Should I Take a Prenatal When I'm Not 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.

Essential Takeaways

  • Your nutrient needs change when you're pregnant, which is why we recommend switching to a prenatal vitamin when you're thinking about or trying to have a baby.
  • If you're not expecting or trying to get pregnant, a quality multivitamin should help fill the gaps in your diet. But if you suspect that your nutrient needs might be different than the norm, it's best to have to a chat with your doctor about it.

On paper, the answer should be pretty straightforward: You take a prenatal vitamin 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 a prenatal vitamin for the extra biotin, or if you think you may need more iron due to a dietary restriction or another condition.

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 vitamin when you aren’t pregnant.

Multivitamin vs. Prenatal Multivitamin

First, it’s helpful to understand the potential nutrient differences between your multivitamin and your prenatal vitamin—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 you and your baby during your pregnancy. Some of these nutrients overlap: For example, both multivitamins contain 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, most pregnant women do not consume the recommended amount of choline, so we included it in our prenatal vitamin. We also added iodine, since the recommended amount of iodine increases during pregnancy. Our third addition to our prenatal vitamin: biotin, because scientific evidence suggests that higher biotin intake—several times the recommended adequate 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 includes more DHA, since this specific omega-3 fatty acid plays a role for both mother and baby. We also include more iron because pregnant women have the highest 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 an ideal form of folate for your body to use. Since up to 40% of women have genetic variations that make it difficult to process folic acid, we opted to use a form called MTHF, which is the easiest form for your body to use.

Essential Prenatal

Take the guesswork out of your prenatal multivitamin.

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Taking a Prenatal Vitamin When You’re Not Pregnant

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 of conception, so that you're already taking a prenatal vitamin 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 our multivitamin was specifically formulated to help fill the gaps that women experience in their diets. Let’s talk about biotin as an example: It’s actually pretty rare not to meet your biotin needs through diet alone, since it’s found in a wide range of foods like eggs, avocado, beef, and yeast.

Another common question is iron. Our Essential for Women contains 8 micrograms of iron, while our Essential Prenatal contains 18 micrograms. 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 vitamin.