Pregnancy + Parenthood

12 Nutrients to Look for in a Prenatal Vitamin

4 min read
These are the key nutrients you should look for in a prenatal vitamin, according to scientists.
These are the key nutrients you should look for in a prenatal vitamin, according to scientists.

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If you find pregnancy as confusing as it is exciting, you’re definitely not alone. Even if you’re getting plenty of insight from your doc, you probably still have questions about all the changes happening in your body, the development of your baby, and what to expect down the line. We get it—it’s a lot!

But we also think that one thing you should never have to question is your prenatal multivitamin. In fact, the right one should take a lot of the guesswork out of supporting your pregnancy nutritional needs. That’s one less thing to worry about during this chaotic time.

So what nutrients do you actually need from a prenatal? We’ve done the research—keep reading to see what we’ve found.

But first, a quick refresher on why you need a prenatal in the first place.

Scientists and ob-gyns alike agree that a prenatal is a must for a few reasons: namely, that while it’s technically possible to get all the nutrients needed for both you and baby through diet alone, in can be difficult to actually do so. So it’s important to help fill nutritional gaps with a prenatal multivitamin, so that you’re helping to support your nutrient needs during this critical time.

That said, we advise starting a prenatal even when you’re just thinking about getting pregnant—to get specific, three months before pregnancy is a good timeline to shoot for, even if you’re still on birth control.*

The nutrients you should look for in a prenatal, and why:

Folate. Because it aids with many different important processes in the body, folate is a must-have for pregnant and non-pregnant women alike. But when you’re expecting, your growing baby needs it too—it’s crucial for supporting neural tube development, as well as DNA synthesis.*

The trick is to be wary of folic acid, which is the synthetic form of folate: It’s found in many supplements, but it needs the help of enzymes to convert to MTHF, which is the form your body uses. But the caveat is that up to one-third of women have gene variations that make it difficult to carry out this extra step. That’s why it’s wise to look for a multivitamin with ready-to-use MTHF, like our Essential Prenatal.*

Omega-3. Did you know that DHA is an important component of the human brain? Of the three different omega-3 fatty acids, we like to zero-in on DHA, specifically since it’s such a supporter of brain, heart, and eye health. DHA is found in foods like salmon, shellfish, and tuna, so if you’re vegetarian, that can be a problem. Our advice? Look for a prenatal that sources its Omega-3 with DHA from algae.*

Vitamin B12. B12 helps support red blood cell formation and energy-yielding metabolism. One important wrinkle is that because B12 is found mostly in meats, vegans and vegetarians have a more difficult time meeting their needs.*

Choline. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers choline a key nutrient that supports fetal neurodevelopment. And that’s not the only way this key nutrient partners up with omega-3 fatty acids: The two also work alongside one another to support brain development.*

Iodine. Your iodine needs almost double when you’re pregnant. Iodized salt is one of the best sources of iodine, but since many pregnant women choose to cut back on processed foods (which is good!), it might be more difficult to consume enough. Supplementation may be a good way to go.*

Biotin. Biotin is an important addition to a prenatal multivitamin. It helps contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism. While most non-pregnant women get enough biotin through diet alone, you need more when you’re expecting.*

Vitamin D3. You probably know that one of the best sources of vitamin D is sunlight. But thanks to urban dwelling, lots of hours spent in the office, and wearing your SPF when we do catch rays (a good choice!), many of us may be lacking in this nutrient. When you’re swapping your multivitamin for a prenatal, it’s not a bad idea to make sure it includes vitamin D.*

Iron. This key nutrient supports red blood cell formation, which is why you might benefit from including it in your prenatal.*

Boron. This unsung hero deserves a lot more credit: Boron partners with nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium to help support bone health. Because it’s such a solid collaborator, we like to include it in both our Essential for Women and Essential Prenatal.*

Vitamin E. Fun fact: The cool thing about antioxidants like vitamin E is that they fight free radicals. That’s something we think is worth including in both your multivitamin and prenatal.*

Vitamin K2. While many of us are consuming enough calcium from the food we eat, we also need helper nutrients like vitamin K to help support bone health. Vitamin K also helps support heart health, so it’s not a bad idea to look for it in your multivitamin and your prenatal.*

Magnesium. Magnesium does a lot of heavy-lifting in the body, namely supporting calcium and normal muscle function. The caveat is that we need a lot of it, and many of us don't meet our daily intake through food alone. We recommend using a chelated form of magnesium, which just means that it mimics the form inside our cells. (And that’s true whether you’re pregnant or not.)*

The big takeaway? Keep up with a mostly-balanced diet (with a little wiggle room for cravings), and use your prenatal to help fill gaps.*


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