Pregnancy + Parenthood

Is It Okay to Take a Prenatal Multivitamin 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 pregnant or trying, and a regular multivitamin when not. But we also know it’s not always so cut and dried—especially if you’ve heard some buzz about taking prenatal multivitamins 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 someone is not pregnant (including if they'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 the 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 D3, and folate, in addition to a few others.*

But then there are a few key differences, since some nutrient needs change when growing a human. For example, many pregnant people 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 pregnancy comes with a higher demand for it. 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 the body to efficiently utilize. Since up to one-third of people have genetic variations that make it difficult to efficiently utilize folic acid, we opted to use a form called 5-MTHF, which is a bioavailable form for the body to use.*

When to Consider Making the Switch

We recommend switching to our Essential Prenatal when pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or actively trying for a baby. A good rule to shoot for is three months ahead, so that people can be already taking a prenatal multivitamin during the early weeks of pregnancy (before they might even know that they're pregnant). Outside of pregnancy needs, we recommend sticking with 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 consider making a different multivitamin switch—from a prenatal multivitamin to a postnatal multivitamin. The truth is nutrient demands change again after birth, especially if 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 people may need more iron than others (due to vegan and other restrictive diets, as well as certain conditions), we recommend consulting with a healthcare provider to determine how to go about supplementation for specific needs before making the switch to a prenatal multivitamin.*

Bottom line? It's pretty simple: Take prenatal multivitamins if pregnant or planning to be pregnant—and switch to a postnatal multivitamin if recently given birth. If neither, a quality daily multivitamin may 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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