The bottom line: Talk to your midwife or OB to find out what vitamins and minerals you need to focus on most during your pregnancy based on your health and lifestyle. And remember that a prenatal vitamin is intended to complement a healthy, well-balanced diet, not replace it.
But how does that make you feel?
In addition to the composition of your prenatal, you’ll also need to factor in how your body responds to it. “I find that each woman … is very different in terms of her tolerance of a prenatal vitamin,” says Sarah Obican, MD, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of South Florida and member of MotherToBaby’s expert network.
If swallowing a pill triggers your gag reflex or the iron content backs up your digestive system, your dread of taking your nutrient-packed nemesis might leave you inclined to skip it, which is hardly a suitable solution. Fortunately, there are plenty of preferable
alternatives to accommodate a variety of issues.
Size matters. Good things come in small packages, right? If you can’t quite handle the horse pills you picked up on your first go-round at the drugstore, try shopping for a minipill instead. These scaled-down capsules pack the same nutrient punch but are simpler to swallow.
Perfect form. Skip the pills altogether, and select a drinkable or chewable substitute. There are powdery mixes you can add to your water bottle, innocuous biscuits you won’t mind gnawing and even gummy candies that taste like, well, candy. Many moms find these appetizing morsels go down a bit easier.
Iron stomach. Iron is critical to prevent iron-deficient anemia, a common pregnancy concern, but it can often cause constipation. To keep things moving, Conover recommends adding ample fluids and fiber to your diet. (Think beans, berries, bran cereal and broccoli.) You can also ask your doctor about using a stool softener.
Quease ease. Although it’s generally advised that prenatal vitamins be taken on an empty stomach with a full glass of water, women who experience nausea can take them with a light snack, says Mark De Fazio, MD, attending physician at the New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. (Crackers and toast are inoffensive options.) Another trick? Try taking it right before bed, suggests Obican, so you’re likely to sleep through any queasiness that may result.
It’s not uncommon to cycle through two or three kinds of prenatal vitamins before discovering which type meets your needs and is well-tolerated by your body. So be patient and perseverant, and don’t settle for something that makes you miserable. Popping a prenatal doesn’t have to be a pill.