Pregnancy + Parenthood

12 Nutrients to Look for in a Prenatal Multivitamin

5 min read
These are the key nutrients you should look for in a prenatal vitamin, according to scientists.
These are the key nutrients you should look for in a prenatal vitamin, according to scientists.

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If you find pregnancy as confusing as it is exciting, you’re definitely not alone. Even if you’re getting plenty of insight from your doc, you probably still have questions about all the changes happening in your body, the development of your baby, and what to expect down the line. We get it—it’s a lot!

But we also think that one thing you should never have to question is your prenatal multivitamin. In fact, the right one should take a lot of the guesswork out of supporting pregnancy nutritional needs. That’s one less thing to worry about during this chaotic time.

So what nutrients are key in a prenatal multivitamin? We’ve done the research—keep reading to see what we found.

But first, a quick refresher on why you need a prenatal multivitamin in the first place.

Scientists and ob-gyns alike agree that a prenatal is a must for a few reasons: namely, that while it’s technically possible to get all the nutrients needed through diet alone, it can be difficult to actually do so—making it that much more important to help fill nutritional gaps with a prenatal multivitamin.

That said, we advise starting a prenatal multivitamin even when just thinking about getting pregnant—to get specific, three months before pregnancy is a good timeline to shoot for.*

The nutrients you should look for in a prenatal multivitamin, and why:

Folate. Because it aids with many different important processes in the body, folate is a must-have for pregnant and non-pregnant people alike. But when expecting, a growing baby needs it too—it’s crucial for supporting neural tube development, as well as DNA synthesis.*

Many prenatal multivitamins use folic acid, which is a synthetic form of folate: It needs the help of enzymes to convert to 5-MTHF, which is a bioavailable form for the body to efficiently utilize. But the caveat is that up to one-third of women have genetic variations that make it difficult to efficiently carry out this extra step. That’s why we suggest looking for a multivitamin with ready-to-use 5-MTHF, like our Essential Prenatal multivitamin.*

Omega-3. Did you know that DHA is an important component of the human brain? Of the three different omega-3 fatty acids, we like to zero-in on DHA, specifically since it’s such a supporter of brain, heart, and eye health. DHA is found in foods like salmon, shellfish, and tuna, so if you’re vegetarian, that can be a problem. Our advice? Look for a prenatal that sources its Omega-3 with DHA from algae.*

Vitamin B12. B12 helps support red blood cell formation and energy-yielding metabolism. One important wrinkle is that because B12 is found mostly in meats, vegans and vegetarians can have a more difficult time meeting their needs.*

Choline. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers choline a key nutrient that supports fetal neurodevelopment. And that’s not the only way this key nutrient partners up with omega-3 fatty acids: The two also work alongside one another to support brain development.*

Iodine. Iodine needs almost double during pregnancy. Iodized salt is one of the best sources of iodine, but since many pregnant people choose to cut back on processed foods (which is good!), it might be more difficult to consume enough. Supplementation may be a good way to go.*

Biotin. Biotin is an important addition to a prenatal multivitamin. It helps contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism. While most non-pregnant people get enough biotin through diet alone, biotin needs increase when expecting.*

Vitamin D3. You probably know that one of the best sources of vitamin D is sunlight. But thanks to urban dwelling, lots of hours spent in the office, and wearing SPF when we do catch rays (a good choice!), many of us may be lacking in this nutrient. When you’re swapping your multivitamin for a prenatal multivitamin, it’s not a bad idea to make sure it includes vitamin D3.*

Iron. This key nutrient supports red blood cell formation, and can be beneficial to include in a prenatal multivitamin.*

Boron. This unsung hero deserves a lot more credit: Boron partners with nutrients like vitamin D3, magnesium, and calcium to help support bone health. Because it’s such a solid collaborator, we like to include it in both our Essential for Women and Essential Prenatal multivitamins.*

Vitamin E. Fun fact: The cool thing about antioxidants like vitamin E is that they help fight free radicals. That’s something we think is worth including in both a regular multivitamin and prenatal multivitamin.*

Vitamin K2. While many of us are consuming enough calcium from the food we eat, we also need helper nutrients like vitamin K2 to help support bone health. Vitamin K2 also helps support heart health, so it’s not a bad idea to look for it in a regular multivitamin and a prenatal multivitamin.*

Magnesium. Magnesium does a lot of heavy-lifting in the body, namely supporting calcium and contributing to normal protein synthesis. The caveat is that we need a lot of it, and many of us don't meet our daily intake through food alone. We recommend using a chelated form of magnesium. (And that’s true whether you’re pregnant or not.)*

The big takeaway? Keep up with a mostly-balanced diet (with a little wiggle room for cravings), and use a prenatal multivitamin to help fill gaps.*

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