There is no argument among experts about the importance of taking a daily multivitamin if you are pregnant. At this time, you have increased needs for folic acid, calcium and iron. What's more, the additional nutrients may help make up for any nutritional deficiencies due to nausea and the "off" taste that some pregnant women experience that make them unable to tolerate some foods. If you are not pregnant, or are not planning to become pregnant, you still need a daily multivitamin, experts say. In that case, see our discussion of Multivitamins for Women. Many women over age 50 take a prenatal vitamin in the belief it will help nail growth or hair thickness; however, you may be getting too much iron which can be harmful in the long run. If you are older than 50, you need to avoid these iron-containing supplements. Instead, see our section on Multivitamins for Adults over 50 for a more suitable nutrient combination.
There also is a very new development in the world of prenatal vitamins. In May of 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that women who are breast-feeding should take a prenatal vitamin containing iodine due to concerns about iodine deficiencies in infants. However, no approved, verified multivitamin contains iodine at this time. It's important to check with your doctor and get specific recommendations for you and your baby.
One of the biggest complaints about almost all prenatal vitamins is that they're big, hard to swallow, and leave an unpleasant aftertaste -- one that can manifest itself for hours in unpleasant "burps," many women say. Spring Valley Prenatal Multivitamin (Est. $14 for 240 tablets) is an exception. We found almost no complaints about the vitamins being hard to swallow or having an unpleasant aftertaste or smell. It is also very inexpensive. Not only did it pass professional tests for accuracy in ingredients and labeling, as well as purity, it was designated the lowest cost prenatal vitamin with verified ingredients.
Spring Valley Prenatal Multivitamin contains 800 mcg of folic acid, which is higher than the RDA's of 400 mcg for females from age 14 to menopause, 600 mcg for pregnant women, and 500 mcg for breastfeeding women, but it's well within safe upper limits. It also contains 400 IU of vitamin D and 200 mg of calcium, which is the current RDA. It is gluten and yeast free, but not vegetarian and the serving size is one pill per day.
Rite Aid Prenatal Tablets with Folic Acid (Est. $18 for 225 tablets) is another very affordable prenatal multivitamin that has passed previous tests for accuracy in labeling and verified ingredients and purity. It contains 800 mcg of folic acid, 400 IU of vitamin D and 28 mg of iron. In an older formula, only 25 percent of vitamin A was available as beta-carotene; now it's 100 percent. It also contains 200 mg of calcium. Rite Aid Prenatal Tablets with Folic Acid get overall good reviews from users for value, but some say the pills are large -- a common issue with prenatal vitamins.
It's difficult to find vegetarian options in prenatal vitamins, but if that's an important feature to you, you may want to ask your physician about Rainbow Light Just One Prenatal One Multivitamin (Est. $45 for 300 tablets). While this specific Rainbow Light multi has not been tested, in general, Rainbow Light brand does very well in professional tests. This prenatal multivitamin also gets high ratings from users. It contains 800 mcg of folic acid, 400 IU of vitamin D and 200 mg of calcium. It comes in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, so be sure you know what you're ordering.
Most women say this multivitamin does not have an unpleasant taste or smell, but are large, hard-pressed pills that can be hard to swallow. A few complain of nausea after taking them, but say it can be mitigated if you take this tablet with food. On the plus side, they say, is that the dosage is just one pill per day. This is the only multivitamin in this report that also contains iodine; but since it has not been verified we still recommend you check with your physician to be sure you are getting the recommended dosage and the proper form of iodine.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Multivitamins
Editors discuss the benefits of multivitamins, and how to find the best choices for you and your family. The multivitamins that draw top feedback from expert testing labs and from users are named.
Multivitamins for Men
Editors discuss the multivitamins targeted at men, finding several that pass independent tests for quality and get good reviews from users.
Multivitamins for Women
Premenopausal women are one of two groups that experts say should take a multivitamin every day. We found a few top recommendations that will provide the amount of folic acid experts say you need.
Multivitamins for Adults over 50
Adults over age 50 have an increased need for B vitamins, and many not need some other supplements, such as iron. These multivitamins are a great choice for a good nutrient balance for older adults.
Not sure what you need to know before shopping for a multivitamin? This guide will help take the mystery out of the sometimes bewildering maze of the multi.
The most important sources for multivitamins are organizations that test for purity, truth in labeling, and accurate ingredients. These are the sources we used to narrow down our selections of the best multivitamins.