Best prenatal vitamin?
April 20, 2016 8:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning on getting pregnant in the next few months, and I know the folic acid in prenatal vitamins is actually most useful for preventing birth defects if you take it in the weeks before getting knocked up. So, I find myself in the market for prenatal vitamins, but I'm finding it hard to do any research at all about what brands are better or worse. I turn to the hive mind. Obsessive over-thinkers and over-researchers of metafilter: what is the best brand or type of prenatals?

This will be a second pregnancy, and for my first I just bought the big tub of prenatals on the end-cap at a local Target. They were fine, I suppose, but also giant horse pills that didn't taste very good, so I'm not inclined to go that route again. I'm not a regular vitamin-taker but I suspect the market might be sort of like carseats, in that everything meets a certain minimum standard (so you can't really go terribly wrong even if you buy the cheapest option)--but that certain options are still better and worth seeking out if you have the time/funds to do so.

I totally know I'm overthinking this, it's just driving me crazy to not be able to do the same minimum level of checking around for the "best" option that I'd do if I was buying shampoo. Google results are giving me lots of woo and lots of spam, neither of which is helpful.

Surely someone else has beanplated this and done the research already? What prenatals are worth searching out?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get prescription prenatals? I loved mine; they smelled nice and also made my nails look AMAZING. I will say that my OB did not seem overly concerned about my taking prescription vitamins (in fact she might have rolled her eyes when I asked for them), she said anything you could buy over-the-counter was totally fine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:21 AM on April 20, 2016

Prescription prenatals with DHA. Your OB can prescribe them and they're free.
posted by Jacob G at 8:23 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

My wife took the generic One-A-Day from Target. We actually just had an OB appointment this morning, and she brought the bottle to make sure they're good. Our doctor said that they were perfect. My wife asked about prescription vitamins, but the doctor said that there's no real need, and that the advantage over the Target vitamins is minimal.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:26 AM on April 20, 2016

Your OB can prescribe them and they're free.

Depends on your insurance. My OB prescrbed some when I was having problems tracking good ones down, and the ridiculous price (like 3x what I'd pay at Target) made me just sigh and get used to department store horse pills.

I found that it helped to get my DHA as a separate pill. Sure, more horse pills, but more tolerable because the separate prenatal and softcap DHA didn't smell like overripe fish the way that the combo one did.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2016

My go-to for this sort of question is LabDoor rankings. They do lab analysis of various supplements and explain how they came to their conclusions on the rankings. I always consult their site before deciding on a supplement purchase.
posted by bedhead at 8:29 AM on April 20, 2016 [8 favorites]

Woo science is differentiating between natural and synthetic versions of folate:
Look for products that contain the Metfolin brand, or list “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” on the label. Avoid products that say “folic acid” on the label. Make sure to check your multivitamin, because most multis contain folic acid and not folate.

Women planning on becoming pregnant should consume between 800 and 1200 mcg of folate per day for several months before the start of pregnancy. Unless you’re consuming chicken or calf’s liver and substantial amounts of leafy greens on a regular basis, it’s difficult to obtain this amount from diet alone. If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, I recommend supplementing with 600-800 mcg of folate per day, depending on your dietary intake. Solgar is a good brand, but there are several others that typically use 5-MTHF including Designs for Health, Thorne, Metabolic Maintenance and Pure Encapsulations. Look for products that contain the Metfolin brand, or list “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” on the label. Avoid products that say “folic acid” on the label. Make sure to check your multivitamin, because most multis contain folic acid and not folate.
posted by ohshenandoah at 8:34 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get some gummi vitamins and you may end up looking forward to them instead of dreading the horse pills. Gummi prenatals do exist.
posted by soelo at 8:36 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been taking the Nature Made ones for over two years. They are a giant horse pill but they get the job done. I take mine before bed and don't have problems with sickness or an angry stomach that way. I avoid the fishy taste by filling my mouth with water and then popping them in.
posted by notjustthefish at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2016

VitaFusion were my favorite. Very gentle on my stomach (I had TERRIBLE morning sickness and did not like the horse pill vitamins), actually tastes good so I remember to take them every day, and is readily available at target, grocery stores, etc etc. It has 100% of most of the big vitamins and folic acid, includes DHA and Vitamin D. All kinds of good stuff. They have two flavors - i prefer the raspberry lemonade to the berry/lemon/cherry, but to each their own.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used prescription ones in my first pregnancy. They cost $10/month every month. I used generic CVS in my second pregnancy. They cost $20 one time and despite taking them while pregnant and in the post-natal period and then for up to 6 or 7 months after my pregnancy, I still have some left (long since expired and I need to throw them out now, I guess).

Both had all the stuff in it. Both were great according to each of my different providers for my different pregnancies. One was significantly cheaper.
posted by zizzle at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2016

I just gave birth to a healthy, calm baby after a pregnancy spent taking MegaFood Baby & Me prenatals. They are not cheap (and huge, and you have to take 4 a day) and I was initially planning to switch to a cheaper, smaller one after the first trimester. But I felt so great in my first trimester that I ended up being a bit scared to switch, and continued them throughout my pregnancy.
posted by town of cats at 8:40 AM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stuart Prenatals are a well-reviewed OTC; Walgreens makes a generic of the Stuart, which is what I took (since the Stuarts were a dollar a dose and the generics were 30 cents a dose). The coating on the Stuart tastes a bit better than the generic; they're both about amoxicillan-sized pills, so not the super-huge horse pills that some of them are.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:48 AM on April 20, 2016

My doctor said the only issue is that some women have nausea when they take prenatal vitamins, so they are the ones who need to try the various plant-based DHA vitamins etc. until they find one that doesn't make them sick. Since I had no nausea, the doctor said I should just take the Costco prenatal+DHA vitamins and it was completely fine.
posted by gatorae at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2016

One thing I heard on NPR the other day is that, if you don't eat much regular table salt (not kosher or sea salt), you should consider a pre-natal that has iodine in it. I took the Target ones, which don't, and now I have one more thing to stress about as a parent of a toddler! ;)
posted by missjenny at 8:49 AM on April 20, 2016

If you find your prenatal makes you feel nauseous, take it at night. Or on a full stomach. For me, it didn't matter what brand I took, they made me feel terrible if I took them in the morning on an empty stomach.

My first pregnancy, I took the generic CVS brand, with a separate DHA supplement. My second pregnancy, my doctor put me on a prescription prenatal, VitaMed RX, which also came with a separate DHA pill. VitaMed makes a non-prescription version, too, with less folate, but it's not cheap. I will endorse, though, taking a prenatal with folate instead of folic acid, since folic acid is less bioavailable for some people.
posted by devinemissk at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2016

If you do end up going with a gummy, be aware that most do not contain iron (for child safety-- iron is pretty toxic, kids like gummies). If you are prone to anemia or your diet is lower in iron, you might ask your provider if you need additional supplementation.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:00 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just re: the cost question, the U.S. Affordable Care Act made it mandatory for "all Marketplace health plans and many other plans" to make prenatal vitamins a free preventive care benefit. My doctor agreed that all the vitamins are basically the same, and the prescription she wrote me gets filled with the CVS generics.
posted by teditrix at 10:26 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I took Rainbow Light pre-natal one-a-day. My acupuncturist, who is also a nutritionist, recommended this particular brand. I also took them at night.
posted by vunder at 10:42 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I took New Chapter Perfect Prenatals during my second pregnancy, and I thought they were fantastic. They're not cheap and you have to take three of them a day, but they didn't make me nauseated (even on an empty stomach!) and I liked that they had good foodstuffs in them in addition to the vitamins. Labdoor (mentioned above) gives them an A- overall.
posted by meggan at 11:29 AM on April 20, 2016

When I was planning to become pregnant, I went and had a consult with an OB to talk about preparation. She (at my request) referred me and my husband to a genetic counselor, and also gave me samples of all the millions of prenatal vitamins she gets from the drug company reps. I had months' worth for free. It's worth trying a few to see what you prefer (size, iron/no iron, etc.) But really, any one will do as long as you tolerate it ok.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:01 PM on April 20, 2016

I have been taking the gummy kind because I get a lot of iron in my diet and I have had no issues with anemia.

Since we were working on the pregnancy thing for a long time, I took a lot of different kinds along the way. I liked the gummies, and I also liked the Rainbow Light Prenatal Petite because I preferred taking three small pills over one large one. At one point I was taking an insanely expensive one from Theralogix, and I never saw much benefit to it over the regular kind, so I finished off the box and moved on.

When it comes down to it, the best prenatal for you is the one you will actually be able to take.
posted by antimony at 12:40 PM on April 20, 2016

Flintsones Vitamins are actually pretty well rated in terms of how well they can be absorbed. I took those in the trying-to-conceive period and then during the morning sickness (all day vomitting, more like). My OB said those were fine. Remember, a tiny baby has tiny nutritional needs. I'm taking the big Nature Made Prenatal + DHA ones now that I'm not nauseous anymore.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:04 PM on April 20, 2016

I came here to say what antimony said. I have to take a specific supplement regimen for a different medical condition and struggled mightily with finding a multi that didn't upset my stomach. I finally realized that buying the "best" one and never taking it because nausea was worse than buying an okay one that I can actually tolerate.
posted by oblique red at 1:47 PM on April 20, 2016

Most vitamins are totally unregulated! Studies show they're full of rat poop. Look for "USP" on the label to make sure they contain what they say they do. The Target house brand of prenatal vitamins used to have USP verification -- some other brands might now too.
posted by equipoise at 3:23 PM on April 20, 2016

Nthing the vitafusion ones. They taste like candy.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:25 PM on April 20, 2016

It's great that you're thinking about pre-conception folic acid! If you are otherwise healthy (not anemic, getting a generally good diet, etc.) you can do just folic acid or folic acid with vitamin D (most people are vitamin D deficient, especially during/after winter). You'll want to take a minimum of 400 mcg folic acid per day (higher if you've had a baby or fetus with a prior neural tube defect). I'd check the label of any bottle to see how many pills per day you'll need to take to meet the requirement.

The iron in prenatals is what tends to make people nauseous and constipated, so you can skip it if you don't need it.
posted by stillmoving at 2:48 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get some gummi vitamins and you may end up looking forward to them instead of dreading the horse pills. Gummi prenatals do exist.

I take the Smarty Pants Prenatal Gummis. They don't quite taste like a gummy bear but they are pretty good. The end product isn't USP certified (because USP doesn't have a gummi certification yet) but they use all USP certified ingredients. No iron but my OB said I didn't need that right now.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:26 AM on April 21, 2016

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