Buying prenatal vitamins is surprisingly difficult – you can either buy a quality vitamin and feel great, or you can keep trying vitamin after vitamin until you find the best prenatal that gives you what you need and supports the optimal development of your baby.
This post is packed with a lot of information, but here’s the short version of my recommendation on prenatal vitamins: it’s worth it to spend a little more on a quality vitamin. While it’s possible to get free vitamins from your insurance or care provider, or spend hundreds each month combining vitamins for the “perfect” supplement, you can get a great vitamin for around $60 a bottle. My recommendation for a high-quality vitamin is the Seeking Health Optimal Prenatal. You can choose from two forms: capsule or a protein powder/prenatal combination.
I don’t want to convince you to spend more money – ultimately I want to help you give your baby the best start possible. I’ve had 8 babies and I have tried a lot of different prenatal vitamins over years of pregnancy. A vitamin that’s easy to take and is packed with nutrients your body actually absorbs is what gives you the best value for your money – even a free prenatal is a bad deal if your body can’t absorb it. Worse, some low-quality vitamins actually block nutrients you and your baby need. It’s worth it to choose a quality prenatal.
I do participate in Seeking Health’s affiliate program and receive a small commission if you purchase through our family’s link. Thank you for your support!
Why I Chose Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal
Like I mentioned above, I’ve had 8 babies in the last 18 years. That’s a lot of prenatal vitamins! (!!!). Many of those vitamins made me feel sick. Many of them felt like lumps in my throat or in my stomach. They caused constipation. And most of them turned my pee bright yellow – a good sign that you’re peeing a lot of the nutrients right back out.
I’m a firm believer in prenatal nutrition being the foundation of a good pregnancy and a healthy baby – but pregnancy takes a lot out of you and micro-nutrients are important for both the baby and the placenta.
I also wanted to have our babies within 2-3 years of each other, and I wanted to breastfeed, so I knew I needed extra nutritional support.
I got tired of prenatal vitamins that weren’t really helping me or my baby, and as a busy mom I didn’t have time to try and figure out an extensive supplement regime for myself…
…then I found Seeking Health. I wanted a prenatal that had folate – the natural form of folic acid, and I wanted folate I knew I could absorb. I discovered that Seeking Health uses active folate that even moms with the MTHFR gene mutation can absorb and use (methylfolate and folinic acid). It also contains the active forms of other B vitamins, like the essential Vitamin B12 and nausea-busting B6.
Additionally, it included helpful supports like ginger for nausea and milk thistle for digestive support. It also had iodine from natural seaweed sources, choline (optimal for baby brain development – more on this shortly), and magnesium which helps with sleep and muscle aches during pregnancy.
Early in my pregnancy, I used the protein powder option in a daily smoothie, giving me 15g of extra protein, plus an easy-to-take prenatal. I felt more energetic and healthier. Later in pregnancy, I switched between the powder and the caplets, which were pleasantly easy to swallow (even though, like many prenatal vitamins, you do have to take a bunch of them to equal one day’s serving).
When I tried Optimal Prenatal I knew I’d found a winner – and I knew I’d found the top recommendation for the mamas I help. In fact, this supplement is so well-rounded that I recommend it to clients who are trying to boost fertility and for breastfeeding mamas.
My Honest Belief:
I have had 8 babies and I would say that all of my kids are healthy. But my 8th baby, Phoenix, is incredibly robust and vibrant. He is strong, sturdy, and athletic – and has been since birth. His coordination has been astounding from the beginning. Plus he has a pretty easy, laid-back personality despite our family facing some massive challenges during his early years.
Of course, I think all our kids are beautiful – but I followed the same basic, nourishing pregnancy diet with all of them, and cared for myself in much the same way. The biggest change with Phoenix was switching to the Optimal Prenatal…
…and I really believe that it is responsible in part for his sturdy build, robust health, and vibrant, happy personality… as well as his coordination, agility, and good cognitive development.
If we ever have another baby, the Optimal Prenatal would be my #1 investment in my baby’s future.
Here’s Phoenix at birth:
And here’s Phoenix today!
High-Quality Nutrition for Your Baby (and your body)
Dr. Ben Lynch created the Optimal Prenatal with his own wife and babies in mind, and to me that says a lot about the quality of the product.
Dr. Ben believes, like I do, that optimal nutrition can help prevent birth defects and developmental disorders in children, and he set out to create a prenatal that would help well-nourished women benefit from in-depth research on what really helps build a healthy baby.
He saw that many women were struggling with prenatal vitamins that were essentially worthless, so he chose bio-available forms of nutrients. You may not know this (I didn’t until I started studying health and pregnancy in-depth), but some forms of vitamins and minerals are easier to digest – this is called being more “bio-available.”
“One a Day” prenatal vitamins are really popular because they’re easy to take, but the problem is packing everything that a mother, her baby, and the placenta into one capsule – you get a dusting of nutrients but not much more.
Optimal Prenatal is eight capsules…
…that’s a lot to take, but you know that you and your baby are covered.
Alternately, a scoop of the prenatal/protein powder covers your bases… you just have to finish your smoothie. I’m not actually a big “drink” person, so once I was feeling better, it made more sense for me to take the prenatal in capsule format. It’s safe to alternate them, so on days I made smoothies for breakfast, I used the powder.
In addition to being easy to take, the powder does have another advantage: it contains some additional nutrients not in the capsules – all the basics are in both, but some, like L-carnatine, are exclusively in the powder.
It’s Easy to Take Your Prenatal
While there is a lot to take (8 caps) with the Seeking Health prenatal, they go down easily – and you can break them up across the day. That means that if nausea does get overwhelming, you’ll still get nutrients later in the day to help buffer what you lost to an upset stomach.
I took 3 at breakfast, 3 at lunch, and 3 at supper – and I kept my bottle where I could see it to help me remember to take them. If you’re having lunch at the office I recommend you pack your lunchtime supplement right in your lunch bag.
Another big deal for me was constipation – the Optimal Prenatal doesn’t have added iron (only some naturally occurring iron). You’ve probably heard other mamas tell you that their prenatal caused constipation – and iron is the culprit.
If you need additional iron, as some women do, Seeking Health has a gentle, bioavailable iron that Dr. Lynch created because his wife couldn’t tolerate other iron supplements. It’s a great option if you need extra iron support.
Though you do need to take a lot, the capsules themselves are easy to swallow. I recommend you take them with food.
Or, if that’s really difficult, have a smoothie with the powder – as I mentioned, that’s what I had to do early in my pregnancy. I like the chocolate powder best, but the vanilla is good, too. It felt like a treat to get a chocolate shake in the mornings.
Why do you have to take SO MANY capsules?
There’s no doubt about it, optimal prenatal nutrition takes some work – you’re literally working to give your baby the best start. And not just the very best start for your baby, but you’re building a foundation for your grandchildren.
It’s just impossible to get the level of high-quality nutrients a good prenatal provides into one capsule. That’s why many of the higher-end brands are multiple capsules. Seeking Health is focused on giving you the highest quality nutrition to support both your body and your baby’s developing body (and the genes that will contribute to your child’s lifelong health) – so there’s a lot to pack in.
What to Look For in a Prenatal Vitamin
There’s no way to sugar-coat it. A poor-quality prenatal vitamin is worse than useless – they often cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation!
The first thing to look for is quality!
What defines quality in a prenatal vitamin?
First, you want to look at the bio-availability of nutrients. I discussed bio-availability above – it means how well the body absorbs a nutrient.
Some forms of nutrients are more bio-available to all people. For example, calcium in animal foods is often more bio-available than other calcium forms. Sometimes certain women have difficulty absorbing certain types of a nutrient – often due to genes.
A high-quality prenatal vitamin uses the most bio-available forms of nutrients – those you can most easily absorb. Seeking Health intentionally chose bio-available forms for the Optimal Prenatal.
Methylation isn’t a word that most of us know, but it’s vitally important to prenatal development. Seeking Health defines it this way:
“Down at the cellular level, methylation is simply the addition of a tiny molecule called a methyl group (CH3) to another molecule which ‘activates’ the receiving molecule.”Seeking Health
That’s a technical definition, but what’s important is that this process allows your body to use nutrients and complete tasks necessary to your health – and to growing a healthy baby. It can also aid in detoxification and boosts health to most of your major systems (including your nervous system and reproductive system).
Some nutrients enhance methylation, so getting those is important.
Some nutrients require methylation to turn into bio-available forms. If you have trouble with this process, the nutrients aren’t usable (even if you’re getting plenty in your diet or in supplements). That again means that the most bio-available nutrients are important.
Your Baby’s Cells are Like City Walls
Dr. Lynch describes your baby’s cells (and yours) much like a medieval city – there are strong walls around the city, and drawbridges for letting things in and out of the city.
Healthy cells are critical to your health and to building your baby in the womb (and your baby’s lifelong health).
The nutrients that you eat support processes that cause the cells to function correctly – for example, folinic acid (a bio-available, active form of folic acid) is made at the MTHFD gene “drawbridge” – if that gene isn’t functioning correctly, your body cannot make healthy cells and tissues because the nutrient needed for that to happen isn’t getting through.
Your prenatal vitamin should build and support your baby’s cells!
Nutrients in Your Prenatal Vitamin
Next, look at the nutrients within the prenatal vitamin. This isn’t an exhaustive list of every vitamin, mineral, or nutrient in the Optimal Prenatal, but it covers some of the most important to fetal development, pregnancy, and fertility.
Only about 10% of pregnant women have enough choline in their diet. Choline is critical to brain growth, and it’s also critical in preventing neural tube defects in your baby. Many people think of folic acid when they think of preventing neural tube defects, but that’s only one aspect of prevention.
Choline supports methylation, which we’ve discussed is critical in helping you absorb other nutrients – and it’s vital to helping your baby’s cells develop.
Choline also plays a critical role in brain function – in fact, animal studies have shown that 800mg of choline daily completely protects babies against dementia.
Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal contains choline. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that contains choline (there is wisdom in the Brewer diet recommendation of two eggs daily!).
If you need supplemental choline above the prenatal and food sources, Seeking Health’s Vitamin C supplement also contains choline – both nutrients that have protective and beneficial effects for pregnancy.
Adequate choline is also protective against gallbladder pain in pregnancy and it aids in hormone formation. It’s essential for bile production and the digestion of fats.
If you remember the “city walls” analogy from Dr. Lynch, choline makes up the bricks of the city wall.
Vitamin C is critical to pregnant women for many reasons. It’s part of at least 300 of your body’s metabolic processes! Immune response is a primary factor – Vitamin C boosts the immune system for all people, including pregnant women.
Vitamin C boosts adrenal gland function and helps with collagen formation. It’s possible it may help with morning sickness because it seems to manage h. Pylori, a gut bacteria that seems to contribute to nausea.
Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, helping you get the amount needed from iron-rich foods such as meat and egg yolks.
It’s also vital for folate absorption – the combination of a bio-available folate, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin C is a powerful health-booster for pregnant women.
Vitamin C may also help protect placental function and is protective of the brain and spinal cord. It has antioxidant effects that help your body handle environmental toxins effectively.
Optimal Prenatal contains a full dose of a bio-available Vitamin C. Women who are choline deficient, struggling with morning sickness, or at risk for pre-eclampsia may benefit from additional Vitamin C in Liposomal Vitamin C (which also contains supplemental choline).
This nutrient is a potent anti-oxidant. Seeking Health decided to add it to the Optimal Prenatal for two reasons:
First, it seems to enhance gut health, which reduces morning sickness and boosts overall nutrient absorption.
Second, autistic children usually have low levels of L-Carnosine – if a mother is deficient, that deficiency is passed on to her child.
This nutrient is essential to eye health – adequate levels in the womb are protective of our babies’ eyes.
Childhood eye problems are on the increase – a big part of that is likely excess screens and drastically reduced time playing outside…
…but poor prenatal nutrition and low nutrient levels during childhood also contribute.
L-Carnitine is only available in the powdered Optimal Prenatal. Acetyl-L-carnitine, the form Seeking Health uses has greater metabolic potency than other forms.
Carnitine helps boost energy levels and may help overcome chronic fatigue. It also helps your body use fats efficiently and shows promise in treating depression and cognitive decline.
If you’re trying to conceive, include the powder in your husband’s daily smoothie – carnitine increases sperm health (more on using Optimal Prenatal for men later in this review).
Many pregnant women are scared of Vitamin A because they believe it causes birth defects, but Vitamin A is especially critical to fetal development.
There are two primary types: Beta-carotene and Retinal palmitate. You need both Vitamin A types – many women have trouble converting Beta-carotene to retinal palmitate (the BC01 gene is responsible for this conversion – women with some variations of the gene are 66% less effective at making the conversion). Your prenatal should include both!
Vitamin A is important to immune response, which is so important during pregnancy.
But, perhaps more importantly, Vitamin A is essential to bone development and growth as well as eye health. Bones and eyes are directly impacted by Vitamin A (and lack of Vitamin A can result in birth defects in the bones and eyes).
It also impacts nuclear DNA health and boosts the health of your skin.
Seeking Health has an infographic that illustrates why Vitamin A is so important and how to get it safely:
Potassium helps pregnant women maintain stable blood pressure and keep water balance correct. This is essential because one of the major changes of pregnancy is an increase in blood volume – you have about 60% more blood in your body by your third trimester!
Potassium helps with electrolyte balance, which keeps you well-hydrated so your blood supply can boost the way it’s supposed to in order to provide nutrients to your baby (and for your body).
Less than 1% of women have sufficient potassium – and that’s a staggering statistic! (90% of men are also deficient). You need about 5g of potassium daily. And while fruits and veggies are the primary source of potassium, you’d have to eat a lot of them to get the full level you need daily.
Optimal Prenatal has enough potassium to supplement your daily fruit and vegetable intake. If you feel like you need more potassium, or if you struggle with hydration, boost your electrolyte balance with Optimal Electrolyte packs.
Make sure you take potassium with food – this helps the potassium get into your cells and do its job on a cellular level (the hormone insulin, which goes to work after a meal, helps drive potassium into cells).
What about Iron?
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the only iron in Optimal Prenatal is a small amount of naturally-occurring iron.
That’s because many pregnant women don’t need extra iron, and iron can have problematic effects during pregnancy. Iron can actually cause inflammation and may cause miscarriage early on.
Additionally, iron competes with calcium, one of the most important nutrients to pregnancy. Supplemental calcium has been shown to prevent a whole host of pregnancy complications, but iron will bind up calcium receptors so you don’t absorb much calcium.
If you need extra iron – and some women do – it’s best to take it at night before bed. This keeps your calcium receptors open to calcium during the day. You should also take a gentle iron supplement because most iron supplements are hard to digest and cause nausea and constipation.
Dr. Lynch actually formulated Seeking Health’s iron supplement for his wife, who could not tolerate any supplements but needed extra iron. It’s made to be very gentle – just take it at night!
Helpful Herbs and Other Nutrients
Optimal Prenatal contains other beneficial ingredients, including milk thistle extract for liver support and red raspberry leaf for uterine support.
It also contains ginger, which along with Vitamins B6 and B12, helps to ease nausea so you feel better sooner! The Vitamin B6 and B12 are both in the most bio-available forms, so they’re easier on your stomach and better absorbed to impact your health overall.
Watch the video below to hear Dr. Lynch talk about some of these nutrients and answer questions about the Optimal Prenatal:
What About Proposition 65?
If you live in California, you know that Proposition 65 calls for disclosure of possible contaminants in supplements and other products. Some heavy metals are found in soils and can end up in supplements and other foods.
Seeking Health has an independent assessment done of their supplements regularly. You can read their Proposition 65 information here.
What About Men?
It may feel a little funny to mention men when I’m talking about a prenatal vitamin, but the truth is, Daddy’s health is essential to baby’s health. It’s not as vital after conception, but if you’re still trying to conceive, I highly recommend you have your husband take Optimal Prenatal, too.
The protein powder form gives extra protein, which many men want – it can go into a workout or bodybuilding shake.
Dr. Lynch himself takes the Optimal Prenatal as his daily vitamin!
Good health for your husband means a healthy baby – and a Daddy with energy and vitality throughout the years of raising your child.
Which one should I choose?
The most comprehensive nutrition is in the powder, which contains protein to help you make sure you can get enough protein. Prenatal protein needs are very high, much higher than many people realize (at least 80g, and up to around 120g for some women – more if you’re carrying multiples)
Some women are sensitive to histamines – if that’s the case for you, choose the vanilla powder over the chocolate. Histamine is higher in chocolate. If you’re a histamine-sensitive woman, pre-pregnancy is a great time to work on lowering those levels.
The Optimal Prenatal caps are another alternative and some women may find them easier or more convenient to take.
I didn’t want to have a smoothie or drink every single day since I’m not normally one to “sip” or drink a lot. So it worked for me to have both on hand and alternate:
I liked getting those few extra nutrients (and protein) from the powder most days (not to mention helpful probiotics and superfoods I could add into a smoothie)…
…but I also liked having the capsules to take on days I didn’t want to have a smoothie.
Seeking Health also makes a chewable that some women find very easy to take. It has lower nutrients and fewer supportive herbs and antioxidants than the powder or capsules – it’s not my top recommendation, but it’s helpful if you’re having trouble keeping anything else down. The quality of nutrients is much higher than other chewables on the market.
In Summary (plus a hint to save $50-100 on your prenatal vitamins)
It took me 8 babies to find a prenatal vitamin that I truly, 100% believe in. I have had healthy kids, but Phoenix is truly vibrantly healthy – my prenatal diet was the same (and since I was assisting at births and helping give prenatal care all through my pregnancy, my stress levels were likely higher!).
There’s no doubt that a high-quality prenatal vitamin is a big investment – that’s why I appreciate Seeking Health’s subscription option. Not only do you know you’ll always have your Optimal Prenatal vitamins – you can also save between $50 and $100 over the course of your pregnancy. Just choose “Subscribe & Save” and select how often you want your prenatal vitamin delivered.
I know that the Optimal Prenatal is a big part of why Phoenix is such a vigorous, healthy, and beautiful boy today! To me there’s nothing better than knowing you can give your baby the best start – and that his or her lifelong health will impact your grandchildren, too <3