It’s best to aim for a healthy, nutritious diet, well before you become pregnant and continue throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. Pregnancy multivitamins are very popular but they aren’t needed and will not give you or your baby any extra benefits if you eat healthy.
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Pregnancy multivitamins should only be taken if recommended by your doctor, obstetrician or midwife.
The exception is folic acid and iodine supplements which are recommended for Australian women who are trying to get pregnant or who are pregnant because it is difficult to get the recommended amounts from diet alone.
Do pregnancy multivitamins cause side effects?
Multivitamins don’t usually cause any side effects but some women may get nausea, constipation, or a bad aftertaste. Nausea can be reduced by taking multivitamins with a meal.
Sometimes these symptoms are related to being pregnant so check with your doctor, obstetrician or midwife if symptoms are ongoing.
Choosing a multivitamin brand
There are many different brands of multivitamins sold in Australia so it can be confusing when you’re choosing a brand. Let’s take a closer look at the four most popular pregnancy multivitamins sold in pharmacies or chemists to help you narrow down your choices.
- Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold
- Swisse Ultinatal Pre-Conception and Pregnancy
A pharmacist or pharmacy staff member can also help you compare different brands. Consider the following when you’re comparing brands.
1. Dose of key vitamins and minerals
All these brands contain the recommended amounts of folic acid and iodine: at least 400 mcg folic acid and 150 mcg iodine. Elevit has the highest amount of folic acid. Elevit and Swisse Ultinatal has the highest amount of iodine.
Some of these brands also contain other important vitamins and minerals (e.g. calcium, iron, vitamin D, omega-3) but they are only included in small amounts. If you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency (e.g. iron deficiency) then pregnancy multivitamins will not contain the amount needed to get back to normal levels.
Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold and Swisse Ultinatal contain omega-3 and 1,000 IU vitamin D (the same amount found in vitamin D supplements that may be needed to correct vitamin D deficiency). Elevit and Fabfol don’t contain omega-3 at all, and only have 200 IU of vitamin D. Fabfol also doesn’t contain calcium.
2. Size of tablets or capsules
Depending on how the product is packaged, this can be difficult to see. Generally the once-daily multivitamin tablets are quite big. If you usually have trouble swallowing large tablets, opt for capsules which may be easier to swallow because they have a coating. Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold and Swisse Ultinatal are capsules and Elevit and Fabfol are tablets.
This is difficult to compare because it’ll depend on the pack size and which pharmacy or chemist. Multivitamins often go on sale at Chemist Warehouse or Priceline Pharmacy so shop around. For better value, a large pack size will work out cheaper in the long run, but think about how long you’ll need multivitamins for. If you’re trying to conceive or are in your first trimester, then a larger box or bottle may last you until you give birth.
4. Other ingredients
If you have certain food intolerances or food preferences, there may be other non-vitamin or non-mineral ingredients to check as you would with other tablets or capsules.
Elevit is Halal-approved and doesn’t contain gluten, lactose, yeast, egg products, peanuts, preservatives. It does contain a small amount of sucrose and sulfur.
Blackmores Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold have a bovine (beef) gelatine capsule which may not be suitable for vegans or vegetarians. Blackmores is active in obtaining Halal certification for many products and the Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Gold sold in some countries may be Halal-approved. It has no added yeast, gluten, wheat, milk derivatives, preservatives, artificial colours or sweeteners, but contains sulfites.
Swisse Ultinatal have a bovine (beef) gelatine capsule which may not be suitable for vegans or vegetarians. It has no added lactose, gluten, yeast, egg, artificial colours or flavours. It does contain phenylalanine, soya bean, sugar alcohols and sulfites.
Fabfol is Halal-approved and have no added yeast, gluten, wheat, lactose, preservatives, artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.