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Folic acid is an essential nutrient that you need to consume long before you purchase baby bottles, breast pumps, and bibs. It is the primary ingredient in prenatal vitamins. These supplements provide additional nutrients that you, and your baby, will need.
There are many options, and the ingredients can vary from one brand to another. Forbes Health’s editorial team chose the top 10 prenatal vitamins for 2022 based on factors such as price, recommended nutrients by OB-GYNs, and instructions regarding dosage. Below are our top picks.
All costs are averages and are based on prices at three national retailers (when possible) and are correct as of the publication date.
What is a Prenatal Vitamin?
A prenatal vitamin is a supplement that provides nutrients and minerals for a healthy pregnancy. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends taking prenatal vitamins and eating healthy foods.
Prenatal vitamins are important for pregnant women, since the growing fetus needs certain nutrients that are difficult to obtain through diet alone.
James Grifo M.D. is the program director at NYU Langone Fertility Center and chief executive physician at Inception Fertility.
ACOG recommends that pregnant women consume calcium to build strong bones and teeth, iron for red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the fetus, ioine and choline to aid brain development, and folic Acid to prevent birth defects. It also recommends vitamin A, B6, C, D and B12 as they provide many benefits, including the formation of red cells and healthy skin. A healthy diet can provide many of these nutrients, but a prenatal vitamin will give you the extra assurance that your daily nutritional needs will be met.
Getting the recommended amount of certain nutrients–especially folic acid–can be hard to do, even if you eat a healthy diet. ACOG recommends that pregnant women consume 600 micrograms daily of folic acid to prevent spinal and brain birth defects. Some folic acid can be obtained from leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals, but ACOG recommends that you supplement with a prenatal vitamin in order to ensure you are getting the recommended amount.
What Nutrients Are Included in a Prenatal Vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins provide different nutrients. Forbes Health’s editorial team assessed prenatal vitamins to determine their inclusion or absence in our rankings.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Folic acid
Talk to your doctor or midwife before you compare ingredient lists. They will be able to help you decide which prenatal vitamin is right for you. Folic acid is generally considered a key nutrient. Prenatal vitamins typically contain 800 micrograms of folic acids. OB-GYNs recommend that prenatal vitamins have at least 400 micrograms.
DHA–an Omega-3 fatty acid-–is often recommended as it may aid in fetal brain development. DHA is a common prenatal vitamin. A separate DHA supplement can be added to your daily routine.
When Should You Start Taking a Prenatal Vitamin?
Prenatal vitamins don’t only benefit pregnant women, they also help people who are trying to get pregnant. ACOG recommends that you take a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mg of Folic Acid at least one month before you become pregnant.
Mary Jane Minkin M.D. is a clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven. I encourage my patients to take at least 400 micrograms of folic acids per day before they have children. This is because we know that women who are on folic supplementation are less likely to get certain birth defects such as spina bifida.
She says that even if your goal is to conceive, it’s possible to become pregnant if there’s no contraception.