How to choose the best prenatal vitamin

Published in For the Health of It Author: Katie Krebs

Pediatric Registered Dietitian
St. Cloud Hospital Women & Children's Center

Getting the right nutrition is very important during pregnancy, you are building a whole new person! Taking a daily prenatal vitamin is an excellent way to make sure you are meeting the needs of your growing baby. Taking a prenatal vitamin has also been linked with a reduced risk of preterm delivery and reduces the risk of certain birth defects. With the abundance of vitamin options available at your local pharmacy or supermarket, it can be difficult to pick the best one. Not all vitamins are created equal. Some may be lacking in important nutrients. Here are some key nutrients to look for on the label.

Folic acid: 600-800 mcg/day 

This vitamin is critical for baby’s neurodevelopment and preventing neural tube defects (like spina bifida). It is especially important for your body to be getting enough folate/folic acid before conception and early in the pregnancy.

Iron: 27 mg/day

Iron supports the baby’s growth and development and helps prevent you from becoming anemic. Gummy vitamins do not contain iron. An iron supplement is especially important for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vitamin D: 600 IU/day or more 

Many women don’t get enough vitamin D, especially in northern climates where we don’t see as much sunshine. If your vitamin D level is already low, talk to your doctor. You may need to take a separate higher dose supplement.

Iodine: 150 mcg/day 

The risk for iodine deficiency has been increasing in the United States. Iodine is needed for your body to produce thyroid hormones which are vital for baby’s development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all pregnant and lactating women receive a daily supplement of 150 mcg/day in addition to using iodized salt (not sea salt) for cooking in the home.

DHA: 200-600 mg/day 

DHA is important for baby’s brain development. Taking an omega 3 supplement during pregnancy may also reduce risk of preterm delivery. If fatty fish such as tuna and salmon aren’t on your regular menu, be sure your prenatal supplement has DHA or consider taking a separate DHA supplement.

A prenatal vitamin doesn’t replace a healthy diet but does help ensure you don’t miss out on some key nutrients. If you follow a special diet that avoids entire food groups (grains, meats, dairy, etc.), speak with your doctor or a dietitian to determine if there are other nutrients you may need supplementing.