The Science

Your Primer to Prenatal Vitamins

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2 min video

Essential Takeaways

  • There’s no bad time to start a prenatal but the ideal time is three months prior to trying to conceive.*
  • Folic Acid is harder for most women to utilize than MTHF Folate.

Most doctors and scientists agree that taking a prenatal vitamin is a must, but most of us don’t know why. If you only take one thing away from this guide, let it be this: nutritional experts recommend taking a prenatal vitamin a few months before you conceive. It takes time for your body to reach the optimal nutritional status that supports a healthy pregnancy — that means starting a prenatal even before you stop birth control methods.*

Prenatals Aren’t Just For During Pregnancy

Reaching a healthy nutritional status requires consistent intake, which means a healthy mix of a good diet and vitamin supplementation. It’s important to reach and maintain these optimal nutrient levels before you’re pregnant, which takes months. Starting your prenatal early can have a long-term positive impact. For example, research shows that having sufficient levels of Vitamin D before pregnancy can support a healthy birth weight.*

“Supplementing your diet with extra essential nutrients is important not just after you become pregnant, but when you start to think about conceiving.” Robin Berzin MD, Founder and CEO of Parsley Health

Prenatals Support Development Before You Know You’re Pregnant

According to OBGYN Dr. Jason Rothbart, “most women don't find out they are pregnant until around 4-7 weeks pregnant, which is past the first 28 days. In the first 28 days, the organs are rapidly forming. The neural tube (which becomes the central nervous system and vertebral column) is almost completely formed and closed by the end of 28 days.” The essential nutrient Folate helps promote healthy development neural tube.*

Look for a prenatal with MTHF Folate instead of Folic Acid, which is a commonly used form of Folate. Up to 40% of women have a genetic variation that makes it hard to utilize Folic Acid, while most women's bodies can use MTHF Folate.*

Prenatals Have a Next-Generation Impact

The impact of a prenatal goes beyond pregnancy. According to Dr. Rothbart, “the baby's future health is very dependent on maternal health, nutrition and general well being. Pregnancy is where the building blocks and foundation of a baby's anatomy, vision, metabolism and cognition are all forming.” Prenatals lay the foundation that a baby needs, from body to brain.

Eating For Two Isn’t Enough

Usually when you hear about "eating for two," you think in terms of calories, not nutrients. However, according to Dr. Blanche Ip, PhD in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition, “it is possible to get all the essentials a woman needs from diet alone when she becomes pregnant, but numerous studies have indicated that only a fraction of individuals can achieve this goal. Some nutrients like Vitamin D3, Folate, Choline and Iron are more tricky to get enough solely from our diets.”

In some cases, supplementation is more effective. Research shows that getting Folate from natural food sources (like kale or citrus) is less effective at increasing your Folate nutritional status than taking a Folate supplement.

Remember: taking a prenatal vitamin early, before conception, is ideal. The right prenatal vitamin fills the gaps in your diet with the nutrients necessary to support a healthy pregnancy.

Dr. Robin Berzin, Dr. Jason Rothbart, and Dr. Blanche Ip are members of Ritual's Scientific Advisory Board. Our board — comprised of medical doctors, nutritionists and scientists — helps guide our thinking around the latest research and product innovation.

Learn more about Ritual's Essential Prenatal and Essential for Women.

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