Prenatal supplements: What’s safe & which nutrients are most important?

There are a million things to think about when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant. One of the most important is making sure you’re getting the proper nutrients.

Since there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to prenatal supplements, we turned to the experts at Consumer Reports to help break down what’s inside the bottles so you can buy the right one for you.

When pregnant, it’s often tough to get the amount of micronutrients needed from diet alone. That’s why prenatal supplements are critical. But which nutrients are most important, and how do you know a supplement is safe?

“Almost all prenatal supplements include an adequate amount of folic acid, but when it comes to other micronutrients, many of the supplements available at your local drugstore have lackluster formulations,” explained Angela Lashbrook with Consumer Reports.

Most people will get some of the nutrients they need from food. But many prenatal supplements on the market don’t meet the recommended micronutrient levels endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

FULL LIST: Recommended Nutrients During Pregnancy

Take calcium, for example. Consumer Reports looked at 15 popular brands and found that 10 of the supplements had calcium but not enough. Five didn’t have it at all.

And when it comes to safety, supplements don’t undergo the same strict scrutiny as prescription drugs.

What about the price? Do you get what you pay for? Not always. CR experts found that some of the pricer prenatals lacked nutrients that cheaper pills had.

For instance, Nature Made Prenatal Multivitamin Folic Acid + DHA Softgels has most of the recommended amounts of nutrients, and it’s less than $1 per dose, while some prenatals cost nearly $2 per dose.

“Prioritize those micronutrients that ACOG says you need, as well as any that your doctor says you may be deficient in,” said Lashbrook.

As with any medication or supplement, be sure to talk with your OB-GYN or midwife before you start taking it.