Truth vs. Myth: The Differences Between Prenatals & Multivitamins

For most adult women, experts recommend eating a nutrient-rich diet and taking a daily multivitamin to fill in the gaps.1 But if you’re planning to get pregnant, or are currently pregnant, you’re probably wondering if you should switch to prenatal vitamins. We’ll break down the facts and answer your most commonly asked questions about how to choose the best vitamins for women, whether you’re pregnant or not.


1. What’s in a name? The Real Difference Between Prenatal Vitamins and Multivitamins for Women

The truth is, the supplement shelf at your local store may be filled with eye-catching names for a variety of supplement formulas. But your choice really comes down to what your doctor recommends. For women of childbearing age who could become pregnant, doctors often recommend getting more of certain key nutrients that have been shown to help support fetal development, like folate or folic acid, iodine, and DHA.*

Prenatal supplements and women’s multivitamins may contain some of the same general vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, B vitamins and zinc. But prenatals may contain other nutrients that experts recommend for women who are pregnant or planning for pregnancy, like folic acid, iodine and DHA. Plus, some prenatal supplements, like vitafusion PreNatal gummies, leave out the iron so they’re gentle on your stomach, which is helpful when you’re feeling nauseous.

In fact, a study at the UC-Berkeley School of Public Health found that 90% of women don’t get the recommended amount of folic acid, or its naturally occurring equivalent folate, that they need to support a healthy pregnancy.2 That’s where prenatal vitamins containing folic acid can help.

Every women’s multivitamin on the store shelf will have a unique formula with different amounts of a variety of nutrients. So always talk to your OBGYN if you have questions about finding the best prenatal vitamin and multivitamin for you. Then, compare the labels of your daily multivitamin and your prenatals, and choose the supplement that contains the right nutrients that your doctor recommends.

Shot of an confident female doctor consulting with a pregnant patient at a hospital during the da

2. When Should I Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

The short answer: if you’re a woman who could possibly get pregnant, it’s likely you should be taking prenatals. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 mcg of folic acid (or folate, its natural equivalent found in foods) every day.3 And that number goes up to 600 mcg for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A lot of research has been done that shows that taking folic acid or folate is crucial before, during and after conception. In fact, experts recommend taking folic acid four weeks prior to conception, and at least 12 weeks after conception to support healthy fetal development4. That’s why folic acid is one of the key nutrients found in prenatals. vitafusion PreNatal gummies have 600 mcg DFE (that means 600 micrograms of dietary folate equivalents) per serving. Plus, they contain other essential nutrients, like iodine and omega-3 DHA, that can help support a healthy pregnancy.

Bonus: the vitafusion gummy formula contains no iron, so it’s gentle on your stomach if you’re feeling queasy during pregnancy. And great-tasting gummies are easier and more convenient to take on-the-go than other pills that you have to swallow with water.

The take-home here? If you’re planning to get pregnant, are pregnant, or even possibly-one-day-might-get pregnant, ask your regular doctor or OBGYN about taking prenatals. And even if you don’t think you’re ready for pregnancy yet, consider asking anyway. It’s a good idea to be prepared now.

gummy vitamins

3. Can I Take Multivitamins When I’m Pregnant or Prenatals When I’m Not?

Think of a prenatal supplement simply as a multivitamin that has been formulated with specific nutrients that support women’s nutritional needs leading up to and during pregnancy.

Really, the decision between multivitamins and prenatals comes down to which nutrients your doctor recommends you take now. If he or she tells you to get more folate in your diet, or to take a supplement with more folate or folic acid, then you’ll want to compare the labels of your multi and your prenatal to be sure you’re taking the supplements that have the amounts you need.

Talk to your regular doctor or your OBGYN about if and when you’re planning to get pregnant, and any other diet or health questions you have. They can help you find the right supplement for you, no matter what name is on the label.

We love sharing our insights about vitamins and health. But that doesn’t mean it should be a substitute for professional medical advice. For that, you should talk to your doctor!

1 Bolt, B. “Vitamins and Minerals: The Essentials for Women.”, 2015.
2 Dietrich, M.; J Am Coll Nutr, 2005.
3 Folate, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health (NIH).
4 Roth, C. et al; Mol Nutr Food Res, 2013.

Published by Colleen Welsch

Colleen Welsch has been writing about women's nutrition, health, fitness, and the clean beauty industry for many years. Born and raised in Ohio, Colleen recently returned to the U.S. after spending a year in Spain. In her spare time, Colleen loves traveling and petting dogs.