Even pregnant women who eat a relatively healthy diet should take a prenatal vitamin, recommends the BabyCenter website, because it can be hard to meet your folic acid and iron needs during pregnancy from food alone. The best options contain the right amount of nutrients, have the United States Pharmacopeia symbol on the label and don't cause too many unpleasant side effects. Many brands of prenatal vitamins can potentially fit the bill -- so the "top" prenatal vitamin is the one recommended by your doctor.
Get Enough Nutrients
Registered dietitian Michelle Cardel, in an interview with NBC affiliate 9NEWS, recommends choosing a prenatal vitamin with 30 milligrams of iron, 250 milligrams of calcium, 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid, 15 milligrams of zinc, 2 milligrams each of copper and vitamin B-6, 150 micrograms of iodine, 400 international units of vitamin D and 50 milligrams of vitamin C. These are some of the nutrients most important for growing infants. For example, folic acid helps with brain development, and vitamin D and calcium help with bone development.
Don't Go Overboard
Don't take multiple supplements or a prenatal vitamin with more than 100 percent of the RDA for any nutrient without consulting your doctor. It's possible to get too much of certain nutrients, including iron and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, all of which could cause life-threatening side effects -- for both mother and baby -- if taken in very high doses.
If you're taking prenatal vitamins, you want to know that you're actually going to benefit from the nutrients they contain. However, some vitamins don't dissolve very well in your stomach. Look for vitamins with the USP symbol, as these have been tested to make sure they will dissolve within a reasonable amount of time so you get the most nutrients from your supplement. This symbol also shows that the pill is likely to have ingredients in the amounts listed on the label and doesn't contain harmful levels of contaminants.
Avoid Side Effects
Prenatal vitamins tend to be on the large side, making them hard for some women to swallow. These vitamins can also sometimes cause constipation, diarrhea, nausea or an upset stomach. If this is the case, your doctor should be able to recommend another prenatal vitamin that is easier to swallow or that causes fewer side effects. These include smaller pills without calcium for those who get plenty of calcium in other ways, pills with less iron for women who get enough iron in their diet, or chewable or powdered forms of prenatal vitamins.