Choosing the Right Prenatal Vitamin For Your Pregnancy

G pointstudio / Getty Images

G pointstudio / Getty Images

Whether it’s a home pregnancy test or one taken at the doctor, the minute you find out you have tested positive, you go through a roller coaster of emotions knowing that your life is about to radically shift into something amazing. One of the first things your doctor will tell you ins to start taking a prenatal vitamin to support the growth and health of your little miracle. But with tons of choices on the market and a huge price range to match, it’s hard to know which one you are supposed to go with.

First and foremost, it’s important to know what prenatal vitamins are so that you can make the most informed choice.

Prenatal vitamins are almost always recommended by OBGYNs because they contain two important elements that most people don’t get enough of in their diet: folate and folic acid.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, which is what folate it. Since folate is found primarily in dark leafy greens (think kale and Swiss chard) most Americans don’t get enough in their starch-heavy diets. It is thought that folic acid absorbs faster and better than folate and so eating it in the form of a vitamin is an efficient way to get B9 into your system.

The reason why doctors care a whole lot about whether or not you are getting enough folate (or folic acid) it can prevent birth defects of the brain and spine. And prenatal vitamins can also be considered postnatal vitamins since they boost your breast milk’s nutritional content and can even help ward off postnatal mood issues, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “For most people, it’s best to get folate from food. A balanced diet usually provides all you need. However, folic acid supplements are recommended for women who are planning to become pregnant, could become pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.”

Which brings us back to our original question, which prenatal vitamin is best? And does it matter how much you pay?

There are two major schools of thought regarding this.  For some, a food-based vitamin, which costs more and is generally found at health food stores, is better to take. For others, any vitamins no matter the cost, are fine as long as you get the recommended dose of folate or folic acid for a woman who is planning to become pregnant, is pregnant or is breastfeeding, which is 400 to 800 mcg per day.

It is also important to note that vitamins are not regulated by the FDA and so they are not required to go through rigorous testing for quality or effectiveness before hitting the market.

Many women have reported feeling nauseous after taking a prenatal vitamin so they opt for prenatal vitamins that do not have iron in them, which is the nausea causing culprit. Plus, almost every woman experiences constipation from iron. To combat it, drink plenty of water and eat lots of fibre. Or opt for a liquid iron supplement which is gentler on the belly.

So, in the end, it doesn’t look like those expensive vitamins are always better than the cheap ones. What matters most is what is on the inside, and that’s 400 – 800 mcg of folic acid. If you choose to skip the prenatal vitamin altogether – and many women do – be sure to talk to your doctor about a folate-rich diet so that you can make sure that you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you need during this most exciting time.

More Pregnancy Health: