Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prenatal vitamins failed to provide even the minimum necessary amounts of nutrients in 6 critical categories during pregnancy.

You read this correctly from a study in a clinical nutrition journal. But keep on reading as this is very misleading when you get the rest of the story.
There is a multitude of prenatal vitamin brands being sold daily in the US. The problem is that to get adequate amounts of essential vitamins most, not all, lack the contents to be effective for your pregnancy needs.

Let’s perhaps back up a bit and talk about pregnancy and nutritional needs. Remember you’re building a new body from scratch and it takes a substantial lift to get all the building blocks assembled. There are 6 key ingredients that are commonly lacking from our diets when you consider a pregnancy: vitamins A and D, folate, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.


The researchers collected dietary data from over 2,400 pregnant women across the US and found that most were at risk of insufficient intake of six key nutrients: vitamins A and D, folate, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. As a note, this is common even with so-called good diets.

To determine the nutritional intake of pregnant women in the US and evaluate the underlying unmet needs the researchers evaluated population-based survey data. The data from the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. which is an organization that has research programs supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is focused on understanding the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development, including nutrition. This group is pulling data from 44 states, 180+ institutions, and 1200 researchers. A wide swatch of the US with a large number of participants.

Industry Stuff:

In the supplement industry, there are companies that try to put everything but the kitchen sink in a pill or capsule to make the label look impressive. The problem with this approach is the limits on the size of the actual pill/capsule and the clear understanding that a bit of a mineral or vitamin is probably not adequate. We call this doing the fairy dust number on the consumer.

If you were to look at calcium it’s a relatively bulky product that takes up a lot of space. On the opposite side of the coin, you’re going to want a soft gel for the omega 3 with different considerations on the packaging. And let’s not even start down the road of the different forms of folate. Yes, it matters…. and we haven’t even started to consider that this study doesn’t address the issue of absorption. If you take a pill or capsule it matters when and with what other foods are present and more to determine if you’re getting the full benefits.

The other overwhelming manufacturing consideration is the size and format of your supplement. You can only fit so much in a swallowable pill or capsule. the alternative is to have someone take an increased number, up to 6 per day as an example. With the nutrient load that’s necessary for most pregnancies, it’s just not possible to use a single pill, period !

Where most supplements are lacking:

Their false conclusion:

The study’s conclusion: “The large U.S. dietary supplement market is not meeting the nutrient needs of pregnant women,” . When you look at the over-the-counter and big-store brands they compared the conclusion is on the mark. With the diet evaluation once again so true and sad that in the US our diets remain a real problem or quality and adequacy.
The fly in the ointment for this study…Expand your view and look at quality manufacturers who understand that multiple capsules or tablets are needed and the prenatal vitamin selection that would meet your need is very much present.  Many manufacturers have had multiple capsule/tablet combinations for years knowing that pregnancy demands a robust intake.

Take Aways:

  • Over-the-counter and supermarket brands are not adequate.
  • A big-name brand, even on television, or one having an advertising budget including free samples at your healthcare provider, is no substitute for quality.
  • It will take more than one pill to provide an adequate level of nutrients needed for your pregnancy.
  • Quality manufacturers are available, but you need to know the differences or talk to someone with this knowledge
  • Have you had real nutritional evaluation or testing to know where you need to fortify your diet ?
  • Eating for two takes some planning, have you seen a qualified healthcare practitioner who’s been trained in optimal nutrition during pregnany ?