Best Prenatal Vitamins in Canada (2020 Reviews)


Brittany Hambleton

Last Updated:

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Quick overview

Nutrition is always important, however if you are thinking about becoming pregnant or are already pregnant, your nutrition needs increase significantly in order to support both your health and the health of your unborn baby.

While a prenatal vitamin can’t prevent all complications associated with childbirth, they can help ensure that the mother remains healthy during pregnancy, and reduce the risk of the baby having health complications or birth defects.

All women should consider taking a prenatal vitamin, particularly those who have a more difficult pregnancy and have a harder time eating certain nutritious foods. Always remember, however, to speak with your doctor before taking any supplement, especially if you have any underlying health conditions, or if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

How to choose prenatal vitamins?

Choosing the correct prenatal vitamin can be a daunting task, since many have long ingredient lists that seem to include the whole alphabet of vitamins. When reading the label of a prenatal vitamin, you should look for a few key nutrients:

Folate

This is perhaps the most important nutrient in a prenatal vitamin, because folate prevents birth defects of the brain and the spine, known as neural tube defects. Health Canada recommends that women of child-bearing age get 400 mcg of folate daily.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a higher amount of folate, if you have personal characteristics or health conditions that put your baby at an elevated risk for neural tube defects. This could include not getting enough folate in your diet, or if you have an elevated need for folate because of family history or a preexisting health condition.

Some women have a genetic mutation known as MTHFR that prevents them from absorbing folate. Your doctor will be able to assess if this is the case through a blood test, and if you fall into this category, you should look for a supplement that contains methylated folate (methylfolate) for better absorption.

Iron

During pregnancy, your iron needs are 1.5 times higher than normal in order to make extra blood to take care of the baby. During pregnancy, you’ll need at least 27 mg of iron every day. Many women, however, stop taking their prenatal vitamin because of gastrointestinal discomfort, which is often associated with high iron intake.

Most women tend to be able to tolerate 27 mg per day, however if you are having difficulty you should speak with your doctor to find a supplement that contains a more easily-digestible form of iron, or to help you include more iron-rich foods in your diet.

Calcium

Calcium is important for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles, and nerves, and pregnant women should strive to get 1000 mg of calcium daily. Most supplements, unfortunately, fall well below this amount, so you should ensure that you are getting adequate calcium from your diet. 

If that is not possible, you should consider including a calcium supplement along with your prenatal vitamin.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and is important for proper immune function and bone growth. Health Canada recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women get 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D daily.

Do I need to take prenatal vitamins? 

Stephanie MacNeill, a registered dietitian in Oakville, Ontario, says that even if you are eating healthfully, a prenatal vitamin may help fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet and support a healthy pregnancy.

“Proper nutrition is important for your baby’s health, and a baby relies completely on you for all of his or her nutritional needs for embryonic and fetal development,” she explains.

She encourages all pregnant women to look for a prenatal vitamin that provides the nutrients they need, in a format that they can tolerate.

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

“If you’ve got baby on the brain, you should start taking a prenatal vitamin three months before you begin trying to get pregnant, if possible.”

If that is not possible, you should start taking a daily prenatal vitamin as soon as you know you are pregnant. It is also important that you consult with your doctor before choosing a prenatal vitamin, particularly if you have any preexisting health conditions.

What are the side effects of prenatal vitamins?

In general, women who take a prenatal vitamin as directed experience little to no side effects. Some women, however, do experience nausea or constipation from their prenatal vitamin. 

Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different, so you may have to try a few different brands before you find one that works well for you. If you are having difficulty tolerating your prenatal vitamin, you should talk to your doctor or visit a dietitian, who can recommend brands that might ease your side effects.

Best prenatal vitamins of 2020

Best prenatal vitamins comparison

MegaFoodNestle MaternaSMART PrenatalFirst ResponseCentrum
Best forNaturalDHAFolic AcidNo Iron3rd Trimester
Folate600 mcg600 mcg1000 mcg800 mcg1000 mcg
Iron18 mg24 mg27 mg0 mg27 mg
Calcium0 mg250 mg52.5 mg150 mg250 mg
Vitamin D600 IU600 IU400 IU400 IU600 IU
DHA (Omega-3)0 mg225 mg0 mg0 mg200 mg
Count1201206090120
TypeTabletTablet, Soft gelCapsuleGummiesTablet, Soft gel
Number per day22222
Approx. cost per day$2$0.42$0.90$0.30$0.40

Best natural prenatal vitamins – MegaFood Baby and Me 2

  • Nutrient content: 600mcg folate, 18mg iron, 0mg calcium, 600IU vitamin D, 0 omega-3
  • Number of capsules: 120
  • Number of capsules/day: 2
  • Approximate cost per day: $2.00

Pros

  • Made with whole foods
  • Contains no gluten, dairy, GMOs, or soy
  • Contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals from natural sources
  • High methylated folate content for better absorption
  • High Vitamin D content
  • 100% of 8 B vitamins

Cons

  • Low in iron
  • No calcium or magnesium
  • No Omega-3s or DHA
  • More expensive than market average

MegaFood Baby and Me 2 may be expensive, but mothers who choose this product can be certain that they are getting high-quality nutrition from all-natural sources. Every MegaFood product is approved by NSF International, a third-party that ensures supplements meet high quality and safety standards.

All of the nutrients in this product come from food sources, most of which are organic. This means that your body is better able to absorb and use them.

The drawbacks to this product are the calcium, iron, and omega-3 levels. While the supplement meets the iron requirements for a regular individual, it falls short for the needs of a pregnant woman. This particular formulation also contains no calcium or omega-3s, so you should ensure you are getting these important nutrients in your diet.

MegaFood does offer another product, MegaFood Baby and Me, that contains some calcium, however it still only provides 6% of your daily needs. 

Best prenatal vitamins with DHA – Nestle Materna Prenatal DHA

  • Nutrient content: 600mcg folate, 24mg iron, 250mg calcium, 600IU vitamin D, 225mg DHA
  • Number of capsules: 120
  • Number of capsules/day: 1
  • Approximate cost per day: $0.23

Pros

  • High in iron, folate, and vitamin D
  • Higher in calcium than many other brands
  • Contains 225 mg DHA
  • Inexpensive, and only requires 1 pill per day

Cons

  • Contains some synthetic fillers
  • Folate is in the form of folic acid, and therefore harder for the body to process
  • Does not satisfy your daily calcium needs

This prenatal supplement by Nestle has a very well-rounded nutrient profile. It provides at least 60% of your daily requirements for all of the B vitamins, as well as 100% of your iodine needs, which is important for the development of your baby’s central nervous system.

Health Canada recommends that your daily intake of EPA and DHA should be lower than, or equal to, 3g (300mg) per day during pregnancy, in order to avoid adverse health effects. At 225mg per tablet, Nestle offers a high dose of this essential nutrient, while remaining within Health Canada’s guidelines.

This supplement requires that you only take one pill per day, which many women appreciate, especially those who find they struggle with nausea. It does, however, contain synthetic fillers, so it takes longer for the pill to be broken down by your body. For some, this can actually induce nausea.

Finally, while it does provide the recommended intake of Folate, it comes in the form of folic acid. Folic acid is more difficult for your body to break down, which means you will likely not absorb the full amount of the nutrient. 

Best prenatal vitamins with folic acid – SMART Prenatal

  • Nutrient content: 1000mcg folate, 27mg iron, 52.5mg calcium, 400IU vitamin D, 0 omega-3
  • Number of capsules: 60
  • Number of capsules/day: 2
  • Approximate cost per day: $0.90

Pros

  • Contains 1000 mcg of folic acid
  • Provides 100% of your iron needs
  • Contains active coenzyme forms of B vitamins and folic acid for better digestion
  • Contains ginger to prevent nausea

Cons

  • Low in calcium
  • Slightly low in Vitamin D
  • No Omega-3s

The Smart Solutions product line has been developed by Lorna Vanderhaege, one of Canada’s leading natural health experts. None of the brand’s supplements contain gluten, soy, or artificial ingredients.

With 1000mcg of folic acid per 2 capsules, this supplement has one of the highest folate contents on the market. The company advertises that this is the coenzyme form of folic acid, which increases its absorbability by the body. 

The iron used in this supplement does not cause constipation or upset stomach, and the addition of ginger into the formula also helps to reduce nausea.

Because this supplement is low in calcium and vitamin D, and does not provide a source of omega-3s, you should ensure you are getting adequate amounts of these nutrients through your diet, or consider taking an additional supplement if that’s not possible.

Best without iron – First Response Prenatal Multivitamin Gummies

  • Nutrient content: 800mcg folate, 0mg iron, 150mg calcium, 400IU vitamin D, 0 omega-3
  • Number of capsules: 90 gummies
  • Number of capsules/day: 2
  • Approximate cost per day: $0.30

Pros

  • High amount of folate
  • Gluten-free
  • No iron for those who cannot stomach it, or who are already taking an iron supplement

Cons

  • Low in calcium
  • No omega-3s
  • Contains corn syrup and gelatin

For women who cannot tolerate an iron supplement, or for those who are already taking an iron supplement due to a previous deficiency, these gummies from First Response are a good option.

This supplement does contain a high amount of folic acid, however it is not methylated and therefore some women may not absorb the nutrient very well. Your doctor will be able to tell if you fall into this category via a blood test. If this is the case, you may need to switch to a different supplement.

Many women enjoy taking this product because of the taste and ease of use. Vitamins that come in the form of a swallowable pill often have an unpleasant taste or odour, or for some can be difficult to get down. In particular, women who struggle with nausea may find these to be an easier option than a pill.

Best for 3rd trimester – Centrum Prenatal +DHA

  • Nutrient content: 1000mcg folate, 27mg iron, 250mg calcium, 600IU vitamin D, 200mg DHA
  • Number of capsules: 60 multivitamins + 60 DHA softgels
  • Number of capsules/day: 1 multivitamin + 1 DHA softgel
  • Approximate cost per day: $0.40

Pros

  • High amount of folate
  • Meets the daily recommended intake of iron
  • Provides 23 vitamins and minerals 
  • Higher in calcium than many other brands

Cons

  • Folic acid is not methylated
  • Multivitamin is difficult to swallow

During your third trimester, your nutrient needs increase overall. Since your baby is in the final growing stages, and is now taking up a lot of space, it becomes even more important that you’re getting enough nutrition for both your and the baby.

During this stage, it can be difficult to eat large meals because of reduced stomach space, so including a multivitamin with a well-rounded nutrient profile is very important. With 23 vitamins and minerals, a high folate, iron, and vitamin D content, as well as both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, Centrum provides exactly that.

This supplement contains good amounts of all your fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K. This is important because soon, your body will be focused on the task of producing breast milk. Since these vitamins are stored in your fat, you need to have adequate stores for your body to draw on once the baby is born.

Centrum also contains magnesium, which can help reduce the frequent leg cramps that many women experience near the end of pregnancy, as well as help ease constipation.

Finally, the omega-3 content in this supplement is very important. During the last 3 months of pregnancy, your baby accumulates approximately 67 mg of DHA per day to help with brain and eye development. With 200mg of DHA, Centrum provides a good dose of this vital nutrient without surpassing the Health Canada guidelines.

While this supplement does contain a very high dose of folic acid, it is not the methylated form, so if you are unable to absorb un-methylated folic acid, it may not work for you. Some women have also noted that because of the pills’ size and coating, they can often be difficult to swallow.

Bottom line

MegaFoodNestle MaternaSMART PrenatalFirst ResponseCentrum
Nutrient Quantity44.54.53.55
Nutrient Quality53.553.54
Taste/Tolerability4.53.54.54.53.5
Cost2.553.555
Availability3.54.544.54.5
Cansumer Rating3.94.24.34.24.4

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Are you thinking about or trying to become pregnant? What other vitamins and minerals do you usually take? Let us know in the comments below!

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