Women's Health

Choose the Best Prenatal Vitamin

Nutrients for your unborn baby

A few years ago, I left my ob/gyn’s office with a big bag full of several brands of prenatal vitamins. “They’re equally effective,” she told me. “Pick the one you like best.” I believed her, but felt a bit overwhelmed and confused about which would be best for me. In the end, I chose the one with the prettiest packaging.

The daily prenatal vitamin helps ensure your body stocks up on all the nutrients necessary for your growing baby. So here are a few tips to help you choose the best prenatal vitamin possible (not the one with the cutest baby on the box).

  • Check the label. Make sure your vitamin has at least 400 mcg of folic acid. Adequate amounts of this nutrient before and in the early stages of pregnancy reduce the chances your baby will develop a neural-tube defect such as spina bifida. You’ll also need 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium (for baby’s growing bones), 30 to 40 milligrams of iron (more if you’re anemic; talk to your doctor), iodine for your baby’s brain and thyroid development, and vitamin B6 to lessen the potential for morning sickness.
  • Be sure it dissolves. If your vitamin doesn’t dissolve quickly enough, you’ll lose out on the nutrients. Look for the United States Pharmacopeia seal of approval, or try this test: Place the vitamin in a half-cup of vinegar and gently stir every five minutes. It should dissolve within 30 minutes (45 if it has a gelatin coat).
  • Can you handle it? Having trouble swallowing your prenatal vitamin? Try one without calcium (these are a little bit smaller); just be sure you get enough of this mineral through milk, yogurt or other calcium-rich foods. You can also try chewable vitamins, but they don’t taste very good.
  • Don’t get too much of a good thing. Take only the recommended dosage, and don’t take other supplements unless your doctor advises it. The same goes for herbal supplements.
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