This is the third article of a three part series on prenatal vitamins.
- Part One: Prescription vs Over The Counter Prenatal Vitamins.
- Part Two: 9 Essential Ingredients in Prenatal Vitamins.
- Part Three: In this article I review individual prenatal vitamin brands. I give you my honest recommendations of which brands are the best prenatal vitamins.
Overall Best Prenatal Vitamins: Honest Company’s Prenatal Once Daily
For many people, me included, a once daily prenatal vitamin is essential. As much as I want to assume that I will remember to take prenatal vitamins multiple times a day, I know that once daily is going to be much more realistic for me. Honest Co’s prenatal vitamin doesn’t have a bad odor. It is easy to swallow and easy to digest. What makes these the best prenatal vitamins?
Honest Co’s Prenatals have L-Methylfolate
Folate comes in 3 basic forms in prenatal vitamins. Folic Acid is converted into folate by the liver. Folate is then converted into the active form of L-methylfolate in the body. Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. Some contain folate. And very few contain L-methylfolate. Honest Company’s prenatal vitamins are one of the few that contains methylfolate and this was a huge part of why I selected them as the best prenatal vitamins.
The Right Iron
Some prenatal vitamins don’t contain any iron. Iron is often the ingredient that causes stomach complaints such as nausea. However iron is essential in pregnancy and this vitamin contains 27mg, which is plenty. Interestingly, the form of iron in Honest Co’s prenatal vitamin is ferrous bisglycinate. Most prenatal vitamins have ferrous sulfate. So I did a quick review of the research to check the efficacy of ferrous bisglycinate. What I found is that not only is this form of iron as effective as ferrous sulfate, but it is also better tolerated. People did not experience the GI complaints, such as nausea. So another win!
Iodine is essential for thyroid function and I have hypothyroidism so I wanted to make sure I was getting enough iodine. Honest Company’s prenatal vitamin contains 200 mcg of iodine. The American Thyroid Association recommends women take at least 150mcg of iodine and the recommended daily intake is 220-250mcg, so this vitamin provided me with more iodine than most other vitamins out there.
Not too much Vitamin A
The vitamin A in Honest Co’s Prenatal vitamin is in the form of beta-carotene. You may remember from my last article that an excessive intake of animal-based vitamin A has been associated with birth defects. However, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene has not been found to increase the risk of birth defects.
Plenty of Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is in the form of cholecalciferol, which is D3. Honest Co.’s prenatal vitamin has 1400 units of D3 which is more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin D3 (but still safe). D3 is more readily absorbed by the body and therefore more effective. A previous prenatal vitamin I was taking had D2, so finding this vitamin with D3 was important to me.
No vitamin has it all. Honest Company’s prenatal vitamin only contains 200mg of calcium. If you remember from my previous post, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1000mg.
Additionally, it only contains 30mg of choline. And it does not contain any DHA.
Overall, it meets the minimum requirements for most of the necessary nutrients and has many ingredients that other vitamins lack. No prenatal vitamin on the market contains everything I need, but these are the best prenatal vitamins on the market. I decided I could take choline, calcium and DHA as additional supplements. These vitamins come in at $0.67 per day.
Runner-Up: Mama Bird AM/PM
Mama Bird was a close second. It had all the same advantages as Honest Company, except for one. The reason I didn’t choose Mama Bird’s prenatal vitamins as the best prenatal vitamins is because you need to take it twice a day. You take it once in the morning and once in the evening.
However, Mama Bird does have one advantage over Honest Company. Mama Bird contains 300mg of Choline. With this prenatal vitamin you wouldn’t need an additional choline supplement. I have read in the reviews that Mama Bird temporarily discontinued a daily prenatal vitamin. When this returns, if it has the same ingredients as the AM/PM version I may switch to Mama Bird. For now, these cost about $0.85 per day depending on the quantity you buy.
Best Gummy Vitamins: SmartyPants Prenatals
Some women prefer the gummy vitamins because they are easier to swallow. However many gummy vitamins lack essential nutrients in order to make them chewable. SmartyPants Prenatals has some important nutrients, but is still lacking others. It has methylfolate, the active form of folate. It also contains vitamin D3 and iodine. However, it has no iron, no calcium, essentially no choline or DHA. So if you take Smarty Pants vitamins you should be sure to either get iron, calcium, choline and DHA from your diet or take a few supplements. One good iron supplement is Floradix. The other thing to know is that the directions state to take 6 vitamins a day! That is a lot of gummies. However, when I wrote this article they cost about $0.52 per day, which isn’t bad considering that is for 6 gummies.
Runner Up Gummy Vitamin: Upspring Prenatal
Upspring prenatals vitamins are a combo of 3 gummy vitamins and 1 pill you need to swallow. This combination also contains methyl-folate and vitamin D. It does not have any iodine like the Smarty Pants gummies. But it does contain 250mg of DHA and 120mg of Choline. Although 120mg of Choline is not the recommended amount, if you get some choline from your diet, this may be enough for you. In that case you would only need to supplement with iron, calcium and iodine. This supplement only contains 3.75mg of Zinc, which is one of the lowest I’ve seen. If you are taking Upspring prenatal vitamins make sure you are getting enough Zinc in your diet or consider taking another supplement as well. These cost about $0.83/day.
Honorable Mention: GNC Women’s Prenatal Formula with DHA
GNC Women’s Prenatal Vitamin contains most of what you need! The reason these prenatal vitamins weren’t selected as the best prenatal vitamins is because they contain Folic Acid. Some people don’t convert folic acid to folate (and ultimately methylfolate) efficiently. You may want to consider taking a folate supplement in addition to GNC’s Prenatals. But GNC prenatals contain 550mcg of Choline, 600mg of Calcium, 500mg of DHA and 18mg of iron. This means it has everything except for folate .
However, people who have taken GNC’s prenatal vitamins reported an unpleasant smell. And you need to take 3 tablets per day. So even though it is $19 for 90 tablets, it is really only a 30 day supply. This comes out to about $0.63 per day. But you likely don’t need to purchase many other supplements with this one.
Most Popular (But NOT necessarily the best)
Rainbow Light Prenatal One is the vitamin I started with. New Chapter and Rainbow Light are the most popular prenatal vitamins on Amazon. I had seen it mentioned on many recommended lists and without doing my research I ordered it. However, I later came to learn it has many flaws.
First, it contains folic acid instead of folate or methylfolate. Secondly, it contains D2, which is not absorbed as well as D3. The vitamin A is not all in the beta-carotene form. It is split between two forms and doesn’t list what percentage of the vitamin A comes from what source. Finally, it only contains 50mg of choline, 200mg of calcium and no DHA. They do sell a separate DHA supplement, which contains a small amount of choline. For me it had too many drawbacks and would require too much additional supplementation to make it worth it. However, the price is pretty reasonable. It comes out to about $0.33 per pill and you only need to take it once daily.
This is one of the most popular prenatal vitamins on Amazon. So I feel it is necessary to review this one as well. First, this prenatal vitamin is 3 tablets per day. Fortunately, you can take all three tablets at once in the morning. So it doesn’t require extra memory, just extra swallowing. Secondly, the folate is listed as “folate as folic acid from culture media”. I’m not sure what this means, but this would make me a little weary.
New Chapter is also essentially missing calcium, choline and DHA. So you would need to supplement a lot with this prenatal vitamin, and it is not cheap considering. Although the tablets are $0.25, remember you need to take 3 per day. So this vitamin ends up costing $0.75 per day.
Any Other Brand
In order to find the best prenatal vitamins for you, you need to know what to look for. Whenever you are evaluating a prenatal vitamin, use this cheat sheet to decide if it has everything you are looking for.
I calculated out the daily price of each vitamin on this list. Make sure you look at the serving size for each each vitamin. Some vitamin may be cheap per pill, but the daily dose is 6 pills. I would say the best value is GNC since the only additional supplement you would need to take would be folate and folate is cheap.