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Prenatal Vitamins

By: Kelly Burgess on April 05, 2017

A good multivitamin can prevent birth defects

There is no argument among experts about the importance of taking a daily multivitamin if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or are trying to conceive. At this time, you have increased needs for folate, calcium and iron. If you are not pregnant, or are not planning to become pregnant, but are of childbearing age, you still need a daily multivitamin, experts say, since there is always a chance of unintended pregnancy. We cover those choices in 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 are a couple of fairly new developments in the world of prenatal vitamins. First, 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 both mothers-to-be and infants. If you are leery of taking iodine, as some are, be sure to check with your doctor and get specific recommendations for you and your baby.

More recently, in mid-2016, the FDA announced that it was changing the way folate and its synthetic form (folic acid, which is found in supplements and in folate-fortified foods) are labeled. We discuss this change in detail in the introduction to this report.

Our Best Reviewed prenatal vitamin, Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal (Est. $45 for 180 tablets), derives its 800 mcg of folate from natural sources, so it bypasses the concerns above. It may also help with digestive issues, a common problem in pregnancy, especially in the early months. Women who have weighed in at review sites say they suffer less with this prenatal vitamin, which includes ginger, an ingredient that is thought to have a natural effect on easing morning sickness. It also has a probiotic, which may help mitigate other digestive issues. While these claims have not been verified by the FDA, quite a few women say these are the only probiotics that they can take without experiencing nausea or stomach upset. However, others say they still have a tough time with these, and either are nauseated by the smell or experience general nausea after taking them.

Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal is it's made from raw, whole-food ingredients. These prenatal vitamins have passed professional tests for accuracy in labeling, nutritional value, ingredient safety, efficacy, and product purity. The formulation was recently updated due to the new iodine guidelines and contains 150 mcg. The two most common complaints we see about Garden of Life Vitamin Code prenatals are linked: you have to take three pills a day, and they are pricier than other prenatal vitamins. However, you don't have to take all three pills at once, many women take one at each meal. This, along with the natural ingredients, does make this a more expensive option than others, but most say it's worth it for the whole foods ingredients and the addition of the anti-nausea ingredients. Vitamin Code Raw is appropriate for vegetarians, but not vegans.

Enfamil Expecta Prenatal Dietary Supplement (Est. $13 for 60 tablets) is another very-well-regarded prenatal multivitamin that has passed tests for accuracy in labeling. It contains 800 mcg of folic acid (or about 1,360 mcg DFE under the upcoming guidelines), 600 IU of vitamin D and 28 mg of iron -- a bit on the high side at 156 percent of the RDA. It also contains 150 mcg of iodine. This prenatal multi gets positive comments from hundreds of users, though some say the DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, does leave them with a "fishy" aftertaste, like many DHA-supplements do. Additionally, there are some recent reports of customers getting products with short expiration dates, so be careful of that. The serving size is one tablet, and it's not suitable for vegetarians, vegans or the gluten-adverse.

The biggest complaints we see 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. Vitafusion Prenatal Gummy Vitamins (Est. $8 for 90 tablets) may help those with such complaints. Since they're chewable, and almost like popping a piece of candy, there's no need to worry about triggering a gag reflex from a giant pill. We read many, many comments from women who simply could not tolerate a regular pill who switched to these gummies and are completely pleased to be able to follow doctor's orders, without suffering.

Vitafusion Prenatal gummies pass professional tests for accuracy in ingredients and labeling, as well as purity. They are also gluten free. It contains 800 mcg of folic acid (1,360 mcg DFE). The serving size is two gummies per day.

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