Pregnancy + Parenthood

Is It Okay to Take a Prenatal Without Being Pregnant?

4 min read
Learn if there's any benefit to taking a prenatal vitamin when you're not pregnant.
Learn if there's any benefit to taking a prenatal vitamin when you're not pregnant.

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On paper, the answer should be pretty straightforward: Take a prenatal multivitamin when you’re pregnant or trying, and a regular multivitamin when you’re not. But we also know it’s not always so cut and dried—especially if you’ve heard some buzz about taking prenatal vitamins because of certain additional nutrients they often contain (like biotin, for example).*

The short answer: If you believe your nutrient needs might be different than the norm, then it’s best to check in with your primary care physician or ob-gyn to talk about your options. Otherwise, read ahead—we’ll clear some things up about taking a prenatal multivitamin when you aren’t pregnant (including if you've recently given birth).*

Multivitamin vs. Prenatal Multivitamin

First, it’s helpful to understand the potential nutrient differences between a women's multivitamin and a prenatal multivitamin—so let’s do a side-by-side comparison of our Essential for Women multivitamin and our Essential Prenatal multivitamin as an example. Our Essential for Women multivitamin contains 9 nutrients designed to help fill gaps in your diet, while our Essential Prenatal contains 12 nutrients to help support pregnancy. Some of these nutrients overlap: For example, both multivitamins are formulated with omega-3 DHA, vitamin B12, vitamin D#, and folate, in addition to a few others.*

But then there are a few key differences, since some of your nutrient needs change when you’re busy growing a human. For example, many pregnant women do not consume the recommended amount of choline, so we included it in our prenatal multivitamin. We also added iodine, since the recommended amount of iodine increases during pregnancy. Our third addition to our prenatal multivitamin: biotin, because scientific evidence suggests that higher biotin intake may be needed to meet the requirement for pregnancy.*

In some cases, we need the same nutrients as we do before pregnancy, but at different levels. For example, our Essential Prenatal is formulated with more DHA per serving, since this specific omega-3 fatty acid plays a role for both mother and baby. We also include more iron because pregnant women have a higher demand for iron. And our prenatal multivitamin has more folate, which supports neural tube development during pregnancy. As a reminder, folic acid is a synthetic form of folate found in many supplements—but folic acid isn't always an ideal form of folate for your body to use. Since up to one-third of women have genetic variations that make it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid, we opted to use a form called MTHF, which is an easy form for your body to use.*

When to Consider Making the Switch

We recommend switching to our Essential Prenatal when you’re pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant or actively trying for a baby. A good rule to shoot for is three months ahead, so that you're already taking a prenatal multivitamin during the early weeks of pregnancy (before you might even know that you're pregnant). Outside of pregnancy needs, we recommend sticking with your Essential for Women unless otherwise directed by a doctor, since it was specifically formulated to help fill gaps that many women experience in their diets. Let’s talk about biotin as an example: Many women can meet their biotin needs through diet alone, since it’s found in a wide range of foods like eggs, avocado, beef, and yeast.*

Recently gave birth? Then you should consider making a different multivitamin switch—from a prenatal multivitamin to a postnatal multivitamin. The truth is women's nutrient demands change again after birth, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. Our Essential Postnatal was formulated with 15 nutrients to support postpartum nutrition for 6 months (or during lactation).

What about iron?

Another common question is iron. Our Essential for Women contains 8 mg per serving of iron, while our Essential Prenatal contains 18 mg per serving. And while it’s true that some non-pregnant women may need more iron than others (due to vegan and other restrictive diets, as well as certain conditions), you should definitely consult with your healthcare provider to determine how to go about supplementation for your needs before making the switch to a prenatal multivitamin.*

Bottom line? It's pretty simple: Women should take prenatal vitamins if they're pregnant or planning to be pregnant. They should take a postnatal multivitamin if they recently gave birth. And if neither, a quality women's multivitamin should be the way to go. And for all of the above, don't forget to lead with a mostly-healthy, balanced diet.


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