Pregnancy + Parenthood

Prenatal or Postnatal Multivitamin? Here’s When to Consider Making the Switch

6 min read
Curious about the difference between prenatal multivitamins and postnatal multivitamins? Here's why it matters—and when to make the switch.
Curious about the difference between prenatal multivitamins and postnatal multivitamins? Here's why it matters—and when to make the switch.

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Chances are you’re well aware that a prenatal multivitamin is essential to help support the nutrient changes that come with pregnancy. But what people might not realize is that the postpartum period is actually even more nutritionally demanding than pregnancy itself, especially for those who plan on breastfeeding. And that means that a different kind of multivitamin—a postnatal multivitamin, to be specific—can be an important addition to a new parent’s daily routine.*

But let’s get a little more specific about the difference between a prenatal multivitamin and a postnatal multivitamin—and when to consider switching over.

People should consider taking a prenatal multivitamin when they’re thinking, trying, and when it’s time.

People’s nutrient needs change as soon as they become pregnant, which is why we like to stick to the “3 month rule”—that is, aiming to start taking a prenatal multivitamin 3 months ahead of time. Of course, that timing isn’t always easy to pin down. But if you’re thinking or trying, it might be time to consider making the switch.

To put it simply, prenatal multivitamins are designed to lend nutrient support during pregnancy. Our Essential Prenatal, for example, is formulated to help fill nutrient gaps in a birthing person’s† diet.*

What are some key examples of nutrient demands that change during pregnancy? Let’s start with folate, a B vitamin that helps support neural tube development during the early stages of pregnancy. Many prenatal multivitamins will include folic acid, a synthetic form of folate. But since up to one-third of people have a genetic variation that makes it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid, we prefer to use a cell-identical, bioavailable form of folate called 5-MTHF in Essential Prenatal.*

Iron, omega-3 DHA, and choline are all other examples of nutrients women need more of to support the nutrient demands of pregnancy. The bottom line? Prenatal multivitamins are essential for anyone who is expecting.*

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).*

Baby’s arrival also ushers in a new (and often unparalleled) wave of nutritional demands, especially for lactating parents. Among the 29 essential micronutrients, lactation increases the demand for more than half of the essential micronutrients compared to pregnancy and other life stages. And our POV is that anyone who has recently birthed a child—whether they choose to breastfeed or not—deserves to feel supported in their body as they traverses those intense first months.*

A quality postnatal multivitamin specifically formulated for this life stage can help support the nutritional needs of new parents. There are 15 nutrients in particular women should consider looking for in a postnatal multivitamin (all of which are included in our Essential Postnatal):

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Biotin
  • Choline
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Boron
  • Omega-3 DHA
  • Vitamin K2

Some of these nutrients are consistent with most women’s nutritional needs whether they’re expecting, lactating, or not—just in slightly higher levels. Others are to help support nutritional demands associated with postpartum. Either way, a good postnatal multivitamin should help eliminate some of the guesswork around nutrition postpartum.*

We created Essential Postnatal specifically for the arrival of a mother’s new nutrient needs for six months postpartum, and throughout lactation. Featuring the aforementioned 15 key nutrients in obsessively-researched forms, just two (vegan-friendly!) pills a day help support bone health, brain health, lactation support, and normal immune function. Also, to help encourage healthy habits and make taking your multi more of a pleasure and less of a chore, we took into account common multivitamin-related grievances, like stomach upset and unpleasant taste—opting for delayed-release capsules designed to dissolve later (translation: you can take them on an empty stomach), and adding a food-grade minty tab to our bottles to nix odors and keep things fresh. The way we see it? No funky smell (or vitamin-induced nausea) should get between you and your Ritual.*

A word on the minty tab: It’s infused with pure peppermint oil from Yakima, Washington—and nothing else. We added the tab to our bottles exclusively to enhance the flavor experience, as multivitamins that contain omega-3 DHA can often have aromas reminiscent of the ocean due to the presence of fish oil, or in our case, omega-3 vegan algal oil.

Even though none of Ritual’s multivitamins are formulated with peppermint inside the capsules (only the food-grade bottle insert contains peppermint), our commitment to Traceability—and the importance of providing safety assurance to our breastfeeding community—led us straight back to our roots: science. We hired an external consulting firm to investigate the relationship between the peppermint in our minty tab and how it relates to milk supply. This firm conducted a toxicological assessment of exposure to peppermint during both pregnancy and lactation, which confirmed our own rigorous research findings: that the levels of peppermint in our minty tab do not pose any safety risk. That said, talking to your doctor about any specific concerns is never a bad idea.*

Consider your macro needs, too.

Prenatal and postnatal multivitamins are great options to support micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs for pregnancy and postpartum. But it's important to consider macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) as well. Exhibit A: People need more protein during pregnancy and lactation to help support the increased nutrient demands that occur during these life stages. In fact, the amount of protein deposited in maternal and fetal tissue increases over the course of pregnancy.* (1,2,3,4)

It's a big reason why we developed Essential Protein Pregnancy & Postpartum for this life stage specifically—and added choline for good measure.*

When to switch back to a regular multivitamin?

Once people hit the six month mark after birth and are no longer lactating, a regular multivitamin, like Essential for Women, should help support nutrient needs. For those who are still breastfeeding, we suggest sticking with a postnatal multivitamin. Pretty simple, right?*

And as always, check with your physician if you have any specific questions about supporting your nutrient needs during this important time. New parents—you got this.

†As a health company that adheres to standardized nutrition research—which is often reliant on assigned sex at birth—we face some unique challenges regarding our gender-specific messaging. Our decision to use gendered terms is, unfortunately, a result of these limitations in nutrition research. In cases where complying with the binary distinction is necessary for scientific accuracy purposes, we want to make it very clear that we recognize a person’s gender identity might differ from their assigned sex.

References:

  1. Elango R, Ball RO. Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy. Adv Nutr. 2016 Jul 15;7(4):839S-44S
  2. Hanson MA, et al. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) recommendations on adolescent, preconception, and maternal nutrition: “Think Nutrition First” Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2015;131(Suppl 4):S213–53.
  3. National Academy of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). 2005.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series No 935. 2007.

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Meet Our Science Team

What happens when a Harvard trained physiologist, a biochemist, and a registered dietician walk into a lab? The answer: Ritual multivitamins.

WhoWeAre-Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, Ph.D, RD, Ritual's Senior Director of Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh is Ritual's Senior Director of Scientific Affairs and resident dietician. She has a Ph.D in nutritional sciences and has authored multiple papers in peer-reviewed journals, working to translate the latest nutritional recommendations into actionable healthy habits.

WhoWeAre-Mastaneh

Dr. Mastaneh Sharafi, Ph.D, RD, Ritual's Senior Director of Scientific Affairs

Dr. Mastaneh is Ritual's Senior Director of Scientific Affairs and resident dietician. She has a Ph.D in nutritional sciences and has authored multiple papers in peer-reviewed journals, working to translate the latest nutritional recommendations into actionable healthy habits.

Science Thumb — Nima

Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.

Science Thumb — Nima

Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.

Dr. Luke Bucci

Dr. Luke Bucci, Ph.D, CCN, CNS, Research and Technical Fellow

Dr. Luke Bucci received a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Texas and has over thirty years of experience in the nutrition industry, encompassing all aspects of scientific applications. He has brought blockbuster products to market, written books, patents and numerous articles, and developed certification programs for clinical nutritionists.

Dr. Luke Bucci

Dr. Luke Bucci, Ph.D, CCN, CNS, Research and Technical Fellow

Dr. Luke Bucci received a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Texas and has over thirty years of experience in the nutrition industry, encompassing all aspects of scientific applications. He has brought blockbuster products to market, written books, patents and numerous articles, and developed certification programs for clinical nutritionists.

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