Prenatal Vitamins, how do I choose?

Prenatal Vitamins, how do I choose?

By Monica Rundle, Accredited Practicing Dietitian 


If you're reading this, you may be considering starting a family, or perhaps you’re already expecting. This is such an exciting time in your life; congratulations! 

When it comes to ensuring a healthy pregnancy, one of the most important steps is choosing the right prenatal supplement. As a dietitian, I always emphasise the importance of getting nutrients from good quality foods. However, opting for a high-quality prenatal supplement, can ensure you're getting the necessary nutrients required to support both you and your little one through a healthy pregnancy. 

With SO many options available on the market, selecting the best prenatal supplement can be overwhelming. To make this decision easier for you, I've put together a comprehensive guide outlining key factors to consider. 


The nutrients discussed below require special attention due to their critical role and increased requirements during pregnancy.  


Adequate intake of folate, also known as folic acid, before and during pregnancy can help prevent major birth defects in the baby's brain and spine, known as neural tube defects (NTDs). By consuming at least 500 mcg of folic acid per day as a supplement for one month before and three months after conception, women can significantly reduce the risk of NTDs. 


During pregnancy, the daily requirement for iron significantly increases from 18mg to 27mg. Many women struggle to meet this requirement through food alone, leading to common iron deficiency in pregnancy. Iron is essential for energy levels, cognition, sleep, mood, and the growth and development of the baby. 


Daily iodine needs increase significantly from 150mcg to 220mcg during pregnancy. Iodine is crucial for thyroid function for both you and your baby during pregnancy. 


Intake of zinc increases from 8 mg to 11 mg to support the development of vital organs, particularly during the first trimester. 


Vitamin D: 

Vitamin D is primarily obtained through sun exposure, many women tend to have low levels even before pregnancy. A deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Vitamin D is also crucial for the development of the baby's bones. Although most prenatal supplements do contain some Vitamin D, they usually don't provide significant amounts. It may be necessary to take an additional standalone supplement. Consulting your healthcare team and considering your current blood levels is essential before making any decisions. 


Choline is a ‘B-like’ vitamin, it plays a role in the development of the neural tube during early pregnancy, as well as in the optimal growth of the brain during later pregnancy. Despite its important role, choline is not often found in prenatal vitamins. Even those that do contain choline will often have low doses. If you consume choline-rich foods daily, such as egg yolks, meat and salmon, you can make up for the shortfall. If you’re following a vegan diet or you don’t consume these foods regularly, making sure your prenatal has sufficient choline is important. 

Vitamin B12: 

Specifically for vegans, a standalone supplement of B12 (a nutrient found only in animal-based foods) is necessary given that most prenatal supplements contain insufficient amounts to meet requirements. 

Omega-3 Fats (DHA/EPA):

During pregnancy, it is crucial to ensure the healthy development of your baby's brain, nerves, and eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, play a vital role in this process. Consuming enough Omega-3 fats, found primarily in oily fish, has also been linked to a lower risk of pre-term birth. To meet the recommended intake, it is advised to have 2-3 servings of low mercury fish per week. However, if you do not consume fish, it may be necessary to consider regular supplementation. While some prenatal supplements contain Omega-3 fats, the amount may be insufficient, requiring an additional supplement. To determine the appropriate dosage for you, it is best to consult with your healthcare team.



Be sure to check the dose of each key nutrient to ensure it meets the recommended daily intake for pregnancy. The checklist below is an easy tool to make sure you have everything covered. 

  • Folic acid: 500mcg
  • Iodine: 150-220mcg
  • Iron: 18-27mg
  • Zinc: >5mg

Additional considerations based on diet, blood levels: 

  • Choline: 450mg (if you don’t regularly consume choline rich foods)
  • Vitamin D: 400 IU (depending on your sunlight exposure and blood levels – you may need to take additional Vitamin D supplements)  
  • Vitamin B12: 50mcg + (as an additional supplement for those who do not consume animal-based products)



You may have specific needs or dietary requirements. For example, some women may experience difficulties swallowing large capsules and prefer liquid prenatal vitamins. Additionally, if you follow a  vegan diet you may opt for supplements without animal-derived ingredients. There are also prenatal supplements available for those with allergies and sensitivities, such as gluten intolerance.  



For many of us during pregnancy, consuming anything that doesn’t make nausea worse or trigger vomiting is challenging, particularly in the earlier months. If this resonates with you, consider the following tips to help get your prenatal supplement in.

  • Take your prenatal supplement with food or a smoothie, an empty stomach can worsen nausea
  • Consider taking your prenatal supplement in multiple doses. For example, dividing the capsule and having half in the morning and half later in the day
  • Consider a liquid-based formulation as this may be easier to tolerate
  • Consider a supplement containing ginger and Pyridoxine (Vitamin. B6), both have been shown to ease nausea and vomiting 
  • Consider a non-iron containing supplement, as iron has been shown to trigger nausea, particularly in larger doses 
  • If nothing is working, talk to your health care team to see how to best manage your symptoms



Although finding the right prenatal supplement is a crucial part of prenatal care, it is equally important to ensure a well-balanced diet; abundant in fruits, veggies, wholegrains and proteins. Prenatal supplements are designed to enhance a healthy diet, not substitute it. I hope this information, alongside the advice of your healthcare team, allows you to make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a prenatal supplement that is right for you. 


For personalised nutrition and supplementation support, you can find me here at: or contact me via email at

About the Author: Monica Rundle, is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, and founder of Plant Based Family Nutrition, an online nutrition clinic dedicated to helping families make small, sustainable dietary changes that can make a big difference to their overall health and that of the environment. 

Disclaimer: This article is for information and educational purposes only. The information provided does not substitute medical or mental health advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional relevant to your particular circumstance. 

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