Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for Best prenatal vitamins

Whether you’re trying to conceive or already pregnant, taking prenatal vitamins is a smart move. The nutrients in prenatal vitamins help encourage fetal development and health.

There are dozens of prenatal vitamins on the market today, all professing to be the best, so it can be difficult to determine which brands are telling the truth.

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If you have trouble taking pills, look for a prenatal vitamin that only has one pill per serving, or choose a gummy, chewable, or liquid formula.

Benefits of prenatal vitamins

Even the healthiest among us rarely get all the nutrients we need from diet alone. This gets even more difficult during pregnancy when you need to consume many vitamins and minerals in larger doses to support your growing baby. Adding prenatal vitamins is an easy way to get these extra nutrients without having to radically alter your diet.

The most important reason for taking prenatal vitamins is that they can help to prevent birth defects that might result from too little of a certain nutrient during pregnancy. Other studies have suggested that prenatal vitamins can help in preventing preterm births and reduce morning sickness.

Prenatal vitamin ingredients

The label on most prenatal vitamins appears similar to that on multivitamins, but prenatal vitamins may have different quantities of certain nutrients. Here are the most important ones to pay attention to when choosing good prenatal vitamins.

  • Folic acid

The single most important nutrient in a prenatal vitamin is folic acid. This is because a lack of folic acid in early pregnancy has been shown to contribute to neural tube defects like spina bifida. It could also cause congenital heart defects. Look for a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid or folate; 600 mcg is even better.

  • Iron

Iron is an important mineral for most adult women, but it’s especially important for pregnant women. It is the primary building block of your baby’s cells, and it’s essential for healthy growth. Women who aren’t getting enough iron through diet and supplementation might find that they become anemic during pregnancy, as the little iron they do have goes toward their baby’s development. A prenatal vitamin should have at least 27 mg of iron.

  • Calcium

Calcium helps to support healthy bone growth in you and your baby. Current dietary recommendations encourage women between the ages of 19 and 50 to consume approximately 1,000 mg of calcium per day. However, you’ll have trouble finding prenatal vitamins that contain more than 200 or 300 mg. This is because calcium is an especially bulky mineral and it significantly increases the size of the tablet or capsule.

Make sure that you’re getting additional calcium through your diet by consuming milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy greens. You could also consider adding a separate calcium supplement if you fear you’re not getting enough from diet and your prenatal vitamins alone.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D works in combination with calcium to keep bones strong. It also can help with your baby’s eyesight. You can get vitamin D from diet, supplements, and exposure to the sun. However, depending on how far north you live, you will not get enough vitamin D through sun exposure.

Most prenatal vitamins contain about 400 IU of vitamin D, which is the current dietary recommendation for most healthy adults. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women consume at least 600 IU per day.

  • Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has been shown to lower the potential for morning sickness, so you should definitely pay attention to this if your morning sickness is severe. The recommended dose is at least 2 mg, but it’s okay if there’s more. Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, so it won’t build up in your tissues and cause problems.

"While they might taste better, gummy supplements often don’t contain the same amount of nutrients as other types of supplements. Always read the product label first to see what the gummies do and don’t contain."
  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a role in the formation of bones, teeth, and the immune system. It’s an essential vitamin for your baby’s growth, but you need to be careful about how much your prenatal vitamin contains and what kind of vitamin A it has.

Consuming more than 10,000 IU or 800 mcg of vitamin A per day is toxic. You’re typically consuming some through the diet as well, so you don’t want a prenatal vitamin that has more than 4,000 IU of vitamin A.

It’s also important to look at the source. Prenatal vitamins that contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, are better than those that contain preformed vitamin A. Studies have shown that too much preformed vitamin A can lead to birth defects.

  • DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s most commonly found in fatty fish. It supports your baby’s brain development. It’s recommended that you consume about 800 mg of it per day during pregnancy.

Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, or it might come as a separate supplement that you must take in addition to the prenatal vitamins. If your prenatal vitamins don’t include DHA, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough through your diet or consider adding an omega-3 supplement to your routine.

  • Vitamin C

About 85 mg of vitamin C per day can help support your baby’s immune system and help their body to better absorb iron. You shouldn’t consume more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C per day, as this can be dangerous to your growing baby.

  • Iodine

This supports your baby’s brain and thyroid development. Look for about 150 mcg in prenatal vitamins.

  • Zinc

Zinc (15 mg) is essential for a healthy immune system.

  • Copper

Copper (2 mg) assists with healthy bones and nerves and plays a role in immune system development.

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Did you know?
Iron is especially important if you’re vegetarian or vegan. You might not be getting as much iron from food as someone without these dietary restrictions.

Prenatal vitamin prices

Most prenatal vitamins cost between $10 and $30 per bottle. But this price isn’t as important as the price per serving. You might have to consume anywhere from one to six pills or gummies in order to get a full serving of nutrients.

While you might think you’re getting a great deal on 180 vitamins, it might not be when you realize that the bottle is only going to last you a month. Look at the label to see how many servings there are in each bottle. Divide the price of the bottle by the number of servings.

Most prenatal vitamins cost anywhere from $0.20 to $0.66 per serving.


  • If you’re having trouble keeping your prenatal vitamin down in the morning, consider taking it right before bed instead.

  • A prenatal vitamin is an addition to, not a substitute for, a healthy diet. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and try to minimize the amount of sugar you’re consuming.

  • Prenatal vitamins come in chewable, liquid, and gummy formulas for those who have trouble swallowing pills.

  • Consult your doctor if you have any questions about prenatal vitamins or which one is right for you.

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Consider choosing a prenatal vitamin that has been tested for purity and potency by an independent agency like USP or NSF.


Q. When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

A. Ideally, you should start taking them before you get pregnant so that your baby will have all the nutrients it needs right from conception. If the pregnancy is unplanned, you should begin taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant.

Q. Do I need to take prenatal vitamins for my entire pregnancy?

A. It’s recommended that you take prenatal vitamins at least once per day throughout your entire pregnancy to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. But if you skip a day here and there, it’s not the end of the world.

Q. Do prenatal vitamins have side effects?

A. They could. The two most common side effects are nausea and constipation. If you get nauseated, try taking the vitamin with a meal or before you go to bed. Constipation is usually due to the high iron content. Make sure you’re drinking lots of fluids and getting plenty of fiber in your diet to help counteract this.

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