First of all, congratulations! You’ll soon have a new tiny human in your life.
A healthy lifestyle and proper nourishment during pregnancy sets the foundation for an infant’s life. Naturally, many pregnant women are interested in prenatal multivitamins to ensure they get all the vital micronutrients for both themselves and the fetus.
If you’re looking for the best prenatal vitamin on the market, Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal is in a league of its own, thanks to a comprehensive non-GMO, plant-based ingredient profile made from completely raw, untreated fruits and vegetables. And better yet, the brand offers unrivaled quality assurance (which can’t be overlooked in the world of nutritional supplements).
Arguably the clearest thing we know about human nutrition is that eating vegetables and fruits is generally good for our health and longevity due to their abundance of vitamins and minerals. This applies to everyone, regardless of age.
But the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) notes that pregnancy significantly increases our dietary needs for several vitamins and minerals: notably folic acid, iron, vitamin D, vitamin A, and calcium.
The conundrum is that it’s not always practical for pregnant women to eat the recommended 7+ servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. This is where a prenatal vitamin can come in handy. Even for pregnant women who consume plenty of plant-based foods, a quality prenatal vitamin can serve as an “insurance policy” of sorts.
But don’t think that taking the best prenatal multivitamin will make up for a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Frankly, that’s an unrealistic expectation to have of any nutritional supplement.
However, in conjunction with proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, taking a prenatal multivitamin appears to reduce the risk of congenital malformations and other pediatric health conditions.
Key takeaway: Don’t skimp on your fruits and veggies even if you take a prenatal vitamin. There are no “magic pills” that will compensate for things that are known to harm fetal and long-term development, such as smoking cigarettes and alcohol consumption.
Do Prenatal Vitamins Work?
A prenatal vitamin is just a multivitamin for women, right?
Well, not really. As noted above, the micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs of pregnant women vary quite a bit from women who aren’t pregnant. Remember that saying about “eating for two” during pregnancy?
Pregnant women require more energy, protein, and micronutrients to sustain not only themselves but the fetus. Without these vital nutrients, the fetus won’t be able to properly grow and develop into a tiny bundle of joy.
Case in point, a recent meta-analysis concluded that women who take a prenatal multivitamin fortified with folic acid throughout their pregnancy are significantly less likely to have children with neural tube defects and several other congenital abnormalities. This confirms the increase in dietary needs for folic acid during pregnancy.
The best prenatal multivitamins contain a range of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to help pregnant women meet their daily needs of these essential nutrients. This is what they are designed to do, and they work.
You may also come across prenatal multivitamins with probiotics, but the evidence that probiotics have a beneficial effect on fetal development is lackluster.
Are Prenatal Vitamins Safe?
In the interest of brevity, the answer to this question is “Yes, if you’re taking a quality prenatal vitamin.”
These supplements are made specifically to be safe for pregnancy. They provide micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are essential for both the mother and the fetus. In fact, upwards of 97% of women living in the United States are encouraged to take a prenatal multivitamin by their healthcare provider.
Many pregnant women have concerns about the lack of regulation when it comes to vitamins and dietary supplements (rightfully so), but the evidence is overwhelmingly positive when it comes to prenatal vitamin supplementation. If you stick to reputable brands that are open and honest about their quality, you have little reason to worry about the safety of prenatal vitamins.
Regardless, you should always consult with your obstetrician-gynecologist before you start taking a prenatal vitamin, or any other dietary supplement. They will confirm whether or not it’s safe to use.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump right into the category winners for best prenatal vitamins.
The Prenatal Vitamins We RAVE About
How Do Prenatal Vitamins Work?
Prenatal multivitamins are simply dietary supplements that provide vitamins (and usually minerals) that are necessary for both the mother and healthy fetal development.
Vitamins and minerals are classified as “micronutrients,” meaning we need to consume relatively small amounts of them for proper development, function, and longevity.
You’re likely familiar with macronutrients (e.g., protein and fats), which we require in relatively large amounts for survival—hence the prefixes “macro-” and “micro-”.
As an example, the recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein for the average adult woman is about 50 grams per day. For pregnant women, that number increases about 20-30% to 60–75 grams per day. Heck, a fetus only grows a few grams per day during the latter stages of gestation.
Now, contrast that with the RDI of many vitamins and minerals for pregnant women, which are as little as just a few micrograms (one-millionth of 1 gram) in the case of vitamin B12.
It’s pretty crazy how even infinitesimally small amounts of vitamins and minerals can be so integral to our health and wellness.
So, what exactly do micronutrients in prenatal multivitamins do for the fetus and mother?
In a nutshell, they assist the more complex molecules in the body. Without vitamins and minerals, the fetus won’t have the requisite cofactors (“assisting molecules”) to help macronutrients and other macromolecules function properly. This is one cause of some birth defects and low birth weight.
Therefore, vitamins and minerals are essential for all humans from the very moment of our conception until the day we pass on.
Vegetables and fruits are Mother Nature’s richest sources of the vitamins and minerals both you and your child need. (Well, aside from calcium, which is where dairy comes into play.) In fact, a large cohort study even found that pregnant women who didn’t regularly consume leafy veggies, fruits, and dairy were at a greater risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes—even stillbirth, in some cases.
Needless to say, be sure to eat plenty of veggies and fruits on a daily basis, particularly foods like leafy greens (e.g., spinach), broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, squash, berries, bananas, kiwi, oranges, and so forth.
Importance of Iron, Folic Acid, and DHA for Pregnant Women
While all of the essential vitamins and minerals are important during pregnancy, iron and folic acid (vitamin B9) play an essential role in healthy nervous system development and growth in the fetus. All of the best prenatal vitamins contain an ample dose of both folic acid and iron for this reason.
The RDI of folic acid during pregnancy is 600 mcg, while iron is set at 27 mg. Studies consistently show that prenatal supplementation of folic acid and iron improves birth outcomes and may reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy.
Another key nutrient for pregnant women is the omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This is a fat found commonly in fresh seafood, particularly salmon, tuna, and mackerel. However, many prenatal vitamins contain algae-based DHA to keep the formula vegan-friendly.
A large phase III clinical trial found that women who supplemented with 600 mg of DHA per day during the final 20 weeks of gestation until birth had a lower risk of preterm birth and infants with very low birth weight.
DHA is known to play a multitude of roles throughout the human body and, like folic acid, is especially crucial for neural development in the fetus.
Research has also shown that DHA provides a range of benefits to the mother during (and after) pregnancy due to its protective effects on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
What About Herbal Extracts for Pregnant Women?
Herbal extracts are actually not something that you should assume are beneficial during pregnancy. Many prenatal multivitamins don’t contain these ingredients since they frequently lack the quality control standards used in producing vitamins and minerals. This makes herbal ingredients more likely to interfere with fetal development, or even be toxic.
For example, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is found in various women’s multivitamin supplements to reduce stress and climacteric symptoms, which in turn supports healthy libido and reproductive function. It’s generally a great adaptogenic herb for women to supplement with, but there’s very little human data to confirm it’s safe for pregnant women.
Still, many pregnant women resort to herbal supplements in hopes of easing pregnancy symptoms like nausea and vomiting, indigestion, backache, bladder/urinary discomfort, anxiety, and for “boosting” the immune system.
While a handful of herbs may help treat these symptoms, ginger is the most popular of all, since it’s used to reduce or treat nausea and/or vomiting; it’s also about the only herbal supplement with reliable evidence to support its efficacy and safety during pregnancy. Beyond that, more data is needed to confirm the merits (and potential risks) of herbal supplements for pregnant women. Always consult with your ob-gyn before taking any herbal supplement.
There are an overwhelming amount of prenatal multivitamins to choose from, whether you prefer to shop online or at the local pharmacy. The tricky thing is deciphering which prenatal multivitamin formulas are actually made with quality ingredients and proper doses of vitamins and minerals.
You can’t judge the quality of prenatal vitamins by simply looking at whether or not they cover all the necessary vitamin and mineral RDIs. Where those micronutrients come from is just as, if not more, important.
Be mindful that supplement labels are often deceiving to the naked eye. Realistically, 95% of what sells a supplement is the packaging design, not the formula or ingredients.
But you should care more about what’s inside the packaging/bottle since that’s what you’re putting inside your and your child’s bodies. It doesn’t matter if the label has big bold letters saying it’s “Gynecologist approved!”; that’s just marketing and hype that may not even be true.
In any case, most of the best prenatal multivitamins I reviewed had great label designs and weren’t too overzealous with the claims they made. So yes, you can have the best of both worlds.
When purchasing a prenatal multivitamin, the foremost priority is assessing the overall value. Do the quality and potential benefits correlate to the cost?
I found several high-quality prenatal vitamins that cost less than $30 for a 30-serving bottle, and one serving per day is all that’s needed. For about $1 per day, you really can’t go wrong in terms of return on your investment.
Remember, a prenatal multivitamin is something you’re going to be taking daily throughout your pregnancy. It’s wise to spend a little extra and rest easy knowing you’re not swallowing pills filled with junk that could potentially harm you or your baby.
This is not to say that the more expensive a prenatal multi is, the better. Cost is not inherently indicative of quality, and there are plenty of top-notch affordable prenatal vitamins out there.
With that in mind, here are the methodology and criteria I used to rank the best prenatal multivitamins:
- Vitamin and mineral forms (bioavailability)
- Formula dosages
- Ingredient quality (non-GMO, organic, plant-based, etc.)
- Additional nutrient content (polyphenols, omega-3s, etc.)
- Value (price per serving)
The Best Prenatal Multivitamins
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal
Carrying around a tiny human is no small task. You need ample nourishment if you’re going to make it through pregnancy healthy and happy, and this is precisely why Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal is arguably the best prenatal multivitamin you can take. Corresponding with Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code Raw supplement line, this prenatal multi formula features one of the most comprehensive plant-based micronutrient profiles on the market, designed specifically for both the mom and baby. This is also the first-rate prenatal multi formula made exclusively with micronutrients derived from microbes and organic raw foods such as kale, spinach, blueberries, beets (hence the “Raw” name).
Some key vitamin and mineral differences make this prenatal multivitamin a more judicious choice for pregnant women, including ample doses of easily absorbed iron, calcium, vitamin D3, and folate, just to name a few. In addition, it provides organic ginger extract and a small dose of prebiotics for supporting common pregnancy symptoms like indigestion and nausea.
Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal is a little pricier than other prenatal vitamins, but well worth the cost in the grand scheme of things. And hey, a portion of all Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal sales go towards charity. What’s not to like about it?
- Micronutrients exclusively from raw foods
- Non-GMO, hypoallergenic, and plant-based
- Robust doses of key vitamins and minerals
- Not entirely vegan-friendly
- Doesn’t contain DHA
Rainbow Light Prenatal Daily Duo
Rainbow Light has grown exponentially in recent years, specializing in multivitamins and health supplements for just about every major niche of the general population. What’s most interesting is that this brand was founded in the 1980s and only had one product at the time: spirulina. In fact, spirulina is what spawned the name “Rainbow Light” (spirulina refracts ROYGBIV due to its diverse phytochemical composition).
Prenatal Daily Duo is Rainbow Light’s flagship combo for pregnant women, featuring their Prenatal One Multivitamin and Prenatal DHA supplement. Together, these two supplements pack a high-potency blend of over 14 bioavailable, non-GMO vitamins and minerals as well as 250 mg of DHA per serving.
It also contains organic superfoods in powder form, such as chlorella, spirulina, beets, and cranberries, along with a full spectrum of digestive enzymes, ginger root, and probiotics that are gentle on the stomach and useful for curbing pregnancy symptoms. The caveat is these “bonus” ingredients are dosed in fairly inconsequential amounts and hidden behind proprietary blends.
Aside from that minor gripe, this is one of the best prenatal vitamins on the market and surprisingly affordable. Similar to the charitable endeavors of Garden of Life, Rainbow Light donates 1% of all their supplement sales to Vitamin Angels, a charity that provides multivitamins for impoverished children and women in countries where food is scarce.
- Comprehensive vitamin and mineral profile
- Eco-conscious and non-GMO
- Exceptionally affordable
- Contains proprietary blends
- Not vegan-friendly
Pink Stork Total Prenatal Multivitamin
Pink Stork is a female-owned and operated supplement brand founded by Amy Suzanne, a mother of five children who battled severe hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancies. This ultimately inspired her to start Pink Stork as she is passionate about helping and inspiring other women throughout their own pregnancies and beyond.
Total Prenatal Multivitamin is the brand’s most popular supplement of all and one of the top-selling prenatal vitamins on Amazon. Some more promising features of this prenatal formula include the 200 mg dose of DHA from algae, 15 mcg of Vitashine vegan vitamin D3, 600 mcg of Quaterfolic L-5-MTHF (bioactive folate), and chelated iron glycinate.
It’s also very reasonably priced at right around $0.90 per serving (30-day supply). You can opt for the larger 90-day supply to cut the cost down to about $0.67 per serving.
- Women-owned and operated
- Vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic
- 200 mg of plant-based DHA per serving
- A little low in calcium and magnesium
- Lacking a few notable minerals and vitamins
NATURELO Prenatal Multivitamin
NATURELO offers an array of multivitamins, all of which are made with non-GMO and plant-based ingredients. Their prenatal formula is no slouch, with what appears to be the most potent multivitamin for pregnant women. Virtually every micronutrient in this supplement comes from organic plant sources, such as vitamin C from Acerola cherry extract, iodine from kelp, magnesium from algae, vitamin D from lichen, and vitamin E from rice bran.
It also provides 100 mg of DHA from algae to ensure proper nervous system development in the fetus. NATURELO even went the extra mile by including Quaterfolic L-5-MTHF (bioactive folate) and Aquamin plant-based calcium to ensure optimal bioavailability of key micronutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Arguably the most compelling feature of this prenatal multi is that it’s completely vegan and hypoallergenic. No soy, gluten, yeast, dairy, GMOs, or the like.
About the only criticism I have is that the formula contains ferrous fumarate instead of chelated iron, the latter of which tends to be easier on the stomach and more absorbable. Aside from that, this is an exceptional prenatal vitamin. It costs a little more upfront because it’s only available in a 180-capsule bottle (a two-month supply), but the overall value is fantastic.
- Great overall value
- Hypoallergenic, Non-GMO, and vegan-friendly
- 100 mg of plant-based DHA per serving
- Three (large) capsules per serving
- Only available in two-month supply
Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamin
This is one of the most complete prenatal vitamins on the market, containing all the key micronutrients a woman needs throughout pregnancy. All of the vitamins and minerals in this supplement are sourced from organic, non-GMO plant sources like holy basil, guava, kelp, lemon, and chlorella.
It also packs a solid 200 mg of DHA from natural fish oil in every serving, along with a small amount of EPA. However, this one isn’t ideal for people who want a completely plant-based prenatal formula.
As an added “bonus,” Actif included organic prenatal and digestive support blends featuring various herbal ingredients like peppermint, spirulina, ginger root, and digestive enzymes, but these are proprietary and the doses appear insignificant. Regardless, this is one of the best overall values you can find despite the higher cost upfront.
- Robust micronutrient profile
- Organic and non-GMO ingredients
- Great overall value
- Higher cost up front
- Contains proprietary blends
- Not vegetarian or vegan
Best Nest Wellness Mama Bird Prenatal Multi+
This cleverly branded prenatal multivitamin features one of the most robust micronutrient profiles you can find, including ample doses of methylated folate (as Quatrefolic) and iron amino acid chelate (as Ferrochel).
It’s a little pricier than the competition, but Best Nest Wellness takes quality to the next level with this non-GMO, vegan-friendly prenatal formula that is independently tested by third-party labs to ensure purity and potency.
This multivitamin also contains small doses of organic ginger root, organic chamomile flower, digestive enzymes, and Lactobacillus acidophilus (a probiotic). However, these doses are hidden behind proprietary blends and it’s not clear if they are sufficiently high to have much
- Vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic
- Third-party tested for purity and potency
- One easy-to-swallow caplet per serving
- Lackluster doses of calcium and magnesium
- Contains proprietary blends
- No DHA
SmartyPants Prenatal Formula
SmartyPants is ostensibly the most popular vitamin brand in the United States, and their recently updated Organics Prenatal Formula is a great gummy vitamin for pregnant women (plus it comes in three tasty fruit flavor options). This new formula is certified organic and vegetarian, providing a bread-and-butter blend of pharmaceutical-grade (i.e., USP) vitamins and minerals to help support healthy fetal development.
It also provides plant-based omega-3s from flaxseed oil and a small 1 billion CFU dose of the patented probiotic DE111 Bacillus subtilis. However, there is no DHA in this organic prenatal vitamin gummy. Regardless, it covers most of the micronutrient needs for a healthy pregnancy and is free of all the synthetic junk you come across in cheap multivitamin gummies.
And much like Garden of Life and Rainbow Light, SmartyPants donates a portion of all their supplement sales to Vitamin Angels to help malnourished women and children in need.
- Chewable gummy in multiple flavor options
- Balanced vitamin and mineral profile
- Organic, non-GMO, and hypoallergenic formula
- Not vegan-friendly
- Lacking iron, iodine, and DHA
- Price seems a bit high
OLLY The Essential Prenatal Multivitamin
These sweet citrus-flavored chewable prenatal gummies by OLLY are an exceptional bang for your buck at less than $0.50 per serving. For being so inexpensive, it’s impressive that the ingredients in this prenatal vitamin are certified by the NSF, an independent organization that tests consumer products to ensure quality and safety.
OLLY is also a certified B corporation that stands firm on their promise to contribute to public health.
It’s not a perfect prenatal formula, but for what you pay, it provides a solid blend of essential vitamins and minerals to support a healthy pregnancy. Another positive is that these gummies are naturally sweetened, flavored, and colored.
- Convenient gummy form
- No artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners
- Very affordable
- Limited micronutrient profile
- Not vegan-friendly
- Low DHA dose
New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Vitamins
New Chapter is a fitting brand name considering the page-turning life changes a new child brings. To ensure your “new chapter” goes smoothly, Perfect Prenatal Vitamins is made with fermented whole foods and certified organic herbs to help support common symptoms of pregnancy.
More importantly, it comes with a full spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals made from fermented media.
The formula itself is pretty solid overall, but the minerals and vitamins may not be the most appropriate forms for proper absorption. It’s also lacking calcium, magnesium, and DHA. Nevertheless, it’s reasonably priced for what it provides and comes backed by multiple quality certifications.
- Ample doses of most micronutrients
- Certified organic and non-GMO formula
- No DHA
- Contains Proprietary Blends
- Mineral and vitamin bioavailability concerns
Vitafusion Organic Prenatal Multivitamin
VitaFusion is more of a “household brand” than the prior supplement companies on this list, meaning you’re more likely to see this organic prenatal multivitamin at your local supermarket or pharmacy. It’s also readily available online if you prefer.
VitaFusion’s Organic Prenatal Multivitamin ranks among the top prenatal vitamins simply due to its balance of quality and affordability, coming at less than $15 for a 20-day supply. It’s admittedly not the most comprehensive prenatal formula out there, but it does cover the basics for vitamins and mineral needs during pregnancy.
The major selling point is that the formula is made with non-GMO, USDA organic ingredients in a tasty gummy form sweetened with organic tapioca syrup and cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup and aspartame. This gummy multivitamin is also hypoallergenic and vegetarian-friendly.
- Naturally flavored/sweetened
- Limited micronutrient profile
- Not vegan-friendly
- 8 grams added sugar
What is the best prenatal multivitamin for women?
Though there are quite a few high-quality prenatal vitamins to choose from, we ultimately gave the top honors to Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal Multivitamin.
It’s a comprehensive formula for maternal and fetal nutrition, and compatible with virtually all lifestyles since it’s made with non-GMO, plant-based vitamins and minerals.
How long does it take before prenatal multivitamins work?
Most of the vitamins and minerals in a prenatal multivitamin will be absorbed fairly quickly, but the time it takes for their effects to become “perceivable” varies depending on many factors.
In most cases, you won’t necessarily “feel” any different after taking a multivitamin since micronutrients generally work as “assisting molecules” in the background, so to speak.
Think of prenatal multivitamins as an “insurance policy” of sorts toward your micronutrient needs during pregnancy.
What’s the difference between a prenatal multi and women’s multi?
A prenatal multivitamin is formulated with precise doses of vitamins and minerals, since pregnancy causes a range of unique hormonal and physiological changes that alter micronutrient needs. A women’s multivitamin is more like a maintenance supplement for women who are not carrying.
Will taking a prenatal multivitamin ensure my child is born healthy?
While the data is encouraging about the positive effects of prenatal multivitamins on fetal development and newborn health, there are no absolute guarantees in life. Unfortunately, there’s that pesky uncontrollable factor we know as genetics.
The best thing you can do is routinely check-in with your ob-gyn physician and ensure everything is on the right track throughout your pregnancy.
Should I take my multivitamin with food or on an empty stomach?
Take it with food or immediately after a meal, preferably one that contains some fat so your body can properly absorb the fat-soluble vitamins.
What’s the difference between water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins?
Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins C and the B vitamins, all of which are soluble in water and quickly absorbed in the intestines. Water-soluble vitamins typically have a more rapid onset of action but are also eliminated proportionally in urine.
Fat-soluble vitamins — vitamin A, D, E, and K — are soluble in lipids (fats), which makes them insoluble in water. It’s important to consume some dietary fat when taking fat-soluble vitamins as this facilitates their absorption. These vitamins are excreted in both the urine and feces, generally staying in the body longer than water-soluble vitamins.
Looking for additional products to have on-hand during pregnancy? Check out these top-ranked RAVE recommendations:
- Orgain Organic All-in-One Meal Powder: For the extra health-conscious pregnant ladies out there, this organic meal replacement powder is a saving grace. This surprisingly tasty formula packs clean ingredients like organic sprouts, organic pea protein, organic fruits, and organic greens with only 1 gram of sugar and 8 grams of prebiotic fiber per serving. Better yet, it makes it easier to meet the increased protein needs during pregnancy with 20 grams of plant-based protein. Vegans rejoice!
- Reebok PureMove Bra: This bra features thickening fluid in the cups so they conform to the shape of your breasts while offering dynamic rigidity during movement. This is especially handy during pregnancy when breast size expands and traditional bras become uncomfortable, or just stop fitting altogether.
- Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat: The Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat is rated the #1 yoga mat by several high-level yoga instructors and for good reason. It’s a little pricey, but the longevity of this mat and superior construction quality make it a worthy investment for those who want to keep active and limber throughout pregnancy and beyond.
- Schwinn 270 Recumbent Exercise Bike: If you’re adamant about getting your sweat on during pregnancy but don’t have the time to get to the gym, having a recumbent bike in the house is a great alternative. The roomy and recumbent style of the Schwinn 270 exercise bike makes it much more comfortable for women with a baby bump.