Prenatal Multivitamins: What You Need to Know

What are Prenatal Multivitamins?

Prenatal multivitamins or prenatal supplements are a mixture of various vitamins and mineral supplements that are taken before and during the pregnancy period and during postnatal lactation.

These multivitamins supply the extra vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy and for women attempting to conceive.

How Prenatal Multivitamin Supplements Help Pregnant Women?

A balanced diet can obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy body. But at the time of pregnancy, the mother and the unborn baby need additional energy to stay healthy. The prenatal supplements help pregnant women in the following ways:

  • Folic acid in prenatal multivitamins helps prevent neural tube abnormalities (NTDs). The most severe birth defects are spina bifida and anencephaly of the central nervous system which occurs during embryonic development when the neural tube is partially closed. The risk of NTD can be greatly reduced by consuming sufficient folic acid supplements during pregnancy.
  • Iron supplementation during pregnancy is crucial to produce haemoglobin. In pregnancy, the blood volume in the body increases by almost 50%. Healthy red blood cells (RBCs) are required to carry oxygen in the body and also for the developing placenta and growing fetus. Less red blood cells result in iron deficiency anaemia, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, and other health complications.
  • Prenatal multivitamins containing calcium and Vitamin D are essential to promote the development of a baby’s teeth and bones. Adequate calcium intake can also benefit a mother’s bone health.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids supplements contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Prenatal multivitamins with DHA are beneficial for proper development of the baby’s brain and eyes. It reduces the risk of preclampsia, and post-partum depression and may also lower the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.
  • Vitamin B complex: During pregnancy, taking vitamin B complex supplements may be healthy for both the expectant mother and the growing fetus. It helps in fetal development, haemoglobin production, baby’s nervous system development, supports the mother’s overall health during pregnancy, and energy production and alleviates nausea and morning sickness during pregnancy.

How are Prenatal Vitamins Different from Multivitamins?

Both prenatal vitamins and multivitamins are dietary supplements that supply vital vitamins and minerals. But still, there are a few significant differences between the two, particularly when it comes to their formulations and exact nutrient composition:

Prenatal vitaminsMultivitamins
These are intended exclusively for those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.These are multipurpose dietary supplements made to supply a wide range of vitamins and minerals that may be missing from a person’s diet.
Contains a higher amount of folic acid.The standard amount of folic acid is present.
Contain a high amount of iron as pregnant women often need iron for good health.Iron may or may not be present because some people prefer iron-free formulas
Usually contains additional calcium to cater for the increased calcium requirements during pregnancy.May or may not contain calcium, as each person’s calcium needs vary.

What are the Prenatal Vitamins Side-effects?

If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; breathlessness; or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat then seek medical attention immediately.

Prenatal multivitamins are unlikely to have major negative effects if taken as directed by your doctor.

The prenatal multivitamin side effects are:

  • headache; or
  • Stomach pain;
  • unusual or unpleasant taste in the mouth.

How Should You Choose a Prenatal Multivitamin?

  • Choose a prenatal multivitamin that contains DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), calcium and vitamin D in addition to folic acid and iron. It is advisable to look for prenatal vitamins that have vitamins C, A, E, B, zinc, and iodine.
  • Stay away from prenatal vitamins with extremely high levels of specific nutrients, as this may be dangerous. For example, considerable quantities of vitamin A (retinol) can be harmful to the unborn child.
  • A few prenatal vitamins may induce stomach upset. In case of have sensitive stomach issues, choose a prenatal vitamin with a gentler formula or take it with food.
  • Select a prenatal vitamin from a reputable brand to confirm quality and precision in the stated nutrient levels.


It’s important to remember that prenatal vitamins are developed to meet the special nutritional requirements of pregnant women or those who are planning to get pregnant, they are not a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet. It’s essential to consult your doctor to confirm you are consuming the right supplements and getting the proper nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.

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