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Best Prenatal Vitamins

written by: Lindsay Evans • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 3/5/2010

Supplying your body with essential nutrients during pregnancy is a top priority. In addition to eating lots of healthy foods, don't skimp on quality when it comes to your prenatal vitamin. Here are the top picks for quality and best-value prenatal supplements.

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    What Makes a Quality Prenatal Vitamin?

    The variety of nutritional supplements on the market today come in a wide range of quality and price. When shopping for prenatal vitamins (or any vitamin), read the label carefully to look for the signs of a high quality product. Low quality vitamins are not easily digested or assimilated into the body, leaving much of the supplement to be eliminated.

    Whether you are looking at an affordable store brand or a pricey big-name vitamin, check the prenatal vitamin's label to look for certifications of quality standards. The labels USP (US Pharmacopoeia) or NF (National Formulary) indicate the vitamin meets standards in purity, potency, and dosage as set by the certifying organization. If you see the label GMP the supplement's maker has passed very high quality standards for the manufacturing process (the same standards as for pharmaceutical-grade products).

    Some low quality, highly compressed tablet vitamins are hard for your body to digest before they are eliminated from your body. Pay close attention to quality seals for tablet vitamins, or choose a supplement in caplet or liquid form.

    You can do your own investigation online using www.consumerlab.com or www.supplementwatch.com to see where your brand of prenatal vitamins ranks among others in independent test results.

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    Essential Prenatal Nutrients

    Once you have determined the vitamin to be a quality product, check the supplement facts to be sure you get the nutrition you need. Ask your care provider if they recommend your supplement should contain certain amounts of nutrients, like iron and folic acid, during your pregnancy.

    All prenatal vitamins should include the following nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Thiamin (Vitamin B-1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2), Niacin, Vitamin B-6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron, and Zinc. Different brands will deliver varying percentages of your daily value, so shop around and compare. Check the label for other ingredients that you may want or wish to avoid, such as stool softeners and herbs.

    In addition to your prenatal multivitamin, you may want to take a separate Omega-3 and/or DHA supplement during pregnancy.

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    Best Quality and Value

    Your healthcare provider may prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you, but if you find them too expensive ask about finding a quality substitute. Over-the-counter prenatal vitamins should be able to provide the nutrition you need and may be a more affordable choice.

    Consumersearch.com, an independent review site, conducted a study on prenatal vitamins and recommends three over-the-counter choices (as approved by consumerlab.com): GNC Women's Prenatal Formula (available with or without iron, around $17 for 120 caplets), Pregnancy Plus Multivitamin (around $17 for 60 tablets) and TwinLab Prenatal Care Multivitamin Caps (around $17 for 120 caplets).

    To determine the best value vitamin be sure to check the serving size, found on the vitamin's supplement facts. Some vitamins are one a day, whereas others may be 2 or more a day to reach the stated daily value.

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