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10 Expert Tips for Picking a Prenatal Vitamin

A fertility nutritionist shares how to choose the best prenatal vitamin for those trying to conceive.

February 26th, 2024 | 9 min. read

By Jill Hickey, RDN

Navigating the plethora of prenatal vitamins on the market can be overwhelming. To help simplify the selection process and ensure you're getting the nutrients you need, a nutritionist offers research-backed tips, including what to look for in a prenatal vitamin. 

In this article:

The Search for the Perfect Prenatal

In theory, taking a prenatal vitamin could be considered one of the easiest parts of trying to conceive. In reality, choosing which supplements to take can be a confusing and overwhelming task, especially since these things can seemingly be a key ingredient to achieving all of your hopes and dreams.

With so much information out there, you may feel pressure to take ALL of the vitamins (which  isn't actually the best course of action) or find the perfect choice. Neither mindset is particularly helpful or attainable.

With over 20 years experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I'm here to share my top ten tips for choosing the best prenatal vitamin, help you avoid any pitfalls, and and relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling. 

A Note On Eating Well

First, let’s take a step back and focus on food. Getting essential nutrients from food sources (i.e. eating a balanced diet that includes all food groups) is the first step in helping prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.

Choosing nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, lean proteins, and colorful fruits and vegetables will give you the best "bang for your buck" in terms of meeting your micronutrient (and macronutrient) needs, not to mention fiber and phytonutrients that are simply unmatched by any supplement.

Takeaway: Incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your meals and snacks is complemented by taking a prenatal vitamin and is essential and beneficial for conception - as well as a healthy pregnancy and baby.

10 Tips for Picking the Best Prenatal Vitamin

What are the most important things to keep in mind on your search for a prenatal vitamin? Which nutrients are critical for preconception and prenatal health? Here are ten tips to keep in mind when considering vitamins and supplements for pregnancy.

1. Start Now

Instead of waiting until you're pregnant to start taking prenatal vitamins, get ahead of the game and start taking one today. A daily prenatal is beneficial three months (or more) prior to conception, fertility treatments, and/or pregnancy.

It can take up to three months for your body to establish adequate "stores" of certain vitamins and nutrients, so the earlier you start your prenatal vitamin regimen, the better. It helps set the stage for healthy fetal development and supports your body through pregnancy and beyond.

So don't wait - start focusing on your preconception health now.

2. Consider Personal Preferences

  • Do you have any allergies?
  • What about medical or religious restrictions?
  • Do you want a kosher or vegetarian supplement?
  • What about allergen-free?
  • Do you require special dosing or additional supplements (for example, as is the case for people with the genetic mutation MTHFR)?
  • Do you have a history of bariatric surgery or anemia?

All of these factors should be taken into account when choosing a prenatal vitamin! 

3. Note Daily Serving Sizes

The number of daily pills or capsules required to get the nutrients listed on the bottle’s nutrition label will be noted as the "serving size." Believe it or not, this serving size can range from one all the way up to six pills daily, depending on the brand.

Always consider whether the recommended serving size is realistic for you.

Keep in mind, taking less than the recommended dose may increase risk of birth defects and nutrient deficiency, while taking more than recommended is neither better nor safe for you and your growing baby. It can even mask other nutrient deficiencies.

4. Compare Costs

While some prenatal vitamins may seem more costly at first glance, they may actually provide a 2-3 month supply, making them a more cost-effective option. Along the same lines, some may already include DHA, and therefore not require additional supplementation.

Read labels carefully to fully understand what each prenatal vitamin provides. There are lots of options out there at various price points - don't hesitate to ask your doctor or nutritionist for recommendations within your price range.

5. More Doesn't Mean Better

There are a lot of important vitamins and minerals needed for pregnancy.

Taking them all in an individual pill, in addition to eating a well-balanced diet, can be a lot to swallow (pun intended). That's why we recommend finding a single prenatal vitamin that meets all or most of your recommended nutrient needs.

While you may not find an all-inclusive prenatal that suits your exact needs, you may only have one or two extras to add, which is much easier than remembering to take several pills each day. Additionally, this can help reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies or overdoing it (if nutrients are excluded, doses are often missed or accidentally repeated).

6. Avoid Gummies

While gummy vitamins may be colorful, sweet, and more appealing, the truth is that most gummies are missing essential nutrients (or don't offer sufficient doses). This is especially true for iron, which is critical for a healthy pregnancy. 

Remember: If you struggle to swallow pills, your nutritionist/practitioner can help you find a more tolerable option without compromising the nutrients you need. Just ask!

7. Watch Out for Added Herbs

Many herbal supplements are contraindicated in pregnancy, and may interact with medications you might be taking for fertility. Check with your doctor if you have more questions about an ingredient in a specific prenatal.

Be Proactive

Want to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy? Get our 3-month checklist and learn what steps you can take today. 

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8. Look for Essential Nutrients

The body's nutritional demands increase during pregnancy to support the development of the fetus and prepare the mother for delivery and breastfeeding. Establishing healthy levels of key nutrients before trying to conceive will help increase your chances of success.

Let's break down some key nutrients to look for in a prenatal vitamin, their role in pregnancy, and some examples of food sources for each:

Folic Acid

Including at least 600 mcg folic acid (the synthetic form of the B vitamin, folate) is beneficial for anyone thinking about trying to conceive (at Illume Fertility, we recommend 800-1000 mcg for pregnancy).

Why? During the first 28 days after conception, the neural tube develops, ultimately becoming the baby’s spinal cord, spine, skull, and brain later in pregnancy. A birth defect (called a neural tube defect) can occur without adequate folic acid, reiterating the importance of taking a quality prenatal several weeks or months before conception.

In addition, folic acid plays a role in DNA synthesis of red blood cells, the nervous system, and proteins, and helps to support the placenta and prevent miscarriage, preterm delivery, and maternal anemia.

Food sources of folic acid include lentils, beans, spinach, eggs, seeds, oranges, and nuts.

Vitamin D

Checking levels of vitamin D is a regular part of each patient's blood work at our practice.

With regard to fertility and reproduction, vitamin D assists with ovulatory regulation and healthy egg formation. Normal vitamin D levels have been associated with higher IVF success and are essential for a healthy pregnancy.

In contrast, vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, poor bone growth, and low birth weight in newborns. Most prenatal vitamins contain some vitamin D, but your healthcare provider may suggest additional supplementation to help keep your levels within the optimal range.

Food sources include fortified milk, yogurt, cereals, egg yolks, and fatty fish.


Higher maternal intake of choline during pregnancy can improve pregnancy outcomes and baby’s health (i.e. lower risk of pre-eclampsia, reduce risk of neural tube defects, ease the baby’s response to stress, improve aspects of brain function, and has benefits that continue while breastfeeding).

Despite the scientific evidence on choline's benefits, most prenatal vitamins haven’t caught up yet and may only have small amounts of choline, if any. A good way to make up the difference is through a well-balanced diet.

Food sources include egg yolks, beef, pork, salmon, navy beans, and broccoli.


Iron is essential - it helps create the hemoglobin protein that carries oxygen to your tissues.

The need for iron doubles in pregnancy to accommodate maternal and fetal blood supplies. Ensuring adequate iron intake can help prevent anemia, fatigue, preterm delivery, and low birth weight in babies.

Food sources include red meat, poultry, fish, pork, iron-fortified cereals, grains, lentils, and beans.


DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid beneficial for the development of your baby’s brain, vision, and nervous system. Some prenatal vitamins include it, but getting enough of this nutrient often requires additional supplementation.

Food sources include wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, and DHA-omega eggs.

Bonus Supplement: CoQ10

This naturally-occurring antioxidant produced in our bodies is essential for cellular energy production. Supplementing with CoQ10 (in addition to a good prenatal vitamin) has many health benefits, especially for fertility.

It has been shown to improve sperm motility, density, and morphology, as well as improve egg quality. Your doctor may recommend supplementing with CoQ10, particularly if you are undergoing IVF or want to try to improve egg quality.

Note: There are various forms of this nutrient, some more readily absorbed than others. Ask your healthcare provider to determine what dosing and form are best for you.

9. Keep It Up

Continuing your prenatal for 6-12+ months after you have delivered your baby can help restore and replenish your body, as well as helping to meet your and your baby’s needs, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period all place big demands on your body. Ensuring you are receiving the right nutrients will help your body and mind manage the additional stressors and shifts of these exciting, but challenging, phases.

10. Remember Your Needs Are Unique

While the nutrients we discussed above are important, there are many others to consider, and a vitamin regimen is not necessarily a "one size fits all" kind of deal. The question "What nutrients do I need?" will be answered best after your fertility specialist has evaluated all of your blood work.

Note: Always check with your healthcare provider before starting a vitamin regimen, and ask which additional supplements may suit your individual needs.

The Bottom Line: Be Proactive

With these ten takeaways in mind, we hope you feel a bit more confident in choosing the right prenatal vitamin for the exciting journey that lies ahead. 

Here at Illume Fertility, we offer a premium selection of vitamins and supplements that have been researched and approved by our doctors and nutritionists. If you’re a patient at Illume and are interested in purchasing supplements through us, please contact your nutritionist or a member of your Illume Care Team.

We wish you all the best on your path to parenthood - you’re already taking a big first step by ensuring you get all the right nutrients!

Jill Hickey, RDN

Jill is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has been providing nutrition guidance to children and adults for over 20 years. She currently supports both PCOS and fertility patients at Illume Fertility with her broad experience and unique perspective. Jill is passionate about helping people work towards their healthiest selves by providing evidence-based, sustainable, personalized diet and lifestyle guidance.