If you’re actively trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to do all you can to take good care of your body and stay as healthy as can be. Also a good idea? Taking a daily vitamin with the nutrients you’ll need during pregnancy as a means of being extra prepared for when you do get pregnant. But if you’re not yet pregnant, you might be wondering if you need to take an actual prenatal vitamin in advance or if you can stick with a regular multivitamin for now.
Should you take prenatal vitamins when trying to get pregnant?
A prenatal vitamin will definitely give you the vitamins and minerals you’ll need while preparing for pregnancy and when pregnant, while a regular multivitamin might not do the trick — but you’ll need to check the label of any vitamin you plan to take to be sure.
The most important nutrient that you’ll want to check for is folic acid. Prenatal vitamins contain the amount of folic acid needed for a baby’s healthy cell and neural tube development during pregnancy — and it’s particularly important to get this amount early in pregnancy. In fact, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends all women of childbearing age take 400-800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women get 600 mcg of folic acid each day. But because it can be hard to get that much folic acid just from food alone, ACOG also recommends that pregnant women take a daily prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg prior to getting pregnant and early on in pregnancy — at least one month before getting pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. (ACOG recommends 4 mg for those who are high-risk for neural tube problems)
However most prenatal vitamins will contain closer to 800 mcg of folic acid — so clearly they’ve got these needs covered. But if you happen to already be taking a regular multivitamin that does contain at least 600 mcg of folic acid, that’s great. At the end of the day, you just want to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin C, Vitamin Bs, Vitamin D, iron, and folic acid. If you can get those nutrients from a daily multivitamin you already like, feel free to stick with it. But most regular multivitamins just don’t contain the recommended amount of folic acid, so do check the label to know for certain.
If you’re not yet taking a daily multivitamin and actively TTC, then you should choose a prenatal vitamin, which will contain enough of the folic acid and other nutrients you need. You’ll also have the added benefit of getting acclimated to a particular prenatal vitamin that you can continue taking throughout pregnancy once you conceive. So if you haven’t started a vitamin regimen yet, kick it off with a prenatal vitamin that works for you.
- “Nutrition During Pregnancy: FAQ001.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, June 2020. Retrieved July 1 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/nutrition-during-pregnancy.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Prenatal Vitamins: Why they matter, how to choose.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. May 1 2020. Retrieved July 1 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945.
- US Preventive Services Task Force et al. “Folic Acid Supplementation for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement.” JAMA. 317(2):183-189. January 10 2017. Retrieved July 7 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28097362/.