June 2023

Questions About Prenatal Supplements

A recent study found that almost no available US prenatal supplement products contain recommended amounts of 6 key nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, and omega-3s. These findings are generating a lot of buzz. Here’s what you should know.

Nutrient requirements increase during pregnancy. Prenatal supplements aim to provide nutrients in amounts that adequately make up for what isn’t consumed in foods. Seeking to determine which products best achieve this, data on 20,547 dietary supplements from the Dietary Supplement Label Database were evaluated. Of these, only 69 products contained all 6 key nutrients – only 33 of these were prenatal supplements. And only 1 product, not a prenatal supplement, contained target amounts for all 6 of these nutrients. But this product requires 7 tablets daily and costs about $200 per month.

While this study is grabbing a lot of headlines and might alarm some patients, remind them that a healthy pregnancy is largely impacted by dietary choices, not just which supplement they choose – and nutritional needs vary from person to person. Point patients towards nutrient rich foods, and explain that while prenatal supplements are important for filling gaps in nutrient intake, they aren’t perfect, nor one-size fits-all.

As for guidance on picking a specific supplement product, advise patients to look for USP-verified prenatal supplements providing nutrients as close to recommended amounts as possible – emphasizing the importance of folic acid, iron, and vitamin D.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.