, choline, vitamin D, iodine, biotin, boron, vitamin E, vitamin K2, and magnesium. (You can learn more about the specifics of those nutrients and why they’re important for pregnancy here.)

prenatal-vegan-square

Form matters.

Whether you're vegan or not, it's really important to ensure that your body is getting nutrients in their most absorbable forms. That's not always the case for some prenatal vitamins on the market, which might use less-than-optimal versions of the nutrients you need.

We already mentioned iron and B12, but let's talk about folate, which is really important for your baby's neural tube development. You might be thinking, "What about folic acid?" But actually, folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that might not be as easy for your body to absorb. In fact, up to 40% of women have a genetic variation that makes it difficult to process folic acid. We use a form of folate called 5MTHF in our Essential Prenatal, which is the active form of folate that's more readily available for your body to use.

Another issue with some prenatal vitamins: adding nutrients that don't necessarily need supplementing. Let's use vitamin C as an example. It's really important for your health, don't get us wrong. But it's also very easy to meet your vitamin C needs through diet alone, even if you're pregnant—and overdoing it on some nutrients can mess with the absorption of others. Calcium is another one. Contrary to popular belief, many of us don't need to be supplementing with more calcium than what we already get from our diets—and that includes pregnant women. Instead, we recommend focusing on calcium-helper nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K2, and boron. (You'll find all of these in Essential Prenatal.)

What about the capsule?

It’s kind of pointless to look for vegan-friendly nutrients if they’re housed in a gelatin soft gel capsule, right? Our Essential Prenatal is vegan-certified, non-GMO, and gluten-free, and uses a no-nausea designed capsule made from cellulose, a plant fiber made from tree bark. (It’s also designed to be delayed-release, to get the nutrients where they need to be for absorption.)

On top of the capsule, keep an eye out for any additives that might not be so vegan-friendly, like artificial colors and fillers like shellac or sheep’s wool. The problem is that they’re often not named explicitly on labels—so your best bet is to opt for a prenatal vitamin that is vegan-certified, which means that it’s been vetted and certified by a third party.

All in all, creating a high-quality prenatal multivitamin that helps fill your nutritional needs is central to our DNA—our founder is vegan, and started Ritual when she struggled to find a prenatal vitamin that met her standards. So while you should always loop in your doctor to ensure you’re doing everything right for you and baby, know that we created our Essential Prenatal with you in mind.

Another thing to consider? Protein.

Sure, supporting micronutrient needs during pregnancy can be made easier with a prenatal vitamin. But it's also important to focus on macronutrient needs (protein, carbs, fats), too—and for vegans, getting enough quality protein can be a challenge. By "quality," we mean consuming a complete amino acid profile. The thing is, most plant-based protein sources come up short on certain essential amino acids, and are therefore considered "incomplete."

It's why we formulated a protein supplement for this life stage specifically. Essential Protein Pregnancy & Postpartum features pea protein fortified with the amino acid l-methionine to create a complete amino acid profile. Plus we added choline for additional support—not to mention a creamy, hand-crafted vanilla flavor. (It's sugar-free, too!)

Already gave birth? Consider switching to a (vegan) postnatal.

Once baby has arrived, your nutrition needs look a little different—in fact, the postpartum period may require even more supplemental support than during pregnancy, especially for those who are breastfeeding. (Among the 29 essential micronutrients, lactation increases the demand for more than half of the micronutrients compared to pregnancy and other life stages.)

That's why we recommend opting for for a multivitamin that's suited specifically to this important time, like our Essential Postnatalit was formulated with 15 nutrients to support those new demands. (And yes—it's vegan-friendly, too.) Bottom line? Women should consider switching to a postnatal as soon as they give birth, and continue taking one for six months postpartum (or longer, if they’re continuing to breastfeed).

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