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372 Hollandview Trail, Suite 205, Aurora
Ontario, Canada L4G 0A5
Tel: 905.235.0360
Fax: 905.726.2121

How to Choose the Right Prenatal Vitamin

How to Choose the Right Prenatal Vitamin

Wednesday 2nd December, 2020

Choosing the Right Prenatal Vitamin

Pregnancy is such a beautiful and exciting time, but it can also be confusing, overwhelming and cause you to question everything. There is so much to learn when it comes to moving through pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period in a healthy way. No doubt you are already looking into the healthiest diet, the optimal workout regimen, and things to avoid to ensure you are giving your baby the best start. One of the most crucial steps to achieving a healthy pregnancy and baby is choosing the right prenatal vitamin.

When I begin talking to my patients about choosing the right prenatal vitamin, it is usually followed by the same confused look and questions…” Aren’t all prenatal vitamins good? Aren’t they all the same?”

The short answer to this is NO. In fact, many of the over-the-counter prenatal vitamins are such poor quality, that you are likely not absorbing any of the nutrients (or very little).  The three major issues with these prenatal vitamins are:

  • The ingredients are not in their most absorbable form
  • The doses are too low
  • They contain numerous fillers and preservatives

So, what are you looking for in a good, quality supplement?

  • Adequate Nutrient Levels – Make sure the vitamins and minerals in the supplement are in the correct dose for pregnancy
  • Most Absorbable Forms – Vitamins and Minerals have different forms and some are more absorbable than others. Ensuring you are taking the most absorbable form is necessary to ensure you are getting the most out of your supplements, and also critical for any pregnant woman who has inflammatory conditions or digestive issues, food sensitivities, or for those who are Celiac.
  • Few Additives and Fillers – Check out the “non-medicinal ingredients”. If it is a huge list of words you cannot understand, or contain food dyes and chemicals, it’s usually a good sign that it isn’t great quality. You don’t want to go passing these additives to your baby.

What forms of the nutrients are best?

Calcium and Magnesium

Not only are these minerals essential for your baby’s bone, muscle and nervous system development, but they are critical for your bones too. Studies are showing an increased risk of osteopenia (bone loss) in pregnant and postpartum women. Avoid forms that say carbonate, sulphate and oxide (e.g. calcium carbonate) as they are poorly absorbed. Instead look for more absorbable forms such as citrate, malate and glycinate.


Many forms of iron can lead to or worsen constipation in pregnancy. Look for iron glycinate or a heme iron source which are easier on the digestive system and is better absorbed.

Folic Acid versus Activated Folate

This is one that is most important to understand. There is a difference between Folic Acid and Methylated Folate.  This vitamin is essential to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD).  But did you know that only 50% of the population can convert folic acid into a form (methylated folate) that can be absorbed by the body?

This ability to properly absorb folic acid has everything to do with the MTHFR gene, and a defect in this gene disrupts your ability to properly utilize the folic acid. The methylated form of folate is essential for detoxification processes, neurotransmitters and hormones, cellular energy, cellular repair and so much more. Defects in the MTHFR gene have been linked to recurrent miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, depression, autism, cardiovascular disease and heavy metal toxicity. Unless you get tested for this gene specifically, you wouldn’t know if it is defective. This is why you should choose a prenatal vitamin that has the methylated form of folate already.  You are specifically looking for 1mg of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate.

B12 and other B vitamins

B vitamins are essential for stress reduction, energy, mood and methylation (such as methyl folate discussed above). Looking for absorbable, active forms of B12 (methylcobalamin) and B6 (pyridoxal-5’-phosphate).  Look for 1000mcg of methylated B12.

Vitamin D

Many women think that if they are in the sun enough they should have adequate levels of vitamin D. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for women in North America.  We have long winters, and darker skin tones will actually absorb less. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Supplementation with vitamin D reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and the risk of having a baby with low birthweight. Look for Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Keep in mind too, that breastmilk is commonly deficient in Vitamin D, so it is best to build a good supply before birth. Your prenatal vitamin needs to have minimum 1000IU of Vitamin D3.

Vitamin A

When looking at vitamin A, you need to be cautious of the form and the dose. Though it is essential for the immune system, skin health, and eye health, high levels are actually toxic (>10,000IU) and can be harmful in pregnancy.  Synthetic Vitamin D is poorly absorbed, so look for retinol (animal sourced) or beta-carotene (vegetable sourced). Caution: beta carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in those who are past or current smokers.


Choline supports the development of your baby’s brain and neural tube. And has also been linked to a reduced risk of stress-related diseases in your baby such as hypertension, diabetes and depression later on in life. Your need for choline increases to 450mg per day during pregnancy. It’s unlikely that you’re getting all the choline you need from food alone. Experts estimate that only 10% of pregnant women are meeting their daily need for choline.

Still feeling like you just can’t choose? Take a look at this chart where I compare the ingredients in the two most common over-the-counter prenatal vitamins (Materna and Preg-Vit) with the most commonly recommended prenatal vitamin recommended by Naturopathic Doctors.



To book an appointment with our Naturopathic Doctor & Birth Doula, contact us here.

– Author: Dr. Jessica Dupont, Naturopathic Doctor & Birth Doula

Posted By Woman360Care

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