Tricks to eating prenatal vitamins
February 14, 2017 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I can't seems to swallow my prenatal vitamins, despite being able to normally take pills like a normal person. Any tips?

I have to take theee medium sized pills a day. On the first try it was fine. The second day I gagged on the last two pills and couldn't take them even later in the say. I ended up buying a pill splitter to make them smaller but that worked for one day. Now I even gag as I try to swallow the pill halves. I tried to take them on an empty stomach but that made me nauseous.

I've tried to take them with juice or tea but it doesn't help. I also have a bit of acid reflux which doesn't help. I don't think I should crush them, they already taste horrible. I do want to take these as they're recommended by my doc and have good reviews and are pricey.

Any suggestions? Already feel like a failure bleh.
posted by inevitability to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No recommendations, but in the interim, go get some folic acid pills and continue taking those on days you can't stomach the horsepills. They are very small. Folic acid is really the only actually important, evidence-based supplement you need so you could opt to just take that and not the giant pills.
posted by yarly at 7:20 AM on February 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

Is it primarily the smell that's bothering you, or a combination of that and the size? I will say that my prenatals were ENORMOUS, and that I've used my pill-cutter to cut things into quarters.

I have never tried wrapping tiny pills in a blob of peanut butter as I would for a dog, but I have always promised myself that I would next time I had a pill I couldn't swallow (hasn't come up lately). You might try them cut up small in a spoonful of yogurt or peanut butter. Not ground, as I agree that would make the taste too foul.
posted by gideonfrog at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2017

Have you tried using a straw? Sometimes that helps direct and control the movement of the pill.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2017

How do you take pills normally? Most people do the pill in the mouth, then take a drink of water thing. Is that you?

So that's not how I take pills. I have NEVER EVER been able to take pills like that. I've had to take a handful of pills every day since I was a kid, and had to figure out my own method. It might work for you with this tricky pill. (Also, for whatever reason, I find it easiest to take my pills with milk rather than anything else. But I really like milk and I know lots of people don't, so I realize that's not a one-size-fits-all helpful technique.)

Anyway, here you go:

Take a drink of water.
Have your pill at the ready.
Take a mouthful of water (or whatever)--not a huge gulp, just like a normal mouthful, don't swallow.
Tilt your head back and drop your pill in your mouth.
Don't wait--swallow immediately.
Then take another drink of water.

It works for me every single time.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2017 [16 favorites]

I read somewhere that if you hold your hand in a fist with your thumb inside before/while swallowing a pill, you don't gag. I don't know how it works, but it works for me.

And eat something immediately before or after - it can be small, just as long as your stomach's not empty. Do your vitamins contain iron? When I take iron supplements on an empty stomach, I get nausea and sometimes puke the pill right back up.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2017

I take some big-ass vitamins at my doctor's recommendation. I find it helpful to stand up straight, put the vitamin on my tongue, take a large-ish sip of water without swallowing, tuck my chin in, and then swallow the vitamin and water while my chin is still tucked in. I'm not exactly sure why that works, but I think it changes the angle of the tongue so that the big-ass vitamin just sort of slides over and down. I should mention that the vitamins I take are capsules, not pills, but it might work with any sort of pill. Good luck!
posted by holborne at 7:35 AM on February 14, 2017

I spent my whole life taking pills without issue until two back to back pregnancies and the associated prenatals made me gag every time. Now I take an array of individual vitamins in liquid form. Floradix for iron, and a handful of others.
posted by annathea at 7:38 AM on February 14, 2017

I have trouble swallowing pills in general and what helps me most is to first drink milk, orange juice, or some other beverage strong enough to take over my taste buds. Then I take my pills with the same beverage or water. It works really well, primarily because most of the medications I take taste horrible and dissolve immediately unless I take the aforementioned steps. YMMV!
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:42 AM on February 14, 2017

If you can't swallow these pills, for whatever reason, then they're not the best pills for you. I know they have plusses, but the minuses are too big. You can just take folic acid, as said above, you can try other pills, I personally took gummy prenatal vitamins, but regardless of what does work for you, these ones don't.
posted by brainmouse at 7:51 AM on February 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

A pediatrician recommended putting pills in applesauce to swallow them. You don't break them up - you just swallow them with the applesauce. This worked for me.
posted by FencingGal at 7:59 AM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just take folic acid and a few other vitamins separately, mainly because of nausea. As others said, the folic acid is the only evidence based recommendation - the rest is just insurance and not necessarily even advised in other countries. Got zero pushback from the doctor's office.
posted by peacheater at 8:03 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

So i used the gummy prenatals because I suck at taking large pills. But, in your question you stated you wanted to stick with the expensive, doctor recommended horse pills.

When i had to take the larger ones - i put it in apple sauce. For whatever reason, having a large pill in applesauce made it easier for me to swallow - since i am used to making chunky apple sauce at home and having larger, solid pieces of apple doesn't register to me as weird while eating.

So maybe put it in some apple sauce and eat with a spoon?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:11 AM on February 14, 2017

You can get them in liquid form. Have a talk to your pharmacist, they may also be able to recommend an easy to swallow or chewable vitamin. Your pharmacist will most likely know more about that side of thing than a doctor.
posted by wwax at 8:59 AM on February 14, 2017

My friend who can swallow endless streams of giant pills while not pregnant lost that ability when she was pregnant. She took the Whole Foods pregnancy vitamin gummy chewables and had a very healthy pregnancy. She also has a great diet. Eat well and take gummies. Congratulations!
posted by quince at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2017

Is it the size? I'm going on two years of taking these horse pills (pregnancy->nursing->pregnancy), and still struggle. I recently got a sample of a brand I'd never tried before, and the pills are a more reasonable size. Given that gag reflex is more sensitive in pregnancy, it's weird that more brands don't think about this!
posted by marmago at 9:30 AM on February 14, 2017

If you bought them from a brick & mortar retailer I would suggest asking for an exchange for something better for you, or a refund. If it's a good company that wants to foster trust between itself and it's customers they should do that for you. I work at a health food & supplement shop and most of the vendors my store deals with will refund us on customer returns. This helps us to take returns for this reason (and many less legitimate reasons), and we do so happily.
posted by peterpete at 9:33 AM on February 14, 2017

Ditto phunnimeee above.... Are you doing the method of filling your mouth with a large sip (not giant gulp) of water, tilting your head back, dropping the pill into the water so you can't even feel it floating there, and swallowing everything at once? That's the only way I can take any pill at all... it works for everything from tinies to the giant prenatal horse tablets. If you aren't doing that, try it...
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I swallow in a spoonful of yogurt. While pregnant, I took a regular gummy vitamin, a folic acid, and seperate iron, to make each pill smaller
posted by Valancy Rachel at 10:05 AM on February 14, 2017

Ditto phunnimeee above.... Are you doing the method of filling your mouth with a large sip (not giant gulp) of water, tilting your head back, dropping the pill into the water so you can't even feel it floating there, and swallowing everything at once? That's the only way I can take any pill at all... it works for everything from tinies to the giant prenatal horse tablets. If you aren't doing that, try it...

This is exactly the way I do it. Well, I do mouthful of water, stick the pill in, take another sip of water while swallowing. I also tilt my head back as I swallow. Otherwise the pills stick to my tongue or don't go all the way to the back of my mouth.

I've also heard good things about the applesauce method.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:10 AM on February 14, 2017

I will add to the chorus of people saying take with a spoonful of applesauce (or yogurt, or pudding...). I am a lifelong bad pill swallower and that is the only way I can take big pills. But, I also second the recommendation to just take the folic acid if you don't specifically need the other stuff. It's the important thing.
posted by booky at 10:13 AM on February 14, 2017

Do not take your pills with milk or yoghurt if they contain iron. Calcium can hinder iron absorption.

Iron comes as a juice, other vitamins often come in powder form as well, at least here in Germany. (I have seen folic acid powders.)

I recently saw a commercial in Japan for a sort of jelly that makes it easier to swallow pills. Could you take yours with some jello or konnyaku jelly if you cannot find a pill chelater?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2017

A spoonful of yogurt always helps me with hard to swallow pills. If you decide to switch brands for now and can't return them, you can always try them again later in pregnancy - I had a much easier time with pills after the first trimester, though it varies of course.

(Also, count me as another person who gagged on giant prenatals & switched to the gummy version. Mine didn't have any iron and had none or minimal calcium, so I also took a separate gummy calcium. I haaaaate supplementing w iron so I didn't until late pregnancy, and used a liquid iron supplement.)
posted by insectosaurus at 10:24 AM on February 14, 2017

I remember reading somewhere that it is easier to swallow pills if you point your chin down to your chest rather than throwing your head back. Apparently the throat is more open in that position.
posted by defreckled at 11:11 AM on February 14, 2017

My SO does the head down thing. Personally, I put pillsunder my tongue rather than on top, which significantly lessens the nasty flavor that is often the trigger for gagging.

In the worst case, you can always dissolve them in whatever fluid (preferably something that will cover up the bitterness). As long as you stir well before drinking it you'll get it all in your stomach. If you don't, the bits that don't dissolve will be left at the bottom of your glass. Of course, it's better to get 75% of the vitamins than 0%, so it isn't that huge of a deal.
posted by wierdo at 11:56 AM on February 14, 2017

Get chewables. The instant I became pregnant, I lost all ability to swallow a pill of any kind. I got my doctor to prescribe chewable prenatal vitamins, which actually turned out to be cheaper than otc because my insurance paid for them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:06 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can't swallow pills of any kind, I even have trouble with the tiny ones, so mainly I crush them. But if you can usually do it, here is what I do with ones I know I can swallow.

Take them with your breakfast. Have a mouthful of food, chew it up, add the pill, chew once more (avoiding the pill) and then swallow. I find that the pill goes to one side of my mouth and then I can swallow it without even realizing it's there.

Also, get the chewables if that is easier. No point making yourself miserable every morning over this.
posted by Youremyworld at 4:08 PM on February 14, 2017

Drink several sips or more of water before the pills. It helps exercise your swallowing muscles and it lubricates your throat.
posted by theora55 at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2017

Thanks all. I gave the different swallowing strategies a try but no luck. I'll try to pick up some of the food/drink tricks next before giving up on the vitamins.
posted by inevitability at 7:21 PM on February 14, 2017

I've discovered that the head back with liquid works to move four pills - including prenatal vitamins - to the back of my throat works, but swallowing requires me to put my head upright like swallowing food.
posted by bendy at 10:55 PM on February 14, 2017

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