Choosing the Best Prenatal Vitamin for Vegans
Even if a woman consumes a balanced, nutritious diet full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, it can be difficult to get all the nutrients it takes to grow another healthy human and to take care of her body during the process.
Taking a prenatal vitamin is like getting an insurance policy on pregnancy and pre-pregnancy nutrition, and can benefit any woman, but especially those with dietary restrictions, chronic diseases, or who are having twins or multiples.
Some women may prefer to get their vitamins and nutrients from food, which is admirable and usually a good road to go down.
However, imagine that in the first trimester, you are so nauseated you can only keep down crackers. With a diet much more limited than what you’re used to, and what is healthy, you would certainly not be getting enough vitamins and nutrients to make a healthy baby, so a prenatal vitamin is a perfect way to cover up any nutrient gaps before conception and through the first trimester.
What are the Benefits of Prenatal Vitamins?
Taking a prenatal vitamin when you’re trying to conceive will only help you in the long run, and can contribute to an easier pregnancy and a healthier baby.
Perhaps the most important and most well-known benefit of prenatal vitamins is that they reduce the risk of birth defects. Most prenatals contain a high amount of folic acid which, when taken before conception, can dramatically decrease the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida in a developing fetus.
Prenatals aren’t just something to take once you’re pregnant, either!
A woman who is trying to conceive should take prenatal vitamins to boost the chances that she’ll get pregnant in the first place, as taking a prenatal vitamin has been shown to help increase fertility, in addition to helping keep the fetus healthy.
Lastly, prenatals can contribute to an easier, more pleasant pregnancy, with drastic effects during the sometimes tumultuous first trimester.
Vitamin B6, included in most prenatal vitamins, helps to reduce nausea, and studies show that women who take a vitamin containing B6 before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy experience less morning sickness and fewer instances of vomiting during the first trimester.
What Should I Look for in a Vegan Prenatal Vitamin?
In addition to eating a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of whole foods, women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should take a prenatal vitamin that is high in folate, iron, iodine, and calcium, among other vitamins and minerals.
As mentioned earlier, folate is the most important and well-known nutrient in a prenatal vitamin due to the role it plays in decreasing the risk of neural tube birth defects.
Look for a vegan prenatal vitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid, and begin your prenatal routine when you’re considering trying to conceive, as neural tube defects develop within the first 28 days of conception before most women know they are pregnant.
Women who have already given birth to a baby with a neural tube defect may need different amounts of folate, as studies show that a dose up to 4,000 mcg may be beneficial for these women. As with any health question, especially one about creating new life, women in this group should consult their doctor to find out exactly which level of folate is right.
A good vegan prenatal vitamin should also contain 150 mcg of iodine, which plays a key role in maintaining healthy thyroid function during pregnancy. Like folate, getting enough iodine plays a key role in a healthy pregnancy and a healthy fetus, since a deficiency in this nutrient can cause stunted physical growth, mental disability, and deafness, and can even result in miscarriage and stillbirth.
Lastly, your prenatal vitamin should contain 200-300 mg of calcium, 400 IU of vitamin D, and 17 mg of iron. The calcium helps prevent bone loss in women while the fetus uses calcium for its bone growth, and vitamin D will help her body process the calcium more efficiently. Iron, another important part of a good prenatal, is also vital for mother and fetus, as it helps to carry oxygen throughout the body.
List of Vegan Prenatal Vitamins
Women who want to ensure a healthy pregnancy while simultaneously making compassionate choices toward animals may find themselves with somewhat limited options.
Sometimes it feels as though every vitamin and prenatal supplement somehow includes some animal-derived vitamin source, or is covered in a gelatin-based soft gel.
While options can be limited, the vegan-friendly prenatal vitamins out there are high-quality and well-received by thousands of women.
Read more about them below.
Our Top Pick!
Rainbow Light’s prenatal vitamins are an online bestseller, with thousands of positive (and highly rated) reviews.
These vegan prenatal multivitamins come in 150-pill bottles, are food-based, gentle on the stomach, and 100% natural.
They are also free of allergens, artificial colors, flavors, sugars, sweeteners, and preservatives. The vitamins use plant-sourced enzymes, ginger juice, and probiotics to support digestion and reduce nausea, and contain 800 mcg of folic acid per tablet for healthy spine development.
What We Love
Reviewers on Amazon note that these vitamins are very gentle on the stomach, and do not cause nausea or queasiness. Additionally, the purchase of these vitamins also supports ongoing 10:1 donations to the worldwide Vitamin Angels Maternal Health Project, which delivers nutritional support around the globe for improved birth weights and reduced mortality and morbidity rates, birth defects, and ailments caused by nutritional deficiency.
Some people on Amazon have reported issues with the quality when purchased through Amazon suppliers. While the products themselves get fantastic reviews, it is a good idea to purchase these directly from the company's Amazon store.
Made from whole foods, Mega Food Baby & Me Prenatal Supplements are a great second option for your vegan prenatal needs.
They are easy to digest and gentle on the body, even when taken on an empty stomach.
Each serving contains 800 mcg of folate to ensure healthy spinal development, as well as Vitamin B6 and a blend of herbs to maintain a woman’s strength, balance, and mood during pregnancy.
What We Love
Unlike many prenatal vitamins, these supplements are made from whole food ingredients, and contain things like organic dandelion leaf and root, organic spinach, organic orange, organic blueberry, and organic cranberry. Reviewers on Amazon note that these are gentle on the stomach, despite a lot of pills needed per serving, and that they see positive differences in mood and energy, as well as hair and nail health.
While many women love that these supplements are derived from real, whole-food ingredients, these pills are very large and can be somewhat difficult to take, especially if you have difficulty swallowing pills. Additionally, a serving is four tablets per day, which can be expensive, as you’re burning through more product more quickly.
A favorite brand when it comes to vegan supplements, Deva’s prenatal vitamins are certified by The Vegan Society and provide 138% of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, to support healthy spinal development.
The vitamins come in bottles of 90 coated tabs, and each tablet contains 550 mcg of folic acid and 150mcg of iodine, in addition to a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals.
What We Love
Reviewers on Amazon note that these are not only gentle on the stomach (paramount for taking during the first trimester, when morning sickness can be at its worst), but the pills are easy to take and have no foul smell or taste.
Some people find these vitamins come up a little short to be a one-a-day solution for prenatal nutrition. With a smaller amount of folic acid, DHA, and calcium, one would either need to take more of these supplements to get a true once-per-day dosage, or supplement with additional vitamins to get everything needed during pregnancy.
Things to Avoid in a Vegan Prenatal
As you search for a great vegan prenatal, you may come across some products that aren’t included in our list. A quick scan of the ingredients list will help you figure out if these supplements are vegan-friendly, or if you should put them back on the shelf.
Gelatin is an all too common ingredient in vitamins and supplements, especially in soft gel varieties. Used to make the flexible capsule coating, gelatin is derived from the boiled skin, tendons, bones, and connective tissue of cows and pigs.
Because it must be taken from a dead animal, gelatin isn’t even vegetarian, and is no option for someone who chooses to live an animal-free life. To avoid gelatin, choose soft gels that are labeled “vegetarian-friendly”, or go for the pill/capsule style supplements instead.
Other animal ingredients that can make an appearance in your supplements are Vitamin A and Vitamin D3. Vitamin A can be synthetic, but can also be derived from animal liver. Vitamin D3 is often derived from lanolin, which is the oil that comes from sheep’s wool but can also be synthetically derived making it suitable for vegans.
DHA is another important nutrient to take in when you’re considering conceiving or are in your first trimester. Just as in regular omega-3 supplements, prenatal DHA supports healthy brain development and vision in the developing fetus.
Because none of the prenatal vitamins listed above has a real focus on DHA, you’ll want to make sure you supplement your diet with a separate DHA Supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of this powerhouse nutrient to support a healthy brain and eyes.
For more information about which omega-3 supplement might be best for you check out our guide to vegan omega-3 supplements.
Vegan Supplements Before and During Pregnancy
Even the healthiest, most nutritionally sound vegan diet can still use some insurance when it comes to growing a healthy human.
By taking a prenatal vitamin before and during pregnancy, expectant vegan moms can take comfort in the fact that they are filling in any possible nutrition gaps due to diet or nausea, all without causing harm to animals.
It is the perfect place to be where you’re taking care of your body and nutritional needs while still living a life that is in line with your values.
By choosing one of the vegan-friendly prenatal vitamins and supplementing with additional vitamins and minerals, you can help your baby live a compassionate life from the very beginning.