Prenatal vitamins: what to look for


One of the best ways to ensure a healthy nutritional balance during pregnancy is by following proper, pregnancy-specific nutrition guidelines. Even those women who eat a tremendously well-balanced diet need some supplementation of vitamins and minerals, however, so all pregnant moms are strongly encouraged to take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains a variety of helpful and healthy nutrients. Women should try to find a prenatal that includes all of the following.

Folic acid

This is the synthetic form of folate, found in prenatal vitamins and fortified grains. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid (4 mg for those who are high-risk), which helps cell and neural tube development. Most prenatal vitamins, however, will have closer to 800 mcg.


ACOG recommends that pregnant women get 27 mg of iron a day in their prenatal vitamin, to help with blood development and oxygen transport. Iron can sometimes lead to constipation, which can be treated with OTC stool softeners.


The Mayo Clinic suggests that a prenatal vitamin contain at least 250 mg of calcium to help a fetus’ bones, and prevent you from developing osteoporosis.

Vitamin D

The Cleveland Clinic recommends that pregnant women get between 200-400 IUs of Vitamin D in their prenatal, as it helps with healthy bone growth.

Vitamin B6

The Mayo Clinic advises that a prenatal vitamin should contain at least 2 mg of Vitamin B.

Vitamin C

Though often overlooked in the pregnancy nutrient world, The Mayo Clinic advises pregnant women to get at least 50 mg of Vitamin C in their prenatal vitamin to help build a developing baby’s bones, and keep the mother’s immune system running strong.


2 mg of copper is recommended by The Mayo Clinic in a prenatal vitamin as copper helps build a baby’s heart, red blood cells, and nervous system.


The Mayo Clinic recommends that moms-to-be get 15 mg/day of zinc from their prenatal vitamin to help with cell development and the immune system.


Although many prenatal vitamins don’t contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid), DHA can be incredibly important for nervous system development, so most healthcare providers would recommend taking a prenatal that includes DHA, most of which contain about 200 mg.

You should talk to your provider about any other supplementation you’re considering, and should also avoid additional Vitamin A supplements as an excess is proven to be dangerous.

Learn more about prenatal vitamins

  • AK Sfakianaki. “Prenatal vitamins: A review of the literature on benefits and risks of various nutrient supplements.” Formulary Journal. ModernMedicine Network. Web. 1/31/2013.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Prenatal vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 5/13/2015. Web.
  • University of California- Davis Health System. “Women who start prenatal vitamins early are less likely to have children with autism, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5/25/2011. Web.
  • “Nutrition During Pregnancy: FAQ001.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 4/15/2015. Web.

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