Everyone always asks what the best prenatal vitamins are. I’ve spent a lot of time researching them for myself so I thought it was time to share what I’ve found!
First, I want to say that I’m honestly a little wary of multivitamins. My friend Kristin from Sassy Holistics does a good job outlining the issues and some alternative options in her article “Why I don’t Recommend Multivitamin Supplements”. The bottom line is that, when we get our vitamins and minerals from food we aren’t getting them in isolation. They’re coming along with so many other nutrients and cofactors beyond vitamins that are necessary for their absorption and processing in our bodies.
There’s also the issue that taking some vitamins and minerals in combination may be pointless as they essentially cancel each other out. For example, calcium inhibits iron absorption so should not be taken together.
Water soluble vitamins just get processed out with your urine. If you take too much, the worst that’s happening is that you’re peeing away good money. With high enough doses you could tax your kidneys but I don’t think that’s as likely to happen with multivitamins.
Fat soluble vitamins, and some minerals like iron, on the other hand will just build up in your body if you take too much. Your body doesn’t have an easy way to get rid of the excess and you can become toxic. Again, this theoretically shouldn’t be an issue with multivitamins where the doses should be lower. Especially if you’ve made sure to purchase one of high quality. A lot of prenatals don’t contain iron for this reason. You should only supplement iron in pregnancy if directed by your doctor or midwife.
The Benefits of Prenatals
Despite what some may believe about the necessity of prenatal vitamins, they’re still incredibly popular and highly recommended. And despite my own hesitations about taking them, I still do. If you’re careful to select a brand that is high quality and does quality testing to be sure that what they say is in their product and nothing else, and you follow the recommended doses, I do believe they can have benefit. As I said above, for the average individual, the worst that will happen is that you waste your money on expensive pee.
For myself personally, I feel that I need the additional nutritional support that they may offer as I struggle with multiple nutrient deficiencies. I also struggle with insulin resistance due to my PCOS which means cravings and not always eating healthy. While I 100% believe that you can’t supplement away a bad diet, I get a little peace of mind knowing I’m still getting the nutrients my body needs while I struggle on my worst days. And the bottom line is that some of the nutrients in the multivitamins have been proven effective at helping to manage insulin resistance and PCOS.
Should I wait until I’m pregnant to take prenatals?
It’s said that it’s best to start prenatals at least 3 months before you’re ready to conceive. That way you can be sure your nutrient stores are being built up before they begin being depleted by a growing baby. Many women who are trying to conceive will seek out a quality prenatal multivitamin. That may be how you ended up here!
If you’ve ended up here because you’re now pregnant and haven’t been taking a prenatal, it’s okay! It’s never too late to start. And remember, if you have a good diet with a good variety of high quality whole foods, it’s possible your body may not even need the extra support!
So, without further ado:
The Top 5 Best Prenatals
Best Nest Wellness was started by neurologist Dr. Madhavi Gupta, MD. Dr. Gupta couldn’t find the kind of high quality prenatal she wanted for herself while pregnant with her own children. Best Nest Wellness was created to support neuro-development, methylation, natural immunity and overall health.
I particularly like Best Nest Wellness because they use the highest quality versions of vitamins that will be the easiest for our bodies to use. I also love that they don’t stop at vitamins. They also contain important minerals like iodine and chromium, probiotics, an enzyme blend to support digestion; and a blend of ginger and chamomile to help with early pregnancy nausea.
Best Nest Wellness carries two versions of their main prenatal.
Mama Bird and Mama Bird AM/PM. They are exactly the same except that Mama Bird contains 50mg of choline and Mama Bird AM/PM contains 300mg of choline. Choline is important for many reasons. But in pregnancy, it’s especially important for baby’s growing brain. It’s recommended that you should get 450mg of choline per day when pregnant. So, I like that the AM/PM version provides a higher dose of choline without having to purchase a separate supplement. This was one of the top deciding factors when I chose Best Nest Wellness Mama Bird AM/PM for myself.
If you prefer a fertility focused multivitamin over a prenatal while you’re trying to conceive, Best Nest Wellness offers that too with Ready, Set, Go!. As an herbalist, I’m hesitant to recommend this option. It contains some popular “fertility” herbs that can actually make things worse if they’re not a good fit for you. Vitex/chaste tree berry for example.
Best Nest Wellness also offers fertility vitamins for men, every day vitamins for the whole family, postnatal vitamins, probiotics, some isolated nutrients like folate and vitamin D, and more!
When you purchase a monthly subscription you’re able to get a discounted rate. I like to purchase the prenatal along with the One Fish, Two Fish prenatal DHA.
I love Best Nest Wellness so much that I partnered with them to bring you 10% off your first order! If you decide to try Best Nest Wellness, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!
Ritual’s multivitamins are really popular and it’s not hard to see why! The pill-within-a-pill design where they combine the powdered supplements inside of the oil filled capsule is really attractive. They can do this because their big selling point is that it provides (only) 12 key nutrients. Ritual’s Essential Prenatal includes the most important nutrients for pregnancy, such as methylfolate, choline, B12, iodine, DHA, and minerals that support bone health.
Ritual touts a “smart”, slow-release capsule which dissolves in the small intenstine. And similarly to Best Nest Wellness, it also includes a natural orange flavoring to make it taste better than your average vitamin.
Their other big selling point is “transparency”, which comes back to their capsule design. They seem to try to maintain transparency, whether it’s the product itself and its ingredients, or where the ingredients are sourced. Much like Best Nest Wellness, Ritual was founded by a mom who couldn’t find anything better. You can read more about the founder, Katerina Schneider, in this Ritual article.
Although I have not tried Ritual’s Prenatal myself, it was definitely in the running when I was comparing brands.
I think the limited ingredients is a great selling point for someone who doesn’t want to overdo it and just wants the necessities. They use the highest quality ingredients and care a lot about offering a product that is well designed and works. They also offer a range of other multivitamin options from postnatals to every day multivitamins for the whole family.
Ultimately, I decided against Ritual just because I felt like my body really needed the extra nutrients that most other prenatals offer. Especially the extra choline which Best Nest Wellness contains. Although for the right prenatal I probably would have been happy to take a separate choline supplement. The bottom line for me with ritual was that it cost the same as other high quality prenatals while offering less. I do believe it’s a great option for someone who wants less.
If you think Ritual’s Essential Prenatal is a good fit for you, you can get $15 off your order here!
In the world of MTHFR, and related genetic mutations, Seeking Health is a highly recommended supplement company. If you don’t know what MTHFR is yet, then I recommend you read this article, What is MTHFR and Why Should You Care? . To put it simply, MTHFR is a gene which up to 60% of the population has at least one mutation in. This can affect hormone balance, fertility, pregnancy, and can even cause recurrent miscarriages in some people.
Seeking Health was founded by Dr. Ben Lynch, ND, an expert in MTHFR and genetic mutations. Dr. Lynch formulated the Seeking Health Prenatals to meet the needs of those with MTHFR mutations that were not met by other prenatals available on the market.
Seeking Health offers multiple options for prenatals. The Optimal Prenatal is a high-strength multi that provides the most bio-available forms of vitamins and minerals; as well as several other nutrients for digestive health, liver health, fetal health and more.
Optimal Prenatal comes in multiple forms:
Optimal Prenatal Capsules which requires consuming 8 capsules per day due to how comprehensive the formula is. The Optimal Prenatal Powder includes the same nutrients as the capsules but also provides plant-based protein with a natural chocolate or vanilla flavor, and a few additional nutrients not included in the capsules. The Optimal Prenatal also comes in a Methyl-Free version for those sensitive to methyl donors.
Prenatal Essentials is equal in quality to the Optimal formula, but less comprehensive.
The Prenatal Essentials Capsules only requires 2 capsules per day. Prenatal Essentials also comes in a Chewable formula which is mostly the same as the capsules but may be easier for some people to take. And just like the Optimal formula, Prenatal Essentials also has a Methyl-Free version.
Although I have not tried Seeking Health prenatal vitamins, I have used their various B12 vitamins to support my MTHFR mutation and B12 deficiency for many years. I have also used the Liquid Vitamin D drops for a couple of years after my levels tested low. I love this vitamin D option because it is high quality and lasts a long time. It gives me confidence that I’m providing enough D for my body and for my baby. Vitamin D is important for pregnancy and deficiency has been found to contribute to recurrent miscarriage.
I have no personal experience with this one but it’s very popular. Thorne has been around a long time and is particularly known for their MTHFR support supplements. Just like all of my other prenatal recommendations, Thorne’s multivitamins contain methyl forms of the vitamins folate and B12.
The Basic Prenatal also contains important minerals like iodine and chromium. However, it doesn’t contain choline or any EPA or DHA as some of the above options do. You would need to take those separately. Because this prenatal is in capsule form, one of Thorne’s selling points is that they do not contain any additives or coatings.
Thorne recommends its Basic Prenatal for women who are trying to conceive, or who are pregnant or postpartum.
5. MaryRuth’s Organic Liquid Prenatal & Postnatal
I’ve been using MaryRuth’s Organic‘s products for a few years now. They are really high quality and I’ve really liked everything I’ve tried. So when I first started trying to conceive, MaryRuth’s Organic Liquid Prenatal was my first choice.
Like my other recommendations, they use more bioavailable forms of vitamins, such as methyfolate instead of folic acid. But what I like most about all of MaryRuth’s multis is that they are a liquid instead of capsule or tablet. When I work with herbs I much prefer liquid forms like teas and tinctures. So when it comes to multivitamins I love having a liquid option. And the reason I think liquids can be really beneficial over other forms is because for a lot of people they are absorbed much more easily!
I tend to have digestive problems and I know a lot of other women do too. So by using a liquid supplement I get to give my digestion a break; it doesn’t have to work as hard, and the supplements tend to work faster.
MaryRuth’s Organic Liquid Prenatal is also labeled for use as a postnatal. While some companies offer a separate postnatal, some, like MaryRuth’s, recommends using the prenatal during the postpartum period as well.
You can get 10% off your order at MaryRuth’s with code HFP10.
How to Choose the Right One For You
If you’re like me and you have pre-existing health conditions or a history of pregnancy loss, you’re probably better off choosing a more comprehensive option such as Best Nest, Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal, or Thorne.
If you are a fairly healthy person with a healthy diet, you can probably handle a less comprehensive option like Ritual, Seeking Health Prenatal Essentials, or MaryRuth’s Organics.
How do I know if I should worry about MTHFR?
You can find out if you have a MTHFR mutation through genetic testing. Your doctor can order a blood test. It’s often hard to get this test through your doctor unless you have a history of recurrent pregnancy loss. Or other serious health issues that could be related to MTHFR, such as a history of blood clots.
It’s easier, and often more affordable, to order a DNA test online and filter the results to find your MTHFR status. I recommend using Ancestry DNA. With my referral link you can get $10 off the test. You can download your raw data once you have sent off your sample and gotten your results back.
There are multiple ways to use this raw data. For comprehensive information on more than just MTHFR, I recommend using Seeking Health’s StrateGene Report for $95. I would recommend this option if you have experienced infertility or recurrent miscarriages.
Having information about your MTHFR status will better help you decide which prenatal to choose. Most people do fine with methylated vitamins or methyl donors, so testing for MTHFR may not be necessary for everyone. I would recommend it for those with pre-existing conditions (for me that’s PCOS and B12 deficiency), infertility, or history of pregnancy loss.
An Herbal Multivitamin Option
There is another option outside of traditional prenatals. Herbals teas and infusions!
Pregnancy tea is very popular, and for good reason. They’re packed with whole food based vitamins and minerals and co-factors. Personally, I choose to drink these while also taking a prenatal vitamin. But if you’re healthy and have a healthy diet, you could drink herbal teas or infusions in place of prenatals.
Lots of companies offer their own version of pregnancy tea but you can also make your own. The most popular ingredients are raspberry leaf, nettles, oatstraw, and some form of mint. Though you may also find versions with lemon balm, rose hips, rose petals, dandelion, alfalfa, and more.
If you have a history of miscarriage you should avoid raspberry leaf until the third trimester. Raspberry leaf can be stimulating to the uterus and there are mixed opinions on its safety in early pregnancy. But it can be hard to find pregnancy tea without raspberry leaf! For these reasons, I make my own pregnancy tea sans raspberry leaf, which you can purchase in my Etsy shop.