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Prenatal vitamins contain ingredients that can make you feel nauseated. But changing the time you take them or the type of prenatal vitamin may help.
If you’re newly pregnant, there’s a good chance your stomach already feels iffy with morning sickness. But are your prenatal vitamins making it worse?
Prenatal vitamin ingredients like iron and folic acid are important building blocks for a tiny human, but they can also upset your stomach.
Here’s how to keep taking those uber-important prenatal vitamins and reduce their stomach-churning effects.
Your belly has probably been rocking and roiling, making you feel a liiiiittle green, since you found out you’re pregs.
Mild nausea is common in pregnancy, but your prenatal vitamin could be to blame. Here’s why prenatals can be rough on your stomach.
Iron is often added to prenatal vitamins to help prevent iron deficiency anemia. That’s because being preggo is very demanding on your blood supply and circulation, which can affect your iron levels.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, supplements that contain ferrous sulfate (a type of iron) are more likely to cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects — like stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and farting — than supplements that do not contain it.
In a 2015 review, researchers found that more people experienced nausea when taking ferrous sulfate than when taking a placebo. The researchers also looked at seven trials involving pregnant women and found that taking iron supps increased GI effects.
Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate (aka vitamin B9), which helps your bébé’s brain, skull, and spinal cord develop. It’s a common ingredient in prenatal formulas and can help prevent developmental issues for the neural tube, which becomes the brain and spinal cord.
Folic acid can also make some folks feel ill, causing side effects like nausea, bloating, or loss of appetite. But these symptoms are rare. And when they do happen, they’re usually mild and don’t last long.
If you feel sick after taking gummy prenatal vitamins, folic acid — not iron — may be to blame. Gummy vitamins typically don’t contain any added iron.
Other prenatal side effects
Your changing hormones can slow down your digestion and bowel movements, really backing you up and making you feel pukey. (Not to mention those mood swings and 3 a.m. peanut butter cravings.)
Adding more iron from your prenatal can make your existing nausea and poop probs worse. Plus, at some points in pregnancy, swallowing anything might give you the heaves.
If you’re already feeling sick, swallowing a giant prenatal vitamin might increase the squick factor.
Though morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, some people experience it throughout pregnancy (not fair!). Despite the term “morning sickness,” pregnancy nausea can happen any time of day.
So, depending on when the nausea hits you, just swallowing prenatals may be triggering your morning sickness. Certain supplement ingredients (ahem, iron and folic acid) may also up the ick factor.
Pregnancy is often about finding the balance between feeling crappy and doing the things both your body and your bébé need. Welcome to parenthood!
Even if taking your prenatals makes you wanna ralph, it’s important to keep taking them so your growing babe gets enough vital nutrients.
Here are a few tips to help you take your prenatal vitamins and avoid the pukes.
Ask your OB or midwife
Your obstetrician will have the best insight on your pregnancy symptoms and nutritional needs. Ask them for advice on tweaking your supplements to manage nausea while still getting the vitamins and minerals you and the baby need.
Pack a snack
Try taking your prenatal vitamin with a meal or snack. Having something in your stomach might buffer the nauseating side effects of supplements.
Time it right
If your “morning” sickness peaks at a certain time of day, take your vitamins at a time when you’re not feeling sick. Supplements won’t do much good if you puke after taking them, right?
Supplement your supplements
Research suggests that taking vitamin B6 supplements may help with mild nausea in pregnancy. Just get your doc’s or midwife’s blessing!
Ginger can also be helpful for nausea, according to a 2010 research review. Try sipping ginger ale, eating ginger candy, or drinking a nausea-busting pregnancy smoothie.
Tweak your iron dose
Researchers have found that weekly doses of iron supplements may be easier to tolerate than daily supplements. Ask your go-to healthcare professional about taking a prenatal without iron and supplementing iron separately.
Change up your iron supplement
Switching up the type of iron you take may also help. Studies suggest that when it comes to iron deficiency in pregnancy, iron glycinate chelate is better tolerated and more effective than ferrous sulfate.
According to a small 2014 study, another form of iron called iron bisglycinate (aka chelated iron) may also be less likely to cause GI probs in pregnancy.
Try a different form
You can find prenatal vitamins as capsules, softgels, pills, gummies, powder, and delayed-release capsules. One type of supplement might cause you less nausea than another, depending on how it breaks down in your stomach. Some forms may also be more appetizing if you’re dealing with morning sickness.
While you’re fishing around for prenatal supplements that won’t make you sick, here are a few options that might be better for sensitive stomachs.
- $ = $0.75–$1.50 per dose
- $$ = $1.51–$2.00 per dose
- $$$ = over $2.00 per dose
Ancient Nutrition Ancient Multi Prenatal
- Price: $
- Type: capsule
- Dose: 3 capsules
This whole-food blend contains the full range of vitamins and minerals needed to support a growing bump, plus a traditional Chinese medicine blend that includes ginger root to help curb nausea.
Bonus points: It’s gluten- and diary-free and contains folate (L-5-MTHF) instead of folic acid.
A few downsides: This product does include iron, so it may not be the best option if iron is causing your probs. It doesn’t contain choline or DHA, which are both important nutrients during pregnancy. And some folks with morning sickness can’t stomach taking three large pills.
Perelel Prenatal Packs
- Price: $$
- Type: assorted capsules
- Dosage: 1 pack (5 capsules/day)
Perelel subscription packs have supplement combos designed for each stage of pregnancy or for when you’re trying to conceive or supporting your bod after birth. (We love a good vitamin curation!)
If prenatals kick off your morning sickness, the 1st Trimester pack has an “anti-nausea” blend of vitamin B6 and ginger to help ease nausea. It also has added folate (L-5-MTHF) instead of folic acid.
Just note that you still have to take five pills with food, and it has iron.
Needed Prenatal Multi Powder
- Price: $$$
- Type: powder
- Dosage: 2 scoops
If you’re prone to nausea when you take pills, a powder prenatal might be a better choice. This formula has all the nutrients you need in a powder form that you can mix into smoothies, fresh juice, or your milk of choice. It doesn’t contain iron, and it includes the methyl form of folate.
The brand says this blend may feel v. energizing, so try to avoid taking it before bedtime.
If you’re new to taking this many vitamins, some folks also find it easier to transition from 1/2 scoop to 2 full scoops rather than start with the whole shebang. And def make sure you take this with a meal if you don’t make a big smoothie.
Best Nest Wellness Mama Bird Prenatal Multi+ Iodine and Iron Free
- Price: $
- Type: caplet
- Dosage: 1 caplet
Since not every parent-to-be actually needs additional iron, opting for a prenatal without iron may help curb nausea. This vitamin skips the iron (and the iodine for peeps with thyroid concerns) and contains ginger root and chamomile to help reduce nausea.
Just make sure to talk with a healthcare pro about anemia and about whether you need iron supplements throughout your pregnancy. Every bumpin’ body is different.
If your prenatal vitamins are making you sick, you may be tempted to skip them and spare your stomach. But you should keep taking your vites to get the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.
Your nutrient needs increase during pregnancy (you *are* growing a whole other human, after all). And nausea and appetite changes can make it even harder to get all the vitamins and minerals you need from food alone.
There’s also evidence that taking a prenatal vitamin before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of severe nausea during pregnancy.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, here’s a rundown of the nutrients you need to support your pregnancy and help your bébé grow:
- calcium for building bones and teeth
- iron to help your red blood cells deliver oxygen to the baby
- iodine for brain-building
- choline for spinal cord and brain development
- vitamin A to help bones grow and to create healthy skin and eyes
- vitamin C for healthy gums, teeth, and bones
- vitamin D for building bones, teeth, skin, and healthy vision
- vitamin B6 to form red blood cells and help you use fats, protein, and carbohydrates
- vitamin B12 to form red blood cells and help your nervous system
- folic acid to help with brain and spinal cord development and support the growth of the baby and placenta
It might be hard to tell what’s typical pregnancy queasiness and what’s a problem when you’re tossing your cookies every day. Rest assured that most people have only mild morning sickness that goes away after the first trimester.
Talk with your OB or midwife if you have morning sickness after the first trimester or if you have any of these symptoms:
- You’ve lost more than 2 pounds.
- Your vomit is brown or has blood in it.
- You’re vomiting more than three times a day and can’t keep food or liquids down.
- You feel tired or confused.
- Your heart rate increases.
- You’re peeing less than usual.
Can prenatal vitamins cause diarrhea?
Yes — if your supplement contains iron, diarrhea is a potential side effect, along with nausea and constipation.
What if I can’t take prenatals because of morning sickness?
Try a different formula or talk with your doctor about how to manage nausea while still getting the nutrients you need.
Do prenatal gummies make you nauseous?
Some people may have less nausea with gummy vitamins than with pills. That may be because most gummy vitamins don’t contain iron.
Do any prenatal vitamins help with nausea?
Prenatal vitamins that contain vitamin B6 or ginger may ease nausea. Some studies suggest that chamomile may help too.
Prenatal vitamins make me sick — do I really need them?
Yes! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends taking a prenatal vitamin to help you have a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of developmental issues.
To get your nutrients with fewer side effects, you may be able to change the type of supplement you take or try taking it at a different time of day.
Even if they’re making you sick, prenatal vitamins are recommended during pregnancy. You need all those extra building-block nutrients to help your body (and your growing baby) through the hard work of gestation.
Nausea can be an unpleasant side effect of taking prenatal vitamins, especially if they contain iron. But it’s still important to take them. Try changing the timing or formula of your vitamins to bypass nausea while getting all the nutrients you need.
When in doubt, chat with your midwife or OB about finding a new prenatal supplement.