Updated: Apr 27, 2021
For women who are preparing for pregnancy, folic acid is the most important supplement to take. However, it is better to take prenatal vitamins since more supplements are included in one pill. For pregnant women, calcium is another important supplement.
Folic acid is also known as folate, which is the most important supplement during early pregnancy. It can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects only if being taken before pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. It is also critical for certain amino acids and normal red blood cells. Food like leafy greens vegetables, broccoli, Avocado, and etc are high in folic acid. However, a lot of women do not take enough such food because of diet habits. Thus, doctors usually recommend certain brand(s) of folic acid on the first visit.
Other important supplements include DHA and calcium. DHA is important for babies' brain & eye development and calcium is essential for forming bones. During pregnancy, baby will need a lot of calcium from mom, and that causes mom's leg cramp.
There are many brands of prenatal vitamins in the market. From newer brands like Megafood, to Well-known brand like GNC, too many choices are available. However, when you go to the supermarkets/pharmacy store, you will find that almost everyone carries Nature Made and Nature bounty. Among supplements of these two brands, some of them have a USP mark on the bottles. USP stands for the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, which is an organization independently evaluates supplements for quality, purity and potency. If a supplement passes their test, they will put a USP mark on the bottle. The reason they do it is because U.S. FDA does not test dietary supplements.
For prenatal vitamins, Nature Made is the best brand. It provide both folic and DHA at the same time, and it has USP mark. It is better to start taking it when you plan to have a baby.
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As of calcium, almost every brand has calcium in different forms. The most common forms of calcium are with carbonate or citrate. Calcium citrate supplements are easier to absorb because it does not require much stomach acid. Unlike calcium carbonate, calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach, which is more convenient for pregnant women. However, calcium citrate contains less calcium than calcium carbonate, so you may need to take more tablets. Citracal is one of the best calcium brands for calcium citrate.