Prenatals to get pregnant


Can Prenatal Vitamins Increase Chance of Pregnancy?

Once you and your partner have decided to have a baby, you’re probably impatiently looking for signs that you’ve accomplished that goal. If it’s taking longer than you expected to get a positive pregnancy result, you might be wondering if there is anything you can do to up your chances of conceiving. While a smart way to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, taking prenatal vitamins isn’t guaranteed to increase your odds of getting pregnant. These vitamins can help, however, so it’s worth talking to your doctor about them, as well as other specific ways to boost your fertility.

Get Healthy to Get Pregnant

Healthy women tend to get pregnant more easily than women who have certain health problems. This is why the authors of “The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth” recommend that you consider taking a prenatal vitamin before you even try to get pregnant. While the prenatal vitamin won’t make you magically conceive a baby on your first try, it will ensure that your body has each of the nutrients necessary to make a baby, as well as have a healthy pregnancy.

Pop Those Pills

Following a healthy diet is essential to getting pregnant, according to BabyCenter. Taking a prenatal vitamin, in addition to eating fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains, can help you get your body healthy and ready to conceive. For this reason, many doctors suggest taking prenatal vitamins once you start trying for a baby. The American Pregnancy Association notes that some of a baby’s most important development occurs in the first few weeks after conception, often before you even know you’re pregnant, and a prenatal vitamin can help prevent problems associated with lack of nutrients. For example, adequate stores of folate or folic acid will help prevent certain birth defects, and a prenatal vitamin contains plenty of this essential nutrient.

Beyond Prenatal Vitamins

Taking a prenatal vitamin alone probably won’t significantly increase your chances of getting pregnant, though it can help. There are other things you can do, however, to further boost your fertility. If you’re constantly stressed, find ways to relax. According to the American Pregnancy Association, stress can interfere with normal ovulation because it can cause you to miss a period or have irregular periods. Decrease your intake of caffeine as well, because large amounts of caffeine can delay conception. Exercise, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep as well, to help increase your chances of conceiving, the American Pregnancy Association recommends.

Talk to Your Doctor

Don’t immediately rush to the store and stock up on prenatal vitamins as soon as you decide to try for a baby. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate prenatal vitamin based on your health history and nutritional needs. If you’ve been trying for a baby for several months to a year with no success, your doctor will also be able to discuss potential solutions, BabyCenter notes. Don’t take any herbal or alternative supplement that claims to increase your fertility. These aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and should only be used under the recommendation and supervision of a physician.

19 Ways to Boost Your Fertility

Share on:

You see a baby in a stroller at the mall and your heart aches. You hold your bestie’s newborn and you cry. A baby is born on your fave television show and you’re balling your eyes out. You have baby brain! But you’ve been trying to conceive one of your own for several months and haven’t seen that “yes” on the pregnancy stick.

To help increase your chances of getting pregnant, try the following tips.
Chart your basal body temperature.
Track your basal body temperature (BBT) to assess if you’re ovulating. Your BBT is your lowest body temperature and is measured when you’re fully at rest. That temperate reading fluctuates throughout your cycle. The day after you ovulate, your BBT will rise 0.4 to 1.0 degree and will stay elevated until your next period. You should check and chart your BBT using a basal thermometer each morning before you get out of bed, ideally about the same time each day. Track it over a few months to assess when you’re ovulating, and then have sex around the time of ovulation.
Assess your cervical mucus.
Track your cervical secretions to assess your fertility. Your cervical mucus changes in quantity and quality throughout your cycle. You have the most when you’re about to ovulate and the least right after your period. You’re most fertile when your mucus resembles egg whites, looking and feeling stretchy and clear. The more of this mucus you have, the higher your likelihood of getting pregnant. Ovulation is done when the mucus has thickened.
Use an ovulation calendar.
A fertility calculator or calendar can help you figure out the length of your cycle and the day of the month when you’re most fertile. Over time, you’ll see patterns in your cycle. And you can use that information to assess the best time to try to get pregnant. Try HealthyWomen’s ovulation calculator.
Try an ovulation kit.
An over-the-counter ovulation test can assess when you’re ovulating. That way you’ll get an idea of when you should plan to have sex. Since the kit can’t go in and see if you’ve ovulated, know that these kits aren’t 100 percent accurate.

Maintain a healthy weight.
Ensuring that you’re not underweight or overweight will keep your reproductive cycle in balance. Check your BMI (body mass index) score; a ranking of 19 to 24 indicates a healthy weight. Anything above that range should be discussed with your health care provider. Read more about fertility-boosting foods.
Watch what you eat.
Unhealthy food intake, whether too much or too little, has been recognized as a contributing factor to infertility because it can make your reproductive cycle irregular. And that causes you to ovulate occasionally or not at all. Switch protein sources, replacing some of the beef, pork or chicken you eat—animal protein—with vegetable protein sources, such as cooked dried beans and nuts. When 5 percent of total calories eaten come from vegetable protein instead of animal, the risk of ovulatory infertility drops by more than 50 percent. Add high-fat dairy because the more low-fat dairy products you eat, the greater your risk of ovulatory infertility. Try replacing one low-fat dairy serving per day with one high-fat serving, such as a glass of whole milk.
Stay hydrated.
Your cervical fluid—which helps the sperm find the target egg—gets sluggish when you don’t drink enough water. Consume plenty of water so that your urine is light yellow.

Cut caffeine.
High caffeine intake interferes with conception. Consider eliminating or avoiding caffeinated coffee, tea and soft drinks (decaf is fine). Does the thought of losing that morning pick-me-up make you break into a cold sweat? You can stick to one to two 8-ounce cups a day.
Meet with your ob-gyn.
Your health care provider can speak with you about the overall status of your health and suggest any lifestyle changes you need to make that can help you get pregnant. Since some fertility issues may be hereditary, it’s also a good idea to meet with a doctor if you have a family history of infertility.

See the dentist.
Gum disease is linked to underweight and premature babies. And the health of your mouth and teeth can change once you’re pregnant. To ensure that your mouth is in tip-top shape, visit your dentist.
Manage stress.
Trying to get pregnant can be stressful. Do your best to manage and reduce tension and anxiety. Try relaxation techniques like meditation, acupuncture or yoga.

Exercise within reason.
It’s fine to get in some moderate activity. But engaging in strenuous, vigorous and extreme exercise might impact your menstrual cycle, leading to infertility. So, pass on the marathon when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Inspect your medicine cabinet.
Some prescription medications may be unsafe during pregnancy or make it more difficult to get pregnant. Review the medications you’re taking with your health care provider.

Ditch the lube.
Some lubricants can make sperm more likely to die before they reach the egg. If you need some lubrication to make you more comfortable during intercourse, try a lubricant that’s sperm-friendly or use canola oil.
Stop drinking.
Yes, there’s no evidence that drinking an occasional glass of wine factors into your fertility. But consider passing on alcohol when you’re trying to conceive to be on the safe side.

Quit smoking.
You and your partner should both ditch this habit for the sake of your health, your fertility and a healthy baby. Smoking makes you prone to ectopic pregnancies (when an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes), lowers the number and quality of sperm and is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Load up on vitamins.
Ask your ob-gyn which over-the-counter prenatal vitamin you need or if you should take a prescription prenatal vitamin. She may also suggest that you take folic acid or a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Folic acid will help reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects in babies. Food sources of folic acid include beans, orange juice, spinach and strawberries.
Have a lot of sex!
Hit the sack two or three times a week; you’ll be more likely to get pregnant faster. Some experts say that when you’re trying to conceive, you should have sex once a day, every other day, especially when you’re most fertile right before and after ovulation.
Beware of what you do after sex.
A few things to avoid after sex include saunas, long runs, hot tubs or other activities that raise your body temperature. You should also skip douching after sex because it puts you at risk for a pelvic infection.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most healthy couples trying to conceive who have frequent unprotected sex become pregnant in a year. If you’re not getting pregnant as fast as you want or hope, consider visiting a doctor. If you’re older, you may want to get help sooner because fertility decreases with age. The sooner you visit a doctor, the more likely you’ll have success with fertility treatments.

TTC? Load Up on These Vitamins to Increase Fertility

Melissa Punch

In a perfect world, every woman would take a daily multivitamin. We won’t fault you if this healthy habit has slipped your mind in the past, but if you’re trying to conceive, now’s the time to get on the bandwagon for good. Besides, when you see all the baby-making benefits that a few supplements provide, you’ll think of them as candy for your insides.

Below is a rundown all the good stuff you should be sourcing from a combination of a multivitamin with folic acid and omega-3 supplements or a comprehensive prenatal vitamin. Happily, you needn’t break the bank to get everything your body deserves.

“I always recommend generic vitamins to my patients,” says Jani Jensen, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Expensive vitamins make outrageous promises but they won’t result in smarter babies or a better chance of conception.”

RELATED: Get Pregnant Faster: Your 7-Step Plan

A proper multivitamin will include the majority of vitamins and minerals that follow. If yours is lacking, we’ve also listed some great natural food sources that are part of a healthy diet. But before you go overboard on one vitamin or mineral, consult your doc. “Don’t automatically start taking additional supplements until you know you’re deficient,” cautions Sarah Krieger, RD, a nutritionist based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For example, iron deficiency is usually more common in Hispanic and African American population but women with those backgrounds may already get enough from their diets.

“Get blood work done first and talk to your physician or a nutritionist about the best sources for your situation.” And don’t forget to start your partner on a regimen too. He could see a potent boost in sperm health and motility from a single multivitamin!


What it does: This crucial phytonutrient helps regulate your hormones, possibly preventing early miscarriage once you’re pregnant.

Where to find it: Carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and kale

RELATED: Your Chances of Getting Pregnant Every Day of the Month

B vitamins

What they do: The entire group of B vitamins is thought to aid your ovaries in releasing an egg around ovulation. B6 in particular also increases levels of progesterone, which is necessary to maintain your pregnancy once you conceive.

Where to find them: Chickpeas, whole grains, leafy greens, meat, and eggs


What it does: This group of enzymes primarily digests protein in the body but it’s also thought to assist implantation of a fertilized egg. That’s why it’s especially important to have sufficient intake right after ovulation.

Where to find it: Only in pineapples (great excuse to indulge with a pi?a colada mocktail, no?)

Vitamin C

What it does: This immunity-boosting vitamin promotes iron absorption and progesterone production. For women who have luteal phase defect, an issue characterized by insufficient progesterone, increased C appears to promote fertility. In guys, it helps improve sperm health and motility.

Where to find it: Citrus, mangoes, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, peas, and potatoes

RELATED: 14 Early Pregnancy Symptoms That Can Show Up Week 1


What it does: A water-soluble nutrient that’s great for brain health in the baby and mom, choline has also been shown to reduce birth defects.

Where to find it: Egg yolks and cauliflower

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

What it does: Already known to promote heart health, this natural enzyme could be a future superstar supplement for fertility, based on preliminary research. Egg and sperm quality has improved dramatically in animal testing, so much so that it may actually reverse some of the signs of age-related reproductive decline.

Where to find it: Fish; organ meats such as heart, and kidneys; and wheat germ

Vitamin D

What it does: Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is vital for proper production of sex hormones. Research has shown that infertile women generally tend to have lower vitamin D levels; one study at Yale University School of Medicine found that almost 40 recent of women with ovulatory dysfunction had levels that were actually low enough to be clinically deficient. It also reduces inflammation in the body, improving your overall fertility.

Where to find it: Fortified dairy products, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, cod liver oil, and exposure to the sun (for as little as10 to 15 minutes per day can be helpful)

RELATED: The Truth About Babymaking Sex

Vitamin E

What it does: Experts believe that good E levels are important because the vitamin is found in the fluid around your developing eggs. (Deficiencies in rats have also been linked to poor fertility.) When taken by guys, vitamin E also helps boost sperm health. It also has powerful has antioxidant properties for both genders.

Where to find it: Avocados, wheat germ oil, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts such as almonds and peanuts, and seeds.

Folic acid

What it does: Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, which is actually a group b-vitamins known as B9. It’s a critical supplement for women who want to get pregnant because folic acid helps the baby’s neural tube close properly. That happens as early as two or three weeks after conception, when some women may not even know they’re expecting.

The reason a synthetic supplement is recommended is that few Americans get enough of folate in their diet. Hence, it’s important for all women of reproductive age who may become pregnant to take a supplement of at least 400 mcg (micrograms) daily. Taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid is also correlated with less ovulation-related infertility. It’s great for your guy as well, as it helps him produce healthier sperm. One study at the University of California Berkeley found that men with highest levels of folic acid in their diet had a greater than 20 percent reduction in the number of abnormal sperm compared with guys who had lower intake levels.

Where to find it: Beans, orange juice, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.


What it does: Because of its physical tolls on the body, pregnancy commonly makes women anemic. Low levels prior to conception, however, may actually contribute to lack of ovulation. But if you have a high iron intake going into the babymaking process, you’re more likely to sidestep both ovulatory issues and pregnancy-related anemia. Women who take iron supplements report less instances of infertility; check with your doctor before adding an additional supplement on top of a multivitamin.

Where to find it: Meat, eggs, fish, beans, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, and whole-grain cereals

Omega-3 fatty acids

What they do does: Essential because we cannot produce them naturally in our body, these nutrients help ovarian follicles release eggs, increase blood flow to the uterus, and balance out your hormones. Preliminary studies show that they may also assist with fetal brain development and IQ. Not all vitamins include omega-3s so you may want to invest in an additional supplement.

Where to find them: Flax seeds, flaxseed oil, salmon, mackerel, cod, sardines, anchovies, herring, walnuts, and eggs from chickens that are fed omega-3s

RELATED: 10 Common Baby-Making Mistakes


What it does: Great for aiding sperm motility in guys and estrogen metabolism in ladies, selenium is a powerful detoxifier. It may also help your eggs defend against free radicals that contribute to declining quality of your eggs.

Where to find it: Brazil nuts, leafy greens, whole grains, and fish


What it does: Zinc is a must-have for guys because it helps improve sperm motility and boosts the general quality of sperm. It’s equally important for female reproductive health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked low levels of zinc to early miscarriage.

Where to find it: Oysters, fish, meat, eggs, poultry, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds

  • By Holly Eagleson

Trying to Conceive

Eager to get pregnant, but not sure where to begin (besides the obvious)? The latest research shows that the best place to begin pregnancy is actually before the beginning — for some couples, well before. A little preconception planning and preparation can not only help you have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby, but it can also help get that baby on board faster by improving your fertility. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the March of Dimes, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and others are now routinely recommending that all couples consider adding at least three months (and in some cases, up to a year) to the nine months of pregnancy. Not three extra months being pregnant (that would be asking way too much — even for the most dedicated mom-to-be), but three extra months in which you prepare to become pregnant: getting your body, your partner’s body, your lifestyle, your weight, your diet, your exercise routine, your medication regimen, and more into tip-top baby-making shape before sperm meets egg. So before you take the plunge without that protection parachute, follow this plan, keeping in mind that every couple’s preconception to-do list will be a little different:

Getting Ready to Conceive

  • See your doctors (and your dentist). The best prenatal care starts long before there’s a baby to care for, so schedule a checkup with your doctor (to make sure you’re healthy) and one with your gyn, ob-gyn, or midwife (to make sure your reproductive system is ready to roll). Your doctors will check your weight, make sure your immunizations are up-to-date, give you a blood test, discuss your family medical history, advise you how to taper off medications you’re on (or switch you to more baby-safe ones), and make sure all chronic conditions are under control. Two doctor appointments down? There’s still one to go. See the dentist too to make sure your teeth and gums are ready for pregnancy (gum disease is associated with pregnancy complications).
  • Watch what you eat and drink. Here’s food for thought: Your fertility — like your baby — may be what you eat. Though it’s possible to get pregnant no matter what you eat (and what you don’t eat), a healthy preconception diet may in fact boost fertility. Eating well is definitely linked to healthier pregnancies and healthier babies, which means there’s no better time than now to begin breaking bad eating habits (the breakfast skipping, the fast-food lunching) and building some good ones (switching from white to whole grain, spending more time with your hand in the fruit bowl than in the cookie jar). Have a java jones? Limit your preconception caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg a day (that’s about two shots of espresso or 12 ounces of brewed coffee). And make sure to cut down on alcohol (since heavy drinking can compromise your fertility).

  • Take a prenatal. No, you’re not pregnant yet — but taking a prenatal vitamin in the months leading up to conception can help prevent serious birth defects, preterm delivery, and — as a just-for-mom bonus — morning sickness. So ask your practitioner for a recommendation and get popping now.
  • Get to your ideal weight. What can the scale tell you about your chances of getting pregnant? Actually, quite a lot. Being even moderately overweight — or significantly underweight — can weigh on fertility by throwing off the delicate balance of reproductive hormones that’s needed for dependable ovulation and successful conception. Too many fat cells, and your body will make too much estrogen — too few fat cells, and your body will make too little. Either scenario: a recipe for fertility problems. For best baby-making results, work to get your BMI (body mass index) in the conception-friendly range of 18.5 to 24 before you begin trying to conceive. Ask your practitioner what your preconception goal weight should be.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking poses a whole pack of risks, not only when you’re pregnant but also when you’re trying to conceive. So kick butt now and stay smoke-free throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
  • Start exercising. Being fit does seem to make you more fertile. A moderate workout (about 30 minutes a day of heart-pumping exercise) can help boost your chances of getting pregnant. Just don’t overdo this good thing — a too-strenuous workout (especially if it leads to a too-lean body) can prevent you from ovulating and conceiving.
  • Chill out. Extreme stress (not average, everyday stress) has been linked to trouble getting pregnant, so add a chill pill to your preconception regimen. Give that fertility-unfriendly anxiety the ax by regularly making time for relaxation (read a book, listen to music or a meditation CD, take a yoga class), avoiding overload (Do you really have to say yes to that after-hours conference call? That charity bake sale?), and finding an outlet to vent (share with your partner, and also with pals you’ve made on the preconception Message Boards).
  • Take a look at your birth control. If you’re using a diaphragm, condom, IUD, spermicide, or other nonhormonal birth control, wait until all baby-making systems are go before you ditch the protection (otherwise, you could get pregnant before you finish prepping). If you’ve been using the pill, the patch, or the ring, you may want to switch over to a barrier method for a month or two first (it may take a while for regular ovulation to resume after you’ve quit the hormones) — ask your practitioner for advice on this. Definitely finish your pill pack to avoid breakthrough bleeding, which can only confuse matters. If you’re on Depo-Provera, you’ll need to do some serious advance planning, since it could take six months to a year for ovulation to resume after you stop the shots (again, use a nonhormonal method while you’re waiting).

And since it takes two healthy bodies to make a healthy baby, make sure that your partner also gets with the preconception program. He too should get a checkup, get chronic health conditions under control, change up any fertility-unfriendly meds, improve his eating habits (and take a vitamin-mineral supplement), cut out smoking and cut back on alcohol (caffeine’s no problem for him), get his weight where it needs to be, start exercising (or slack off a little if he’s hitting the gym a little too hard — or working out in a fertility-unfriendly way, like mountain biking), and reduce stress.

Recently Visited Pages

Prenatal Vitamins vs Preconception Supplements

For decades, physicians have recommended women of childbearing age take a daily prenatal vitamin with folic acid to lower the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, called neural tube defects. Once conception occurs, most women then continue with the same prenatal vitamin through the duration of their pregnancy. While this approach to prenatal vitamins is not new, recent studies have shown that a woman’s nutrient needs prior to conception are different than during pregnancy. Further research has shown the impact of particular vitamin levels on the chances of success with fertility treatment. Certain supplementation may increase the chances of success.

Not All Vitamins are Created Equal: Preconception vs. Prenatal Vitamins

Effectively preparing a woman’s body for treatment may optimize her chances of conception. Too much or too little of several key nutrients can help or hinder a patient’s fertility treatment outcome. As a result, the physicians at Shady Grove Fertility recommend that women start taking a preconception supplement while trying to conceive and then transition to a traditional prenatal vitamin around 10 weeks of gestation.


Recommended Quantities

Preconception Supplement Prenatal Vitamin
Vitamin D – 2,000 – 4,000 IU based on your doctor’s recommendation Vitamin D – 2,000 – 4,000 IU based on your doctor’s recommendation
Coenzyme Q10 – 250 mg* Coenzyme Q10 – not advised during pregnancy
DHEA – 75 mg daily (under a physician’s guidance) DHEA – not advised during pregnancy
Inositols – 4,000 mg MI + 100 mg DCI Inositols – 4,000 mg MI + 100 mg DCI
Iron – 18 mg Iron – 27 mg
DHA – not advised prior to pregnancy DHA – 300 mg

*CoQ10 with VESIsorb for increased absorption and bioavailability

Vitamin D
Having a normal vitamin D blood level is critically important for conception. Studies have shown that women with normal vitamin D levels are up to four times more likely to achieve a pregnancy while undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) compared with women who are vitamin D deficient.1-4 Most women undergoing fertility treatment should be taking at least 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily.5

Iron requirements increase substantially during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, but while you are trying to conceive, taking extra iron may actually hurt your chances of conception since it can lead to higher levels of oxidative stress in the ovary. Most prenatal vitamins have more iron than is needed prior to conception. In addition, the high level of iron in many prenatal vitamins can cause stomach upset and constipation.

Many prenatal vitamins contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. DHA supplementation provides several benefits once you are pregnant but is not needed during fertility treatment and may be an unnecessary added cost prior to conception.

Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) plays a key role in cellular energy production. Our bodies make CoQ10 in virtually every cell, but CoQ10 production declines with age. Emerging research suggests that supplementing with CoQ10 may enhance energy production in the ovary. 6-7

A DHEA supplement may be recommended for women who produce too few eggs during IVF treatment, or who have concerns about egg quality. DHEA is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands and when used under a physician’s guidance, is safe and potentially effective. A small number of research studies have shown improved pregnancy rates in women using DHEA during treatment. 8

Inositols are sugar molecules that are already part of our diet. Research has shown that supplementation with two types of inositols—d-chiro inositol (DCI) and myo-inositol (MI)—can help restore regular periods and ovulation and normalize hormone levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 9-11 While inositols are not part of the standard preconception supplementation they can be taken in conjunction with a preconception vitamin to help support the hormone balance in women with PCOS.

Recommended Preconception Supplements & Prenatal Vitamins

When discussing vitamins and nutritional supplements the first question many have is which brand is best? Are they all the same? The nutritional supplement industry is not as highly regulated and supervised as prescription medications. This can lead to significant quality variation from product to product.

The physicians at Shady Grove Fertility acknowledge the needs of their patients to access high quality vitamins at a reasonable cost. Therefore, we have partnered with Theralogix, a nutritional science company led by urologist Mark Ratner, M.D., in close collaboration with a Medical Advisory Board comprised of nationally reputed physicians and scientists. Theralogix nutritional supplements are based on the most current published scientific evidence, and all formulations are overseen by this Medical Advisory Board. This approach—in conjunction with third-party lab verification of each product—offers Shady Grove Fertility patients an affordable option that they can trust. Click here to learn more about Theralogix.

For women actively trying to conceive, we recommend TheraNatal Core or TheraNatal OvaVite. These specially designed preconception vitamin and mineral supplements support the nutritional needs of a woman who is trying to get pregnant. For those women who are currently pregnant, TheraNatal One or TheraNatal Complete offer comprehensive prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement to support both mother and baby. Visit Theralogix to learn more about their vitamins and nutritional supplements.


Should we all be taking prenatal vitamins?

Last week when wandering the drugstore supplement aisle, I picked up a bottle of prenatal vitamins. (Well, actually five bottles. There are so many brands to choose from and ingredients to squint at, it’s impossible to only inspect one). After all, the New Year is ripe with health resolutions and reflection. I’ll also be turning 30 in 2018. The holiday and milestone have me considering my life and goals—you know, the serious, sentimental stuff. Having witnessed friends and family struggle to conceive, I can’t help but wonder about my own fertility. My partner and I want kids, but not for the next three to five years.

Though I left without purchasing, it got me thinking: Why are these pills so important for pregnancy and what do they do, anyways? Could taking a prenatal vitamin now improve my chances of getting pregnant later? Should I swap my multivitamin for a prenatal? Are they the same thing? Also, what about vitamin quality? I try my best to steer clear of harmful ingredients like pesticides.

I consulted two women’s health experts to indulge my latest supplement curiosity and suss out how to think about prenatal vitamins before pregnancy, when triying to conceive, and now when I’m considering starting a family in the future.

The why

“Although many women have well-rounded diets, most are unable to absorb adequate amounts of some essential vitamins and minerals needed to help support a healthy pregnancy,” says Dr. Kyoko Pena-Robles, who specializes in prenatal care, reproductive health, and menstrual disorders at One Medical Health in San Francisco, CA. “Prenatal vitamins help ensure that expecting mothers receive these essential vitamins during pregnancy.”

In other words, while it’s recommended that eating a healthy diet is the best way to consume important nutrients, it’s normal, even likely, to fall short. According to Pena-Robles, research shows that we don’t absorb enough folic acid, a nutrient needed during pregnancy from food sources. This is why she recommends folic acid supplementation to patients.

The what

Turns out, there’s a difference between my daily multivitamin and a prenatal vitamin. The latter usually contain larger quantities of nutrients critical during pregnancy, like iron and folic acid. Kara Earthman, a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) in Hendersonville Tennessee, puts it plainly: “When you’re pregnant, you need more vitamins and minerals than you would need when you’re not—obviously, since there’s an extra human in there!”

According to both Earthman and Pena-Robles, folic acid, iron, calcium, and vitamin D are four of the most important ingredients in prenatal vitamins. (For a more comprehensive list and overview, check out this article.) First, getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid through a supplement prevents neural tube defects. “Folic acid is a biggie,” says Earthman. “We want patients to have folic acid early on in pregnancy, ideally before pregnancy, in order to encourage healthy fetal development and minimize the risk of conditions like spina bifida.”

When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood circulating in your body increases to support the baby. Iron is responsible for carrying the oxygen in your blood to your body’s cells. A prenatal vitamin with plenty of iron, 25 to 30 micrograms, allows oxygen to get adequately transported to the mother and the fetus. Lastly, vitamin D and calcium work hand in hand to support the baby’s developing bones and teeth. “I recommend prenatal vitamins that provide 2000 IU of vitamin D and 1200 milligrams of calcium daily,” says Pena-Robles.

In terms of selection, Pena-Robles suggests considering your lifestyle and habits before brand. “I have never been aware of any evidence-based recommendation regarding the best prenatal vitamin brands,” she says. “I think it’s dependent on the individual. For example, some women have a difficult time taking large pills or forget to take their vitamins. In these cases, I recommend a gummy vitamin or a once-daily vitamin.”

Down the line during a pregnancy, the gummy route can also be useful if women are suffering from nausea or vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy. But Pena-Robles warns that gummy prenatal vitamins typically don’t have enough iron, so a separate iron supplement may be needed.

The what, continued

Though there may not be a clear winner in terms of brand, quality is still an important consideration. The FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed to consumers. Pesticides have been found in some supplements containing botanical or herbal ingredients. On top of this, in 2015, the New York State Attorney General’s office investigated top-selling supplements at leading retailers like Target and Walgreens. They found that four out of five of the products didn’t contain the ingredients listed on the label. Often, cheap fillers like powdered rice or substances that may cause allergic reactions were used.

Labdoor is a resource that offers consumers more insight into prenatal vitamin quality. After performing a chemical analysis of a supplement in a FDA-approved lab, Labdoor produces a quality score for the product. This score takes into consideration label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy. When in doubt, ask your doctor for their recommendation based on your preferences.

The when

Most women find out they are pregnant between weeks four and seven. But according to the Mayo Clinic, neural tube defects can start forming during week six. This is why both experts say it’s ideal for prenatal vitamins to be consistently taken before pregnancy.

“It’s best to start taking prenatal vitamins at least one to two months before beginning to try to conceive,” says Earthman. “Popping a prenatal vitamin won’t immediately get your blood levels to where they need to be—it takes some time. Folic acid is especially important to begin taking earlier than conception, because the fetal brain and spinal cord are formed within the first trimester—the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.”

Pena-Robles adds, “There is also an association between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of first-trimester miscarriage. Increasing iron stores prior to pregnancy may also decrease risk of subsequent anemia in early pregnancy.”

If you’re not looking to get pregnant anytime soon (like me), taking a prenatal vitamin can still be beneficial, but not for fertility. “I’m not aware of any strong evidence supporting the idea of taking prenatal vitamins to support fertility,” says Pena-Robles. Earthman agrees with this, too.

Rather, getting the recommended daily quantities of folic acid, vitamin D, and iron is beneficial in the case of an unplanned pregnancy. The aforementioned risks or symptoms may be less likely when these vitamins and minerals are already abundant. Folic acid, according to Pena-Robles, is particularly vital. “I advise that all reproductive-aged women, regardless of whether they are trying to conceive or not, get the daily recommended amount of folic acid until they reach menopause,” she says.

In addition to having key nutrients in your system if an unexpected pregnancy occurs, Pena-Robles notes that most women do not get enough calcium or vitamin D through food and drink intake. She says, “Taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin with the ideal quantities of calcium and vitamin D are both good options and beneficial for all women in most cases.”

The bottom line

Taking a prenatal vitamin is perfectly healthy for someone not looking to conceive. While it won’t support fertility, it will replenish folic acid, iron, vitamin D, and calcium stores in the body. This can help keep you strong and prevent potential health complications in an unexpected pregnancy. “If you’re not on a reliable form of birth control and are sexually active, it’s not a bad idea to have these nutrients in your system, just in case,” says Earthman.

After speaking with Earthman and Pena-Robles, I investigated my own supplement situation. I realized my current multivitamin, New Chapter Every Woman’s One Daily Multi, already provides me with the recommended daily intake of folic acid and vitamin D. However, it doesn’t have nearly enough calcium or iron to support a pregnant woman or one trying to conceive. Since neither situation applies to me (plus, I have an IUD) and I get plenty of iron and calcium in my diet, I’m going to stick with my multivitamin. If my diet was lacking or I wasn’t on active birth control, I might consider swapping to a prenatal vitamin.

Though I’ll be passing by the prenatal vitamins in the supplement aisle for the time being, I’ll hopefully be back (not to mention well-prepared) in a few years.

English Taylor is a San Francisco-based women’s health and wellness writer. English covers everything from tampons to taxes (and why the former should be free of the latter). Follow Englishand her work at


“About us.” Labdoor. Accessed 16 Jan. 2018.
Chen, Y. “Determination of Multiresidue Pesticides in Botanical Dietary Supplements Using Gas
Chromatography-Triple-Quadrupole Mass Spectrometry.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 64. 31 (2016): 6125–6132. PubMed. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
“Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 29 Nov.
2017, Accessed 16 Jan 2018.
“New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers.” The New York Times. 3 Feb. 2015,
“Pregnancy and Birth: Do All Pregnant Women Need to Take Iron Supplements?” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. 2017,
pubmedhealth/PMH0072758/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2017.
“Pregnancy Week 5.” American Pregnancy Association. 2 Sept. 2016, Accessed 29 Dec. 2017.
“Top 10 Prenatal Vitamins.” Labdoor. Accessed16 Jan. 2018.

8 Surprising Things That May Help You Get Pregnant

There are few things more exciting than welcoming a baby into this world. It’s one of the most beautiful things that we, women, get the honor of doing. But getting pregnant, carrying a baby and going through labor and delivery are not always as easy as the movies make it out to be—in fact, most of the times, they’re nothing like what’s portrayed on the big screen.

While most women don’t have difficulty getting pregnant, and go on to have relatively normal and uncomplicated pregnancies, approximately 10 percent (or 6.1 million) women who have trouble—when it comes to getting pregnant and staying pregnant. So in honor of April being National Infertility Awareness Month, here are some surprising things that might help your chances of getting pregnant.

Putting on a little extra weight

This is only true if you’re underweight or slightly underweight. While you might have spent most of your womanhood trying to shed pounds, there’s no room for this kind of behavior when you’re preparing your body for pregnancy. Just as topping the scales can give you trouble, so can weighing too little. When your body fat percentages are too low, under 19 percent, you might have difficulty conceiving. My best advice is to try your best to maintain a healthy weight by nourishing your body with enough of the right kinds of foods and making sure you’re getting your daily doses of vitamins and minerals. Here are some fertility foods I recommend.


Let me be clear: You do not need to have an orgasm to get pregnant. That being said, researchers have argued for decades whether or not having one may help your chances of getting pregnant. Essentially, the theory revolves around the fact that your uterus contracts during an orgasm, which may cause the vagina to “suck up” the semen. They were even able to somewhat prove this theory in a study, which measured the amount of semen that leaked out after sex. They discovered that when the female orgasmed a minute or less before the male ejaculated, sperm retention was higher. Hey, it can’t hurt to try test this theory yourself!

Choosing the right lube

Whether or not you prefer to use them is completely up to you, but these days certain lubes tout fertility-boosting benefits. The most basic way they help you conceive is keeping things, well, lubricated down there so the semen has an easier time traveling up to your uterus, where it will fertilize one of your eggs. My opinion is to skip anything that’s unnatural or contains ingredients you can’t pronounce. Also, avoid anything that contains glycerin, which is known to damage sperm. A good all-natural brand is Sliquid Oceanics, a toxic-free, water-based lube that’s infused with organic botanicals.

Keeping track of your cycle

Apart from eating a healthy diet, exercising and cutting back on the drinking, you can get ahead in your pregnancy planning by keeping track of your cycle. Did you know that you only have about six days in the month during which you can really get pregnant? It’s called your fertile window and it happens about five days before ovulation and continues through the day of ovulation. There are plenty of apps out there, like Glow, Fertility Friend and Ovia, that do all of the hard work of calculating your ovulation dates for you. All you have to do is enter in the necessary information, like when you had your last period and when you last had sex.

Following a low-glycemic index diet

There’s lots you can’t control when it comes to fertility, like your age and genetics, but you do have a say when it comes to what foods you fuel your body with. In fact, researchers have found a connection between low-glycemic index food—foods high in good carbohydrates (like veggies and whole grains) and low in bad ones (cookies)—and fertility. One study, in particular, came out of Harvard. Researchers followed 17,544 married nurses without any history of infertility as they tried to get pregnant. They found that women whose diets had the highest glycemic load were 92 percent more likely to have ovulatory infertility than those whose diets had the lowest glycemic load.

Taking supplements

While eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is of utmost important when you’re trying to conceive, there are certain supplements that can help ensure you’re getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. A prenatal vitamin will give you your main essentials, one being folic acid, which you should start taking around three to four months leading up to conception. Aim for 400 mcg of folic acid when you’re TTC. Research has shown countless benefits for pregnant women taking folic acid supplements including a healthy birth weight, higher Apgar scores and lowered risk for birth defects. B vitamins are also essential, including B1, B2, B6 and B12. They’re also linked with a healthier birth weight, as well as helping fight mood swings for mom during pregnancy. I always tell my patients to add in magnesium to aid with ovulation. It relaxes your muscles, helps with cramping and is also a natural stress reliever. Take it in the evening to help you relax and make you sleepy. Aim for 200 mg a day of magnesium.

Doing a 28-day detox

While the word “detox,” may be relatively new, at least to the last century, cleansing has been around since ancient times. It was used by the Egyptians, Japanese and Native Americans. It’s a great way to keep the body healthy and remove toxins and excess hormones, which is ideal around the time you’re trying to conceive. I recommend cleaning up the digestive system by removing gluten, dairy and sugar from your diet for approximately one month’s time. This encourages the liver to cleanse the body and supports female organs like the uterus and ovaries.

Getting a good night’s sleep

Eight hours a night is crucial, especially when you’re trying to conceive. But it’s not only the amount of time you lie in bed that puts points on the pregnancy score board—it’s also the quality of your sleep that impacts all your bodily systems. Specifically, sleep impacts the hormone leptin, which has a big effect on ovulation. If your body’s not properly producing leptin, you might have trouble conceiving. My best advice: Sleep consistently—at least from 11 p.m. and until 5 a.m.—for an easier pregnancy.

Relaxing and having fun

When you’re deep in the throes of pregnancy planning and trying to conceive, nothing can be more frustrating than someone telling you, “Just relax and it will happen.” But they may have a point. While stress does not cause infertility, there’s no doubting the fact that it works the other way around: Infertility can definitely cause stress. Stress boosts levels of the hormones adrenaline, catecholamines and cortisol in our body, which, not only break down our immune system, but can also inhibit the sex hormone, GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone). If we’re stressed, we’re less in the mood to have sex, and also completely exhausted from the high levels of stress hormones in our body. So, all in all, it is a good idea to try your best to relax. Take a yoga class, meditate or enjoy a warm bath with soothing essential oils. Trust me: You won’t have this free time when baby arrives!

How Prenatal Vitamins Increase Your Chances of Pregnancy

2,583 people found this helpful – 88 Comments

By Philip Druce

Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specifically designed to support women’s nutrition when trying to conceive, and once pregnant.

Women trying to conceive and pregnant women need additional nutrients, especially extra Folic Acid and Iron. Today you will learn why prenatal vitamins are so important, when you need to start taking them and how they impact your fertility.

Why take prenatal vitamins?

  1. Prenatal vitamins increase your chances of conception.
  2. They prepare your body for conception and pregnancy.
  3. Folic acid helps prevent abnormalities and maintain good overall health of your baby.
  4. Iron supports sufficient growth and development of your baby.
  5. They replenish your nutrient stores.
  6. Health experts around the world recommend you take them.

I’m sure you agree, these are very good reasons to be taking prenatal vitamins.

When should you start taking prenatal supplements and why?

It’s recommended that you start at least three months before conception.


  1. Helps ensure your body has all the required nutrients available prior to conception.
    • It takes over a year for an egg to develop, with most of the maturing occurring in the three months prior to ovulation, so it’s important that you get all the required nutrients during this development stage.
    • Your baby needs these nutrients to be available at the point of conception, not afterwards.
  2. Improve fertility – Prenatal vitamins can actually improve fertility.

More on these points below.

Unfortunately, many women trying to conceive are not aware of the importance of starting BEFORE seeing a positive pregnancy test. Ovulation Calculator asked 81,156 women who were actively trying to conceive if they were taking a prenatal vitamin, the result was alarming. 68% said “No”.

We then asked the same women how long had they been trying to conceive. As you can see in the graph below, the results ranged from 74% for women “Just Starting”, to 62% for women that had been trying for “12 months or more”.

These numbers may seem unbelievable, but it just goes to show we are not well informed when it comes to the importance of nutrition before conception.

To see a breakdown of this by country, take a look at the following chart which represents women taking prenatal vitamins whilst trying to conceive in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. The results show that women in the USA are less likely (31%) to be taking one before getting pregnant. Women in Canada are most likely (52%).

What you should look for in a prenatal vitamin

Now that we know the importance of beginning prenatal vitamins as early as possible, let’s take a look at what you should be looking for in a prenatal vitamin and why.

NOTE: Each of the vitamins and minerals below have an RDI (recommended daily intake1) value. RDIs are provided for vitamins and minerals for pregnant and lactating women and can be found on the ‘Supplement Facts’ label on the bottle. The value is what your body should be getting from all sources (balanced-diet and supplements combined), it is not necessarily the value that should be in a prenatal vitamin alone. For example, the RDI for vitamin A is 8000 IU, and you may get half of this from your diet and half from a supplement.

#1 Folic Acid

Folic acid (folate) is extremely important. It’s critical that your body has enough of this vitamin before and during pregnancy.

What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin (B9) found in supplements and fortified foods (foods that have vitamins added). It is a synthetic (man-made) form of folate. Whilst folate can be obtained from foods, the body can actually absorb the synthetic version easier. The term folate is often used for both folic acid, and folate found in foods.

How does it help? Folic acid plays a role in the development of your baby’s spine, brain and skull, especially during the first four weeks of pregnancy.

Taking a prenatal vitamin with enough folic acid will reduce your baby’s risk of developing a neural tube defect (NTD).

NTD occurs when the neural tube fails to close properly. Failure of the closure of the neural tube can lead to abnormalities of the spine, brain, or skull and result in stillbirth or a lifelong disability.

The most common NTD is spina bifida. For this reason, it is recommended that any woman who can get pregnant should take at least a folic acid supplement, even if they are not planning on becoming pregnant.

Women who have already had an NTD-affected pregnancy may require higher amounts of folic acid and need to speak to their doctor about how much intake they require.2

Having adequate levels of folic acid can also reduce the risk of miscarriage according to a study in Sweden. In the study, women that had inadequate levels of folic acid were 50% more likely to have a miscarriage.3

RDI: At least 400 mcg (micrograms) whilst trying to get pregnant, and 800 mcg once pregnant.4

Best folate food sources: Lentils, liver, dried beans, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, folate-fortified breakfast cereals and avocados.

Folate vs Folic Acid

Folate is a naturally-occurring vitamin found in foods.

Folic acid is a synthetic dietary supplement found in supplements and added to fortified foods.

Folate cannot be produced by your body, it must be obtained from either diet or supplementation. You probably consume folate on a regular basis through your diet, but you would have only had folic acid through supplements or fortified foods.

The vitamin not only helps prevent NTD, it also helps prevent anemia, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and poor cognitive performance in babies.5

Another important difference is folic acid (the synthetic form) can actually be absorbed easier by the human body. The bioavailability of folic acid is about 85% whereas folate in food is about 50-60%.6

On a population level, nutritional requirements for folate cannot be obtained from a “varied diet” as recommended by national health authorities.

Because of the importance of the vitamin in our diet, the difference in bioavailability and low consumption of folate-rich foods, many countries have made it mandatory to add folic acid to grain products.7 However, it is still recommended that women trying to conceive, and pregnant women, take extra.

#2 Iron

During pregnancy, you have a 50% increased need for iron. Iron is important to maintain healthy blood and reduce your risk of developing anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells) during pregnancy.

It is also important to obtain enough iron to help your baby grow properly and build up a good supply of iron for after birth.

Studies show that babies that do not get adequate iron before birth are more susceptible to illnesses and learning difficulties.

Iron may also help prevent anovulation (when ovulation does not occur). A study found that women who consumed iron in a supplement had a significantly lower risk (60%) of ovulatory infertility compared with women who did not take iron in a supplement.8

You may find the iron is hard to digest. If this is the case, try taking the prenatal vitamins with a meal or before bed to ease its effect on your stomach.

RDI: 18 mg (milligrams) before pregnancy, 27 mg whilst pregnant and 9 mg whist lactating.9

Best iron food sources: Lean red meat, poultry, green leafy vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, tofu and iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, breads and pastas.

#3 Calcium

Prenatal vitamins should also contain calcium. Calcium is important during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. This is because your baby’s bones are growing rapidly during this time.

Women with inadequate levels of calcium during pregnancy may be at risk of increased bone loss. This is due to the baby drawing what it needs from the mother’s bones.

Most prenatal vitamins will include about 200 mg of calcium. They only include a small amount because the calcium molecule is large. However, WebMD says four servings of dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt per day will help provide you with enough calcium.

RDI: 1,300 mg for pregnant and lactating women.

Best calcium food sources: Dairy products, green leafy vegetables and fish.

#4 Vitamin B12

An increased intake of folic acid might mask a vitamin B12 deficiency; so ensure that your prenatal vitamin contains vitamin B12 so that you are not at risk for deficiency.

Vitamin B12 is needed to form DNA, make healthy blood cells, and keep your nerves working properly. Low intake of vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia.

Vitamin B12 may also reduce the risk of miscarriage by helping the uterus lining (endometrium) prepare for implantation.10

RDI: 8 mcg for pregnant and lactating women.

Best vitamin B12 food sources: Found in animal products like red meat, poultry, egg, dairy and fish. And vitamin B12 fortified foods such as cereals and soy milk.

#5 Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb and use calcium, important in ensuring you and your baby have healthy bones.

According to several studies vitamin D may also help with fertility. One study found that women with higher vitamin D levels were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy from in vitro fertilization (IVF) compared with women with less vitamin D levels.11

In another study, women with higher vitamin D levels had a four times better chance of a successful IVF procedure compared with women with low levels of vitamin D.12

Vitamin D also stimulates anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) production, which supports ovarian reserve (remaining eggs in your ovaries) preservation.13

You can get vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but some climates are not ideal for this, and vitamin D is not abundant in our food sources. Milk and many cereals are fortified with vitamin D, so be sure to include these in your diet.

RDI: 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day.

Best vitamin D food sources: Fatty fish such as salmon, cheese, egg yolks, and vitamin D fortified foods such as milk, soy beverages, cereals, and orange juice. You can also get vitamin D when your skin is exposed to UV from the sun. The length of exposure required varies depending on time of year, time of day and location.

Learn more about other vitamins and minerals you can expect to find in your prenatal vitamin.
Tap on View all or a specific Vitamin / Mineral below.

  • View All
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B3
  • Vitamin B6
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3
  • Vitamin A

    Vitamin A will help your baby develop healthy skin, eyes, and immune system.

    However, too much vitamin A may cause birth defects to your baby, especially during your first trimester. It is recommended that you do not take an individual vitamin A supplement, or a fish liver oil supplement during pregnancy. Choose a prenatal supplement that has less than 10,000 IU (3000 mcg) of vitamin A.

    A healthy balanced diet that is rich in dark green and orange vegetables and fruit will provide you and your baby with enough vitamin A too. Limit your intake of liver and liver products such as liverwurst spread and liver sausages during your pregnancy to no more than 75 g (2 1/2 oz.) per week.

    RDI: 8000 IU

    Food sources: Vitamin A’s precursor beta-carotene is found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A itself is found in meats, fish and milk.

  • Helps the body absorb iron and also helps promote healthy bones, teeth and gums.

    RDI: 60 mg

    Food sources: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dark leafy vegetables.

  • Acts as an antioxidant. This helps protect cell structures which helps maintain healthy eyes, skin and the immune system.

    RDI: 30 IU

    Food sources: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocado, dark green leafy vegetables, fish.

  • Vitamin B1

    Thiamin helps with your baby’s brain and nervous system development.

    It is one of eight different B vitamins (although the numbers actually go up to B12) which all play various roles in energy metabolism. They are water soluble, so they are not stored in the body for long and need constant replenishment. You will need more of these vitamins during pregnancy. Most of them are found in many different foods. Vitamins B12 and B9 (folate) are a little different, and have been covered above.

    RDI: 1.7 mg

    Food sources: Thiamin fortified cereals, rice, egg noodles, pork, black beans.

  • Vitamin B2

    Works with other B vitamins and helps promote body growth and the production of red blood cells. Like other B vitamins, it also turns food into energy.

    RDI: 2.0 mg

    Food sources: Dairy products, lean meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables.

  • Vitamin B3

    This is a form of vitamin B3. It helps the body break down food and turn it into energy. It also promotes brain development.

    RDI: 20 mg

    Food sources: Chicken, beef, fish, mushrooms, nuts.

  • Vitamin B6

    Vitamins B6 also helps the body convert food into energy as well as helping form red blood cells.

    RDI: 2.5 mg

    Food sources: Fish, organ meats, poultry, beef, chickpeas, potatoes, bananas, breakfast cereals fortified with B6.

  • Zinc is most important for the first trimester, contributing to organ formation and immune system development.

    RDI: 15 mg

    Food sources: Red meat is the best source of zinc, hence, vegetarians can often be deficient in zinc and would benefit from a supplement.

  • Omega-3

    Some prenatal vitamins contain omega-3 fatty acids, and some don’t. Omega-3 fatty acids may help promote your baby’s brain development, but it is not well established whether an omega-3 fatty acid supplement offers any benefit to you or your baby.

    Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as 150 g of fish per week and omega-3 fortified eggs can contribute a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.

    If your prenatal vitamin does not contain omega-3 fatty acids and you wish to take an omega-3 supplement, look for one that is a fish oil with a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the label to ensure that it is government approved, and do not take a fish liver oil supplement due to its high concentration level of Vitamin A.

Supplement Facts

When looking to see what is in a prenatal vitamin, have a look at the supplement facts label on the box or bottle. Here’s an example of a supplement facts label and how to read one.

The table below shows the Food & Drug Administration’s RDIs for pregnant women.14

Vitamin or Mineral Pregnant and Lactating Women Units of Measure
Vitamin A 8,000 IU
Vitamin C 60 mg
Calcium 1,300 mg
Iron 18 mg
Vitamin D 400 IU
Vitamin E 30 IU
Thiamin 1.7 mg
Riboflavin 2 mg
Niacin 20 mg
Vitamin B6 2.5 mg
Folate 800 mcg
Vitamin B12 8 mcg
Biotin 300 mcg
Pantothenic acid 10 mg
Phosphorus 1,300 mg
Iodine 150 mcg
Magnesium 450 mg
Zinc 15 mg
Copper 2 mg

Section Summary

Choose a prenatal vitamin that includes the following:

  • Folic Acid to help reduce neural tube defects and miscarriage
  • Iron to support your baby’s growth and development
  • Calcium to help build your baby’s bones and prevent your bone loss
  • Vitamin B12 to form DNA, build healthy blood cells, and develop a healthy nervous system
  • Vitamin D for healthy bones, by helping your body absorb and use calcium

The infographic below will help you remember which nutrients your body requires, feel free to print it out.:

Embed the “What’s in a Prenatal Vitamin” infographic on your site (copy the code below):

<div style=”clear:both”><a href=””><img src=”https://www.ovulationcalculator.com” title=”What is in a Prenatal Vitamin” alt=”What is in a Prenatal Vitamin” border=”0″ /></a></div><div>Courtesy of: <a href=””>Ovulation Calculator</a></div>

How do prenatal vitamins increase your chances of conception?

Prenatal vitamins have actually been shown to improve fertility according to a 2011 study.15

In the study, women undergoing ovulation induction were allocated to either receive multiple micronutrients (including folic acid) or only folic acid. The study found that the women taking a combination of micronutrients had a significantly higher pregnancy rate (66.7%), compared with those using only folic acid supplementation (39.3%). Promoting efficient energy metabolism, antioxidant release and healthy organs is the proposed mechanism for this improvement.

Folic acid is also an essential nutrient that is required to form red blood cells and produce DNA, the building block of your eggs and the human body.16

Our data shows that you are 30% more likely to conceive when taking a prenatal vitamin.

As mentioned, in a recent survey we conducted, only 32% of women trying to conceive were taking a prenatal vitamin. Of nearly ten thousand recorded pregnancies, 30% more women were taking a prenatal vitamin than not.

Are there different prenatals I should be taking before conceiving vs. when I am pregnant?

Certain vitamins and minerals are more important at different times. But generally, you can take the same prenatal supplement before and after conceiving, and simply adjust your diet while pregnant to include higher amounts of calories, vitamins and minerals. However, if you find it hard to keep on top of what foods to eat, there are prenatal vitamins out there that are made for each stage of pregnancy and lactating women.

Pregnant women need extra calories per day.17

  • About 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester
  • About 2,200 calories per day during the second trimester
  • About 2,400 calories per day during the third trimester

Recommended dietary intakes (RDIs) for 14 of the 21 essential micronutrients increase during pregnancy.18

Important vitamins and minerals before conceiving:

  • Folic acid is most important before conceiving, and in the early stages of pregnancy. This is when the bulk of neural tube formation occurs.
  • Zinc, vitamin D and iron are often deficient in adults and are useful in increasing fertility, so likewise, these would be very beneficial before conceiving to increase your chances of success as well as contribute to producing a healthy baby.

Important vitamins and minerals after conceiving:

  • Calcium for your baby’s bones. If you are low on calcium, your baby will draw the calcium it needs from your bones.
  • Vitamin D is required to allow the body to absorb calcium.
  • Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function. Iodine deficiency can cause many problems including mental health issues, miscarriage, stillbirth and growth abnormalities. However, due to the iodization of salt, the median intake of iodine for women in the USA is approximately 190 – 210 mg per day.19 The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women get 220 mg per day. Half a teaspoon of iodized salt contains 190 mg.

Which prenatal supplement is right for me?

To choose the best supplement for you, consult with your doctor first. They will need to assess your current nutrition levels and identify any deficiencies present. They will need to take into account your dietary restrictions, if any. For example, vegetarians may struggle more with iron and vitamin B12 levels. Based on all of these factors, you and your doctor can choose the best supplement for you.

Size and forms

Some people struggle with swallowing tablets, so there are a variety of types of prenatals. They come in liquid and chewable forms too, so if you struggle with swallowing tablets, you can still get your micronutrients in.

Micronutrient levels

Prescription prenatals generally have higher amounts of folate (around 1000 mcg of folic acid), which is the upper limit of the recommended daily intake. Over the counter (OTC) prenatals generally have only around 600 mcg of folate and no more than 800 mcg. The same story goes for iron, with prescription prenatals generally having higher iron levels.


Due to their higher micronutrient level, prescription prenatals are more expensive than OTC prenatals. Take into account your finances in combination with the need for that extra bit of folate or iron. Discuss your diet and your micronutrient levels with your doctor before choosing the best option for you.

Vegetarian, vegan friendly prenatal vitamins

If you are looking for a vegetarian or vegan option, or something that is organic, read on to learn the differences and your options.

What are the differences between organic, natural and regular prenatal supplements?

  • Natural supplements have their micronutrients extracted and isolated directly from natural sources, such as fruits, plants, vegetables etc.
  • Organic supplements provide the required micronutrients through direct, whole ingredients. What does that mean? For example, instead of having pure folate or Vitamin B, it may contain spirulina, kale, fruits, broccoli or other organic substances that contain this micronutrient. This is often supplied in a capsule format rather than a tablet.
  • Standard prenatal supplements may have synthetic, or artificially created or sourced vitamins and minerals.

This choice is something you should discuss with your doctor.

Are there prenatal supplements for vegetarians or vegans?

Vegans and vegetarians often have gaps in their diet, due to a lack of meat or animal products. An example of this is vitamin B12 which is mainly found in animal products (red meats, fish, cheese, milk etc.) and iron is rich in meats. For this reason, they may benefit more from a broad prenatal plus individual vitamin tablets, such as iron tablets. Some prenatal supplements cater to vegans and vegetarians, with vegan sourced ingredients and tailored micronutrients.

What is DHA and when should I choose a prenatal containing DHA?

DHA stands for the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and it is not found in every prenatal. It is important for developing healthy nerves and eyes in your baby. The major source of DHA is fish.

Vegetarians may find it difficult to consume enough fish and enough DHA, and many individuals worry about the levels of mercury consumed with fish. In these instances, a prenatal containing DHA may be beneficial. If you are unsure about your need for this fatty acid, consult your doctor to discuss your concerns.

Rapid development of the nerves and eyes occurs in the second half of pregnancy (mainly in the third trimester). Based on this, supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, is thought to be more important later in pregnancy.20

Prenatal vitamins vs a regular multivitamin

Prenatals are tailored to the right quality and quantity for pregnant women and women trying to conceive. Certain vitamins (A, D, E and K) are fat soluble and are stored for long periods of time. These stores can therefore be ‘overloaded’ with normal multivitamins, and vitamin A for example, can actually be toxic to the baby at high levels. Prenatal supplements also contain specific ingredients to assist with the healthy development of a baby, for example Folic Acid.

Below is an example of some of the differences in nutrients you may find in a women’s multivitamin compared with a prenatal vitamin:

Vitamin or Mineral Women’s Multivitamin Prenatal Vitamin % Difference in Prenatal Vitamin
Vitamin A 5,070 IU 4,000 IU 21% less
Vitamin C 75 mg 90 mg 20% more
Vitamin D 1,000 IU 400 IU 60% less
Vitamin K 50 mcg 30 mcg 40% less
Thiamin 1.1 mg 1.4 mg 27% more
Riboflavin 1.1 mg 1.4 mg 27% more
Niacin 14 mg 18 mg 29% more
Vitamin B6 2 mg 1.9 mg 5% less
Folic Acid 400 mcg 800 mcg 100% more
Vitamin B12 6 mcg 2.6 mcg 57% less
Calcium 200 mg 250 mg 25% more
Iron 18 mg 27 mg 50% more
Zinc 8 mg 11 mg 38% more

Do vitamins have other benefits?

Taking a prenatal vitamin not only helps you prepare for conception and pregnancy, it also helps you receive more than the minimum amount of vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent deficiency diseases.

Many of us do not get the all the required vitamins and minerals we need from our diet. Even when we eat a healthy balanced diet it is hard to get everything we need to prevent disease, let alone achieve optimal health.

Whilst taking a supplement is not a replacement for eating a healthy balanced diet, supplements can provide you with key nutrients that are hard to get from food.

Mark Hyman, MD a practicing physician and a pioneer in functional medicine said 92% of the population in the U.S. are deficient in one or more vitamins, when asked if we need vitamins or not, he said…

Mark goes on to say “In today’s world, everyone needs a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement. The research is overwhelming on this point”.

Morning sickness relief – According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, taking a supplement with vitamin B6 can also help combat morning sickness symptoms.21

What are the side effects of taking prenatal vitamins?

Side effects from prenatals are generally due to excessive amounts of certain vitamins, or irritation to the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Iron is a mineral that can specifically cause some gastrointestinal irritation. It can result in constipation, diarrhea and dark stools.
  • Nausea and vomiting can sometimes be a side effect of prenatal vitamins. This may be exacerbated by morning sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy. There are many underlying reasons for nausea, one of which may be that there is excess of a vitamin or mineral.
  • Stomach cramps.

These side effects are generally mild and you should consult your doctor if these become irritating or if you have any concerns at all.

Remind me, what does my baby need?

In summary the research overwhelmingly suggests that you should be taking a prenatal vitamin when trying to conceive, as well as during pregnancy and lactation.

Take a look at this inforgraphic for what you would have to eat in order to get the same amount of nutrients as a prenatal vitamin:

Embed the “What Would You Have to Eat” infographic on your site (copy the code below):

<div style=”clear:both”><a href=””><img src=”https://www.ovulationcalculator.com” title=”What do you have to eat for the same amount of nutrients as a prenatal vitamin?” alt=”What do you have to eat for the same amount of nutrients as a prenatal vitamin?” border=”0″ /></a></div><div>Courtesy of: <a href=””>Ovulation Calculator</a></div>

To help you understand mineral rich foods as an alternative to prenatal vitamins, take a look at the following infographic:

Embed the “Mineral Rich Foods” infographic on your site (copy the code below):

<div style=”clear:both”><a href=””><img src=”https://www.ovulationcalculator.com” title=”Prenatal Vitamins & Mineral Rich Foods” alt=”Prenatal Vitamins & Mineral Rich Foods” border=”0″ /></a></div><div>Courtesy of: <a href=””>Ovulation Calculator</a></div>
15: Prospective randomized trial of multiple micronutrients in subfertile women undergoing ovulation induction: a pilot study, Agrawal, Rina et al, Reproductive BioMedicine Online, Volume 24, Issue 1, 54-60
21: What did you learn about prenatal vitamins? Or have a question? Leave us a comment below.

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal Vitamins Before You’re Pregnant: Why it Matters

If you’re trying to have a baby, you probably already know you should be eating a healthy diet to get the nutrients you need. But did you know it’s also important to take prenatal vitamins before you get pregnant?

About Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins contain many of the same vitamins and minerals found in a daily multivitamin, but they usually contain higher levels of folic acid and iron. Most of the vital organs in a developing embryo are formed by 10 weeks of pregnancy, so it’s important to have these essential vitamins on board way in advance — especially since maintaining adequate levels in your blood can take time build up. Optimally, levels of folic acid and other vitamins would be built up weeks or months before conceiving.

Folic Acid Benefits

One clear success story in disease prevention has been folic acid, which is a big part of the prenatal vitamin. Without folic acid, there’s an increased risk of neural tube defects that can lead to things like spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. But the vast majority of these cases can be bettered by folic acid.

For most women, prenatal vitamins should have between 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid. For women with a personal or family history of neural tube defects or other specific enzyme abnormalities, the recommended dose may be much higher.

According to the March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, about 3,000 pregnancies are affected by neural tube defects in the United States each year. If all women took at least 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during pregnancy, the number of defects would decrease by about 70%.

Many foods in our society are supplemented with folic acid and other vitamins to help optimize pregnancy outcomes (grain products were first fortified with folic acid in the late 1990s, as an example.) However, supplemental folic acid before and during pregnancy is highly recommended to further reduce the chance of birth defects.


Many reproductive physicians, including the board certified doctors at Fertility Associates of Memphis, recommend that patients start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as they’re contemplating pregnancy. While starting early is important, prenatal vitamins offer benefits throughout pregnancy, birth, and beyond. So even if you fall into the category of becoming pregnant prior to taking vitamins, it is still important to begin taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you can. Click here to learn more information about healthy eating when you’re pregnant.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our reproductive endocrinology and infertility doctors, please contact Fertility Associates of Memphis at 901-747-2229 or online at

Should I Take a Prenatal When I’m Not Pregnant?

On paper, the answer should be pretty straightforward: You take a prenatal vitamin when you’re pregnant or trying, and a regular multivitamin when you’re not. But we also know it’s not always so cut and dried—especially if you’ve heard some buzz about taking a prenatal vitamin for the extra biotin, or if you think you may need more iron due to a dietary restriction or another condition.

The short answer: If you believe your nutrient needs might be different than the norm, then it’s best to check in with your primary care physician or ob-gyn to talk about your options. Otherwise, read ahead—we’ll clear some things up about taking a prenatal vitamin when you aren’t pregnant.

Multivitamin vs. Prenatal Multivitamin

First, it’s helpful to understand the potential nutrient differences between your multivitamin and your prenatal vitamin—so let’s do a side-by-side comparison of our Essential for Women multivitamin and our Essential Prenatal multivitamin as an example. Our Essential for Women multivitamin contains 9 nutrients designed to help fill gaps in your diet, while our Essential Prenatal contains 12 nutrients to help support you and your baby during your pregnancy. Some of these nutrients overlap: For example, both multivitamins contain omega-3 DHA, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folate, in addition to a few others.

But then there are a few key differences, since some of your nutrient needs change when you’re busy growing a human. For example, most pregnant women do not consume the recommended amount of choline, so we included it in our prenatal vitamin. We also added iodine, since the recommended amount of iodine increases during pregnancy. Our third addition to our prenatal vitamin: biotin, because scientific evidence suggests that higher biotin intake—several times the recommended adequate intake—may be needed to meet the requirement for pregnancy.

In some cases, we need the same nutrients as we do before pregnancy, but at different levels. For example, our Essential Prenatal includes more DHA, since this specific omega-3 fatty acid plays a role for both mother and baby. We also include more iron because pregnant women have the highest demand for iron. And our prenatal multivitamin has more folate, which supports neural tube development during pregnancy. As a reminder, folic acid is a synthetic form of folate found in many supplements—but folic acid isn’t an ideal form of folate for your body to use. Since up to 40% of women have genetic variations that make it difficult to process folic acid, we opted to use a form called MTHF, which is the easiest form for your body to use.

Prenatal vitamins are essential for both mothers and their babies. Not only are they vital for baby’s development, but ingredients such as calcium, folic acid, and iron (to name a few), protect mom against pre-eclampsia, boost fertility, and supports a healthy immune system, respectively. You may even be familiar with the widely reported benefits of helping to grow long hair and nails, and even provide the body with an added dose of nutrients. Only the truth is, if you’re taking these supplements and aren’t pregnant, you may end up with the total opposite of what you intended.

“Many women who sing the praises of prenatal vitamins during their pregnancies are staunch advocates that purport that taking these magic pills, whether pregnant or not, gives them an extra added dose of nutrients that their body needs, a thick mane of healthier, shinier hair and diamond-strong nails that grow in perpetuity,” Dr. Renee Allen, a leading OBGYN out of Snellville, Georgia, tells

Unfortunately, “if you’re not pregnant, not planning to become pregnant or are not breastfeeding, high levels of certain nutrients contained within prenatal vitamins, over a long period of time may actually be more harmful than helpful.”

Here’s why: “Pregnant women need almost twice as much iron and folic acid as the average non-pregnant or non-lactating woman, which is reflected in the contents of the typical prenatal vitamin,” explains Dr. Allen, adding that, “prenatal vitamins are geared to make up the common nutritional deficiencies a pregnant or lactating woman could have. But these vitamins are not really intended for women who aren’t expecting or lactating.”

For example, “getting too much iron routinely on a daily basis, can overtime, be toxic because it can build up in your body, causing constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and, in severe cases, possibly death,” she continued.

Other issues that can arise causing deleterious effects include:

Page 1 of 2

Continue Reading

Are prenatal vitamins safe for women who aren’t pregnant?

Does anything sound healthier than taking a prenatal vitamin? After all, if the nutrients in it are good enough to benefit a developing human, how could they not work the same way for a full-fledged one? Plus, it can deliver all the hair and nail strengthening benefits mothers-to-be enjoy throughout pregnancy.

But experts warn that you can have too much of a good thing. And a prenatal vitamin has too many nutrients for someone who’s only supplementing for one.

WATCH: Beyoncé’s pregnancy is breaking the internet

“Pregnancy is a period of intense fetal growth and development, as well as maternal physiological change, so adequate intake of macronutrients and micronutrients during pregnancy promotes these processes,” says Dr. Ahmed Shahata, chief resident of obstetrics and gynecology at Kingston General Hospital. “Undernutrition and overnutrition can be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

Story continues below advertisement

While it’s recommended that women who are trying to conceive should start taking a prenatal vitamin roughly 12 weeks before pregnancy, the elevated levels of calcium, iron and folic acid aren’t suited for a person who isn’t pregnant or preparing to be.

“If you look at the amount of folic acid, iron, calcium and even vitamins A, C and E in a prenatal vitamin compared to a multivitamin, you’ll see that they’re very different amounts,” says Dr. Daniela Caprara, staff OBGYN at Humber River Hospital. “If you’re taking in more nutrients than are recommended per day, it could increase toxicities.”

The three crucial ingredients in a prenatal vitamin — folic acid, iron and calcium — all play a distinct role in women who are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. Folic acid is important to prevent neural tube defects in the developing fetus, iron is needed for fetal development and to expand the woman’s red blood cell mass, while calcium has been shown to reduce the risk of developing a hypertensive disorder in pregnancy.

An excess intake of these supplements in someone who isn’t pregnant, however, could have adverse effects.

Caprara says excess iron could cause constipation, diarrhea or nausea, and too much vitamin A could increase liver toxicity. If you don’t naturally metabolize calcium, too much intake could increase the development of gall bladder or renal stones. And Shahata points out that excessive vitamin E intake has been linked to strokes.

Story continues below advertisement

In addition, while the body does a good job of naturally flushing out excess folic acid, taking in too much of it runs the risk of masking a vitamin B12 deficiency. Should that happen, you can be more susceptible to an endocrine-related autoimmune disorder like diabetes or thyroid disease.

READ MORE: Pregnancy brain: Women with child see changes in grey matter

Other complications of a B12 deficiency include the development of neurological issues, like problems with balance and persistent tingling in the hands and feet. It can also lead to mental confusion and forgetfulness.

In light of this, experts recommend that you opt for a multivitamin instead of a prenatal one if you’re looking to boost your nutrients but not looking to conceive.

“You should be getting most of your nutrients from your diet, but it’s OK to supplement that,” Caprara says. “Theoretically, you’re taking more than you need if you’re taking a prenatal vitamin. You have to look at the risks versus the benefits to your body. A regular multivitamin is definitely better for a non-pregnant female.”

If you think you are deficient in a particular nutrient, always check with your doctor before loading up on vitamins, Caprara advises. But at the end of the day, a well-balanced diet should have you and your nutrient needs sufficiently covered.

Story continues below advertisement © 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *