One of the first things someone thinks about when they find out they are pregnant is starting a prenatal vitamin…

But did you know you should start taking a prenatal vitamin at least a month before you start trying to get pregnant?

If you have no dietary or health restrictions, then a typical over the counter prenatal is absolutely fine to take, no prescription is needed, although sometimes it is cheaper to get a prescription than pay for one out of pocket.

Here’s a list of recommend daily dosages to look at when picking out a prenatal and considering your daily diet:

Vit A: 250mcg

Vit B6: 1.9mg

Vit B12: 2.6mg

Vit C: 85mg

Vit D: 600IU

Calcium: 1,000mg

Choline: 450mg

Folate/Folic Acid: 400mcg

Iodine: 220mcg

Iron: 27mg

Choline: 450mg

DHA: 200mg (from fish oil, or algae if vegetarian/vegan)

Folate/folic acid are important for fetal brain development and reducing neural tube defects (like spina bifida) that are occurring even before you know you’re pregnant. (This is why it’s important to start taking a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant).

A couple considerations, I tend to favor prenatal vitamins that provide folate, opposed to folic acid. Folate is the more natural state of a B vitamin, and folic acid is the man-made synthetic version.

Some people are unable to convert folic acid for their body to utilize it due to a genetic mutation called MTHFR (yes, I am totally aware of what that looks like). The MTHFR mutation is pretty common (up to 50% of some populations carry at least one of the MTHFR mutations), and it typically doesn’t change your pregnancy care, so providers don’t routinely test for this. Keeping all of this in mind, a simple step would be to take a prenatal with folate, which is easily processed by individuals, regardless of their known or unknown MTHFR status.

Another consideration for those that are vegetarian, or vegan is looking at the DHA and choline, which may be absent in some vegan prenatals. Choline is readily found in animal fats, but also can easily be obtained in a vegetarian or vegan diet with deliberate food choices.

DHA is commonly found in fish oil, but can also be found in a vegan form via algae. DHA supplementation is important for fetal brain development.

Here are a few of my favorite prenatals:

  • Smarty Pants Organics Prenatal Gummy (vegetarian, should add iron supplement for this, has low choline)
  • Garden of Life: My Kind Organic Vegan (no DHA, low iron & choline)
  • Thorne Basic Prenatal (no DHA, may need calcium supplement)
  • Pink Stork Total Prenatal +DHA (may need calcium supplement)

DHA only: Nordic Naturals

Of course, there are many other prenatal options available as well. Sometimes your prenatal need may vary on what you may be dealing with (nausea, difficulty swallowing pills, constipation, anemia, etc.). The best prenatal is the one that meets your specific dietary needs and budget!