January 5, 2022/Pregnancy & Childbirth

When Should You Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins?

An expert outlines the best timing options

A pregnant person pours a blue and white pill into hand with shirt pulled up over bare belly

Making sure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need to maintain good health is always important. It’s especially essential when you’re pregnant, as your developing fetus depends on you for all of those needs.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Prenatal vitamins play a big role in helping keep both you and your baby healthy throughout the term of your pregnancy. But the ins and outs of adding them to your routine can raise a lot of questions. We turned to clinical pharmacy specialist Morgan King for answers.

Why it’s important to take prenatal vitamins

The big reason why people who are pregnant should take prenatal vitamins is pretty simple: you need to keep both you and your baby healthy. “All of the nutrients and vitamins a pregnant woman takes in will go to the baby first,” says King. “The baby needs that nutrition to grow.”

But the mother also needs those vitamins. “While the vitamins and nutrients are essential for the baby’s development, the mother also needs key vitamins for both her and the baby,” King notes.

Some of those include:

  • Folic acid for your baby’s neurological development.
  • Iron because your blood volume will double and to provide oxygen for your baby.
  • Calcium and vitamin D for your baby’s bone development.
  • Vitamin A helps your baby’s eye development.

Most prenatal vitamins should contain these, particularly iron and folic acid, both of which are essential. Check with your healthcare provider just in case, though, because if your prenatal vitamins don’t contain certain nutrients, they might recommend a stand-alone dose.

When should you start taking prenatal vitamins?

If you’re planning on getting pregnant, King says you should start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you begin trying. “When an Ob/Gyn looks at dating a pregnancy, they typically start from the patient’s last menstrual period. That means when you find out you’re pregnant, you could be four to six weeks along in your pregnancy already,” she says.

Not all pregnancies are planned, of course, and King says that if you’re not taking prenatal vitamins at the time you discover you’re pregnant, you should start as soon as possible. “Major development happens in the first trimester, those first 12 weeks,” she says. “The spinal cord and brain are developing so those vitamins help with that.”


Additionally, mothers who are breastfeeding are encouraged to continue taking prenatal vitamins to keep providing those nutrients via breast milk.

Can prenatal vitamins help you conceive?

No, prenatal vitamins won’t help you conceive, says King.

Can it ever be too late to start prenatal vitamins?

King adds that it’s never too late to start taking prenatal vitamins, either. “While it’s certainly best to start taking them as soon as possible, the baby is developing and growing during the entire pregnancy,” she says.

Should I stop taking my daily multivitamin when I start prenatal vitamins?

Once you start taking prenatal vitamins, you should stop taking your daily multivitamin. “You want to make sure you stay within that recommended daily amount of each vitamin,” King says. “While you’ll generally be okay if you go over 100% for some vitamins, others, like Vitamin A, can lead to certain complications.”

If you’re not sure about your intake, check with your healthcare provider who can help you plan out what, if any, extra vitamins you may need. “It’s not out of the question that a mother may need extra folic acid if they’ve had previous complications or extra iron if they’re anemic,” King adds.

Is there a particular time of day to take prenatal vitamins?

“No time of day is any better than another to take prenatal vitamins,” King says.

What form of prenatal vitamin is best?

There are a variety of types of prenatal vitamins you can choose from and it doesn’t matter which you take. “If you look at an ingredients list comparing tablets, capsules and even gummies, the components will be pretty similar,” King says.


Checking the ingredients is important, too, to make sure you’re getting everything you need. Most gummies don’t contain iron, King says, since young children may try to snag some thinking they’re candy and too much iron is dangerous for children.

When should you stop taking prenatal vitamins?

King says if you’re not breastfeeding your child, it’s okay to switch back to a daily multivitamin after birth.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s encouraged to continue taking prenatal vitamins until you stop breastfeeding to keep taking in nutrients that provide benefits for both you and your baby.

But, King adds, if you choose to switch back to your daily multivitamin while breastfeeding, that’s okay, too. “You want to make sure you’re optimizing your nutrition since you’re providing those nutrients to the baby. As long as you’re getting the appropriate amount of those vitamins and nutrients, that’s what’s most important.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

assorted foods containing vitamin B
January 7, 2024/Nutrition
A Close Look at Each of the B Vitamins: Benefits, Food Sources and More

B vitamins do a lot for your body, like activate enzymes that give you energy, create blood cells and prevent DNA damage

woman taking prenatal vitamins
Expectant Moms: Choose a Prenatal Vitamin With These Key Nutrients

The lowdown on folate, calcium, vitamin D and more

Pregnant person sitting on exam table speaking with healthcare provider
Vaccinations During Pregnancy: What You Need and What To Avoid

Staying up-to-date on vaccines encourages a healthy pregnancy, but not all vaccines are recommended when you’re pregnant

Pregnant woman, with different options to induce labor floating around her
Is There Any Guaranteed Way To Induce Labor?

Science says only one way actually works, but there are a few others that are still safe to try

Happy pregnant woman with hands around her belly, with belly button pushing out
March 27, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
Why Your Belly Button Changes When You’re Pregnant

When a growing fetus puts pressure on your abdomen, your belly button may pop out or even flatten

Pregnant person sitting on birthing ball, with midwife consulting nearby
February 12, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
Nurse Midwife vs. Doula: Who Does What?

One is a trained care professional, while the other is a medical caregiver, but both can be important parts of your birthing team

glass of nettle tea with fresh nettle herbs around the cup
February 7, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
Why To Be Wary of Lactation Supplements To Increase Breast Milk Supply

Breastfeeding supplements can be a needless expense at best, and risky at worst

pregnant female feeling her breasts
February 5, 2024/Pregnancy & Childbirth
When Does Milk Supply Regulate When You’re Breastfeeding?

Typically, milk comes in a few days after birth and regulates around four weeks after delivery

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey