Nutrition

4 Questions To Ask Before Buying A Prenatal Multivitamin

6 min read
A prenatal multivitamin can be a great way to prepare your body and support nutrient needs, both before and during pregnancy. But how do you find the best prenatal out there? Here are four important questions to ask before adding to cart.
A prenatal multivitamin can be a great way to prepare your body and support nutrient needs, both before and during pregnancy. But how do you find the best prenatal out there? Here are four important questions to ask before adding to cart.

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Pregnancy can be an exhilarating time—but for many, it can also feel equally mystifying, especially when it comes to determining how best to prepare your body and support nutrient needs, both before and during pregnancy.

A great place to start is with a prenatal multivitamin. (As a general rule of thumb, you should consider taking prenatal multivitamins when you’re thinking, trying, and when it’s time.) Having said that, starting a new dietary supplement—especially one intended to lend nutrient support for pregnancy—can often come with a multitude of questions: How do you find a high-quality formula? (Keep reading.) What key nutrients should you look out for? (Scroll on.) Is it OK to take a prenatal if you’re not pregnant, and if so, when is the best time to start? (Yes, and we think three months ahead of time is a solid benchmark to aim for.)

Not to worry—to help take the guesswork out of the process, we’ve compiled four questions to ask when shopping for (or vetting) a prenatal multi, so you can focus less on the minutiae, and more on what matters: enjoying this exciting new chapter.

Number one: Are the key nutrients bioavailable?

The reason this question is important is because the answer provides a clear indication regarding the efficacy of the prenatal, along with the extent to which the brand relies on science to inform the formulation. (If this information isn’t provided upfront, or you’re having trouble discerning whether or not it was made with such considerations in mind, you may want to pass altogether and opt for a brand that embraces transparency in plain sight.)

Bioavailability refers to the degree to which a substance becomes entirely available to its biological destination(s)—in other words, how successfully a nutrient reaches its intended landing place. (1) With that in mind, it makes sense that a prenatal is only as good as its key nutrients are bioavailable. After all, if important vitamins and minerals are present, but they’re not in forms that the body can efficiently use, you may not be reaping the full spectrum of nutritional support.

When it comes to supporting nutrient needs during pregnancy, sometimes it pays to be picky—especially when it comes to your prenatal. Be on the lookout for these 12 nutrients—omega-3 fatty acids (we use omega-3 DHA from vegan algal oil), vitamin B12, choline, iodine, biotin, vitamin D, iron, boron, vitamin E, vitamin K2, magnesium, and folate—and don’t be afraid to ask the brand how it approaches the formulation process. (You’ll notice we left out calcium and vitamin C from that list. Explore why here.)

Folate, for example, is a major player during pregnancy; it’s an essential nutrient that supports neural tube development and the formation of red blood cells, along with a host of other functions. (If you’re wondering how much to look for, we’ve got you covered.)

Since folate is an essential nutrient, it’s found in most prenatal supplements—but not always in the folate form: All five best-selling prenatal multivitamins use the synthetic form of folate, also known as folic acid†. Essential Prenatal, on the other hand, utilizes 5-MTHF, a bioavailable form of folate.*

†Based on the top 5 US prenatal multivitamin brands by 2019 & trailing 12 month retail sales (through April '20)

Next up—what does the supply chain look like?

One of the most helpful ways to ascertain whether or not a brand is trustworthy—and whether or not they put as much thought and consideration into making their products as they do with marketing them—is to track their transparency. This is true for any supplement, but even more so with a prenatal designed to be taken daily. How open are they about what goes into their formulas, and what quality of ingredients do they use? Who are their suppliers and why were they selected over others? At Ritual, we call this Traceability—the notion that you should know what you’re putting into your body and why.

It’s why Essential Prenatal is Made Traceable™—the supplier, final location of manufacturing, and purpose of each ingredient is on Ritual.com. While this practice may seem like it should be the norm, and we agree, the truth is there’s a long way to go in terms of making it an industry standard. (None of the five best-selling prenatal multivitamins share the supplier, final location of manufacturing, and purpose of each labeled ingredient on their site.)†

†Based on the top 5 US prenatal multivitamin brands by 2019 & trailing 12 month retail sales (through April '20)

Does it contain GMOs?

When it comes to supplementation, sometimes less really is more. (When it comes to the way nutrients work in our bodies, there’s a delicate balance—too much of one thing can impact another.) That “less is more” philosophy extends beyond overloading vitamins and minerals; when it comes to mystery fillers and shady additives, you want to reach for a formula that minimizes or eliminates them altogether—another reason ingredient quality is so crucial.

It also means looking for brands that leave out things like GMOs, and that embrace third-party quality certification. In addition to being gluten-free, Essential Prenatal is Non-GMO Project Verified, which sets us apart from the competition—none of the five-bestselling prenatal multivitamins are certified non-GMO.† It’s also free of synthetic fillers and major allergens. Translation? You can rest assured that you’re not unintentionally consuming anything you don’t want.

†Based on the top 5 US prenatal multivitamin brands by 2019 & trailing 12 month retail sales (through April '20)

Lastly, is it vegan-friendly?

While aiming to meet your nutritional needs through food first is ideal, it’s not always realistic. Life happens, and even with a so-called “healthy” diet, gaps can still occur. This is true during every stage of life, including pregnancy, and the degree to which you should adapt your diet is ultimately up to you. (Here’s some factors to keep in mind, along with some advice from a dietician.) Generally speaking, when it comes to supporting nutrient needs during pregnancy, it’s about maintaining a well-rounded, balanced diet and supplementing with a prenatal multivitamin (and maybe even a protein supplement, too).

If you identify as vegan, or just prefer a plant-based way of eating, be mindful of who you’re shopping from, as all five best-selling prenatal multivitamins contain animal products.† Essential Prenatal is vegan-friendly—our omega-3 DHA is sourced from microalgae instead of fish—which speaks to more than just a lack of animal products. Case in point: Our approach to formulating intentionally factors in common gaps that occur from plant-based diets. (For more tips on finding a vegan prenatal multivitamin, click here.)

Even better? We utilize our citrus essenced tab and a delayed-release capsule designed to be gentle on the stomach to help make your experience as easy—and enjoyable—as possible.*

†Based on the top 5 US prenatal multivitamin brands by 2019 & trailing 12 month retail sales (through April '20)

References:

  1. Price, G., & Patel, D. A. (2020). ...Bioavailability. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing LLC.

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