If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, making sure you’re getting the right combination of vitamins and supplements in your prenatal is exceptionally important. Unfortunately, not all prenatals are created equally, so this page is dedicated to helping you decode the label on your package so you can make the best choice for you and your baby.
First, what should you be looking for?
Like we said, one of the most important parts of taking a prenatal is making sure it has everything you need to support your baby’s development. There are a couple key ingredients that should absolutely be on the list:
Folate is the naturally occurring form of B9 that you can find in veggies like asparagus, avocados, brussel sprouts, spinach, lettuce and citrus fruits. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, folate is one of the most important supplements for your baby’s health. It may play a crucial role in preventing neural tube defects in babies. It can also help prevent heart problems in your baby and preterm delivery.
Many prenatals include folic acid, which is the synthetic version of folate. Experts used to think folic acid was better absorbed by your body than naturally-occurring folate, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Recent research has found that the majority of folic acid consumers is not converted to the active form of vitamin B9 in the digestive system, but has to be converted in the liver and other tissues which is inefficient. As a result, unmetabolized folic acid remains in your bloodstream and might be harmful for your health. Folate is considered the healthier and more effective version of folic acid, which is why we include it in our prenatal here at Binto. For more on the differences between folate and folic acid, click here.
2. DHA Omega-3
Another crucial vitamin for your baby’s health is DHA Omega-3. It plays a huge role in preventing birth defects in your baby. Omega-3 is a key building block for your baby’s brain development, vision development, preventing preterm birth and making sure your baby has a healthy birth weight. Your body cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids on your own, so we have to get it through food and supplements. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, experts recommend that you consume at least 200mg of DHA Omega-3 per day. We usually get Omega-3 from fish and other seafoods, and there are fish that are safe to eat in moderation during pregnancy (canned tuna, salmon, catfish, shellfish, algae), pregnant women should only eat 1-2 servings of these per week, which is why you need a supplement. For more info on why DHA is so important for your pregnancy, click here.
"While working as a fertility and IVF nurse, prenatal vitamins were one of the items we consistently prescribed patients. Back then, I always wondered what was on the inside. Was it generic? Are prescription prenatals better than what you might find buying off-the-shelf? The answer is, as I’ve come to find out a few years later, no. This is crazy! While trying to get pregnant, and while you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your health and what you put into your body matters more than any other time. A prenatal supplement needs to support not just the health of your growing baby, but you. That’s what we’ve built here at Binto: a line of supplements to support you with the best ingredients possible, with the right dosages, and with only what you and baby need."
Nurse Suzie, Founder of Binto
3. B6 & B12
More B vitamins! This duo is super important for a healthy pregnancy, for you and your baby. B6 can help with morning sickness and reduce vomiting. A growing baby’s brain and nervous system needs B12 from its mom to develop properly. One study found that women with B12 levels lower than 250mg per day were three times more likely to give birth to a child with birth defects. Another study found that a maternal B12 deficiency might contribute to miscarriage or premature birth. For more information on B6 and B12, click here.
Next up, magnesium. It’s super important for a variety of bodily functions, including maintaining the health of your cells and regulating body temperature. It is also a key mineral for supporting the healthy growth of your baby by preventing negative pregnancy outcomes. One NIH study found that supplementing with magnesium while pregnant may reduce preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction, and increase birth weight. We recommend around 350mg of magnesium per day. For more on the role magnesium plays in your body, click here.
Iron is especially important during pregnancy and infancy because it plays an important role in the development of healthy blood cells. You need to get at least 27mg of iron per day during your pregnancy, which is significantly more than the recommendation of 18mg when you are not pregnant. However, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider, as studies have linked iron levels that are too low, and those that are too high with negative pregnancy outcomes.
Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control your metabolism and other important functions. During pregnancy, you also need these thyroid hormones to support healthy bone and brain development, and you need about 50% more per day than normal to provide enough for you and your baby. You can get iodine from fish, dairy products, and iodized salt, but it is often a good idea to add a supplement to your diet to make sure you are getting enough. Experts recommend that women consume 220 mcg per day while pregnant, and 290 mcg per day while breastfeeding (babies get iodine from breast milk!).
Now, let’s take a look at the options…
First up, prescription prenatals.
We’ll start with this: just because a supplement is prescription does not mean it’s good for you, good for your health, or good for your body. It’s important to be picky with your prenatal. Issue number one: these pills are often full of excess vitamins and minerals you don’t need, as well as toxic fillers and preservatives. Not to mention, oftentimes prescription prenatals have high co-pays of over $50 per month for JUST a prenatal. This is crazy! Sometimes they don’t even come with a supplements fact sheet so you don’t even know what you’re really paying for. Often they do not include DHA, B6, or B12. They also don’t include the right form of iron (look for ferrus fumerate!).
More from Nurse Suzie:
"The last time I got a prescription prenatals, I was weirded out when they didn’t come with a supplement facts sheet. They were gigantic pills that did not smell like fish or algae, which made me think they definitely did not have the DHA I knew I needed. The packaging didn’t even say if the supplement contained folate or folic acid. Not to mention, when you rely on subscription supplements, that also means you have to rely on pharmacy hours. I tried to pick up my prescription early in the morning before I went to work, and the pharmacy wasn’t open yet! My experience really informed a lot of the choices we make here at Binto with our prenatal: everything you need, nothing you don’t, delivered straight to your door every month so you never run out."
Next, newer vitamin companies
Companies like Ritual can seem great in theory (at Binto we are all about supplements delivered to your door!) but it is important to make sure you are getting what you need. Ritual vitamins don’t contain B6 or calcium. Remember, B6 can help with morning sickness and you need the combination of calcium and Vitamin D3 to best take care of your baby’s bone health. They also don’t have enough iron, and they lack the ability to customize your package if you need more of an ingredient like zinc, B12, B6, probiotics or more DHA. Finally, at $35 for just a prenatal, they’re pretty pricey.
Now onto off-the-shelf options
Turning to the off-the-shelf options like Rainbow Light or Thorne Research, they can seem like an easy option to just grab on your regular Target run, but again, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what you’re actually getting. They often have a long list of ingredients that contain vitamins and minerals you don’t really need, but at the same time don’t contain enough of the important ones, like vitamin D3. This is problematic, because you miss vitamins that are critical for a healthy pregnancy, like DHA, and get too much of others like iron, which can cause constipation. Finally, the other thing to watch out for is the form of the vitamins. In these off-the-shelf options, the manufacturers include folic acid instead of methylated folate, which can make it harder for your body to process the supplement. All the B vitamins are also not in the methylated form. This is problematic because many women have the MRTHFR gene mutation and need methylated B vitamins in order to properly absorb them. Finally these options use calcium as calcium citrate. We use ascorbate instead as it’s the least constipating form and much easier on your tummy!
Moving onto Mary Ruth Organics
Again, we love a product that is easy to buy online, but it is still super important to check the label of what you are purchasing. These supplements do not contain enough of any of the vitamins you need to support a healthy pregnancy. To get everything you need, you would have to purchase her other multivitamins too and you would spend over $100 a month just on a comprehensive prenatal supplement.
We know, they come in fun colors and yummy flavors, but with all the flashy packaging, they often do not deliver all the vitamins you need. Take Olly vitamins for example. Their prenatal contains 50mg of DHA - you need 300 per day for a healthy pregnancy! They also include folate in the folic acid form instead of the methylated form, and only 400mg when you need at least 800. Not to mention, these vitamins contain 4 grams of added sugars, preservatives, and do not contain any calcium or magnesium.
The Binto Promise
At Binto, we know how important your prenatal vitamin truly is for the health of your baby. We also know it can be tricky to navigate all the different options, so we’re here to help. Every pregnancy is different, and so are your nutrition, wellness and pregnancy goals. Our licensed healthcare providers can tailor your supplements to make sure you get exactly what you need. Plus, our products are backed by science. Our team creates Binto’s supplements based on the latest research, recommendations from the CDC, WHO, ACOG and The American Pregnancy Association.