What Vitamins are in Prenatal Vitamins? Your Simple Guide

On This Page

    Prenatal vitamins support healthy pregnancies. Read on to learn about some of the most important vitamins included in most prenatals.

    If you’re pregnant or attempting to conceive, your doctor may recommend that you take prenatal vitamins. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know.

    What are prenatal vitamins and why are they important?

    Prenatal simply means “before birth.” Prenatal vitamins, therefore, are a type of multivitamin formulated to help people before and during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are loaded up with the most important nutrients for ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Doctors and dietitians will often recommend that you start taking them right as you’re attempting to conceive.

    What makes a prenatal vitamin so useful? Well, during pregnancy, your nutrient needs tend to go way up. This comes as no surprise, since a pregnant person isn’t only consuming nutrients for themselves; they’re also consuming nutrients for the developing child. Studies show that blood levels of most vitamins decrease over the course of a pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins help fill nutrient gaps that develop during pregnancy, thereby helping the body keep functioning at a high level.

    It’s little wonder, then, that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant people take prenatal vitamins. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans argues that key nutrients, including folate, iron, and vitamin D, should be supplemented during pregnancy. Pregnant people should also be conscious of their dietary choices, striving always to eat a varied and nutrient-rich diet. The best way to determine your vitamin levels is to talk to your healthcare provider.

    How prenatal vitamins differ from a multivitamin

    Prenatal vitamins are a type of multivitamin. They differ from your average multivitamin, however, in that they are loaded with more nutrients that are specifically beneficial for pregnancy, including folic acid and iron. You’ll find that prenatal vitamins have more folic acid and iron than a typical multivitamin. This is true of Care/of’s top-notch prenatal vitamin, dubbed “Baby Love,” for example.

    What to look for in a prenatal

    When you’re looking for a high quality prenatal, there are some key ingredients you’ll want to look for. These are nutrients that can help your body function at an optimal level while also supporting the healthy development of your child.

    Prenatal ingredients

    Vitamin A

    Vitamin A is essential for maintaining night vision for the mother, as well as the development of the child’s eyes. It’s also important for the development and maintenance of fetal organs, the fetal skeleton, and the fetal immune system.

    B Vitamins

    B vitamins, including riboflavin and thiamine, are vitally important for healthy pregnancies. Making sure you’re maintaining healthy B levels can support the growth and development of the baby. It can also help make sure your own body stays healthy and complication-free throughout the pregnancy. Be sure to look for active methylated versions of b vitamins like B12 as methylcobalamin and B6 as pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

    Vitamin C

    Vitamin C supports fetal bone and teeth development, while also playing a role in iron absorption. Iron absorption is especially important during pregnancy. (More on that below.)

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D status during pregnancy is important for fetal skeletal development as well as tooth enamel formation. Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common, affecting more than 40% of Americans. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to support better health outcomes for parent and child.

    Vitamin E

    Vitamin E deficiency is admittedly rare in healthy adults. However, for pregnant people, it’s especially important to get enough; some studies have found that insufficient vitamin E can lead to complications. Fortunately, vitamin E is typically included in prenatal vitamins, including in Care/of’s.


    Calcium is necessary for supporting the musculoskeletal, nervous, and circulatory systems as they develop. Calcium in prenatal vitamins support the needs of the pregnant person and the developing baby.

    Folic acid

    Folic acid is so important to health pregnancies that some healthcare providers will recommend taking a folic acid supplement in addition to a prenatal vitamin. Folic acid is vitally important for neural tube formation, and pregnant people ought to take folic acid before conception and at least three months into the pregnancy. Be sure to look for folic acid in its active form called folate.


    Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the rest of your tissues. That’s why iron deficiency can prevent your body from functioning properly. During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases, and so does the amount of iron you need. When using iron supplementation – whether on its own or as part of a multivitamin – it’s important to talk to your doctor about measuring your iron levels, since too much can be toxic.


    Iodine is hugely important for normal thyroid function. To achieve normal thyroid function in fetuses and breast-feed infants, it’s important for the mother to be getting enough iodine – a reason why iodine is included in prenatal vitamins.


    Magnesium in prenatal vitamins can help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, beans, and leafy greens.


    Zinc is well known for its benefits to immune health. It may also help support healthy pregnancies, which is why it’s often included in prenatal vitamins.

    Choline Bitartrate

    Choline bitartrate supports brain development and provides the choline needed to keep placenta healthy throughout pregnancy.

    When to start taking prenatal vitamins

    According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, you should start taking prenatal vitamins at least one month before trying to conceive, and then during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Doing so can help ensure adequate vitamin and mineral levels and also prevent issues with the pregnancy, including neural tube defects.

    Potential side effects from taking prenatal vitamins

    The side effects from prenatal vitamins are often indistinguishable from the side effects of pregnancy itself, with nausea and constipation being two of the most common. Because prenatal vitamins also tend to have a bit more iron than a typical multivitamin, you may experience an upset stomach. Any symptoms you’re experiencing should be discussed at once with your healthcare provider.

    Other important supplements to take while pregnant

    Omega-3 fatty acids

    In addition to prenatal vitamins, you’ll want to take fish oil supplements, which contain important omega-3 fatty acids. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists especially recommend DHA from from omega-3 fish oil for pregnant individuals. DHA is especially important for fetal brain and retina development. DHA is particularly important during the third trimester. Care/of’s fish oil supplements are sourced from wild Alaskan salmon and include DHA.

    Final takeaways

    Prenatal vitamins are a type of multivitamin specifically designed to support pregnant people and their developing children.

    During pregnancy, your nutrient needs go way up, since your body is trying to provide for not only you, but for the fetus in the womb. Prenatal vitamins can help fill nutrient gaps, supporting your overall health and the development of your child. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant people take prenatal vitamins And 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans argues that key nutrients, including folate, iron, and vitamin D, should be supplemented during pregnancy.

    The Care/of prenatal vitamim includes 22 essential nutrients, including those listed above, and is designed for easy absorption.

    You're unique. Your supplements should be too.

    Take the quiz
    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.