Focus On: Prenatal Vitamins

WHAT IT IS: Prenatal vitamins are intended to make up for any nutritional deficiencies that may be present in women who are either pregnant or trying to conceive. These should not be thought of as a substitute for a good diet, but rather a supplement to a well-rounded diet. Vitamins and minerals like folic acid, calcium, and iron are very important for pregnancy, but many women don’t get enough on their own—especially if their diet is subpar.

[ Benefits ]

Prenatal vitamins carry specific nutrients tailored to the nutritional requirements of the expecting mother. Folic acid, in particular, carries a very well-documented link to healthy pregnancy—it is important so that the baby’s neural tube closes properly. This can help prevent some major diseases, aid the baby’s brain development, prevent premature birth, and ensure a healthy birth weight. Calcium is in prenatal vitamins to prevent the mother from losing bone mass and aid the baby’s own bone growth. Iron helps to oxygenate the blood for both baby and mommy.

[ Recommended Dosages ]

Generally, look for a prenatal vitamin that contains the following:

Folic acid — 400 to 800 micrograms

Calcium — 250 milligrams

Iron — 30 milligrams

Vitamin C — 50 milligrams

Zinc — 15 milligrams

Copper — 2 milligrams

Vitamin B6 — 2 milligrams

Vitamin D — 400 IUs

It’s worth noting that it is fine to get more of almost any of these nutrients, vitamin D in particular. Many people are very low in vitamin D and need around 4,000 IUs per day to get to healthy levels.

[ Picks ]

Rainbow Light Organic Prenatal Vitamins, $38, 120 capsules, rainbowlight.com // Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA, $29, 90 softgels, nordicnaturals.com // MegaFood Baby & Me Herb Free Prenatal Vitamins, $45, 120 tablets, megafood.com // New Chapter Perfect Prenatal, $46, 96 tablets, newchapter.com // Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Prenatal, 90 capsules, $41, gardenoflife.com // Oxylent Prenatal Multivitamin Supplement Drink, 30 packets, $37, oxylent.com // Solgar Prenatal Nutrients Tablets, 60 tablets, $9, solgar.com

[ Warnings ]

Prenatal vitamins are generally quite safe. The main concerns would be allergies (some vitamins may derive certain nutrients from fish oil) or problems metabolizing iron.