What’s the Buzz

The Best Postnatal Vitamins Recommended by Pharmacists

Cartoon woman holding newborn baby surrounded by pills and vitamins

If you’re a new mother, you’ve probably got your hands full. Caring for a newborn is a full-time job and then some. But while you may not have much time to think of your own needs, it’s important to look after yourself so that you can take care of your baby. Postnatal vitamin supplements are one way to optimize your health. 

This article will discuss why postnatal supplementation is important and how postnatal vitamins differ from prenatal vitamins. 

Why do you need prenatal and postnatal vitamins?

Prenatal Supplements

Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are available over the counter. They are specially formulated to optimize the health of the mother-to-be and her developing baby. These vitamins make up for any deficiencies in the dietary reference intakes (recommended amounts of essential nutrients in the diet). In other words, prenatal vitamins help ensure the proper nutritional needs are met for pregnant women and their unborn babies during pregnancy. 

Prenatal supplements contain various vitamins and minerals, of which the following are especially important:

  • Folic acid reduces the risk of serious birth defects such as spina bifida in the baby. Spina bifida is a common neural tube defect in which the spine is not fully developed. Choline intake is also important for the same reason.
  • Calcium supplementation during pregnancy can prevent bone loss in the mother as her body supplies minerals for bone growth in the baby. 
  • Iron helps the blood deliver oxygen in both the mother and the baby.
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid needed for the baby's eye and brain development. DHA is also linked to healthy birth weight and longer gestation. It is present in fish oil, and women who eat vegetarian diets may need DHA supplementation.

Keep in mind that while a daily prenatal supplement can provide nutritional support during pregnancy, it is not a substitute for a healthy diet.

Postnatal Supplements

Pregnancy depletes several nutrients in the body. A postnatal supplement helps restore these essential vitamins and minerals. 

Moreover, maternal supplementation with postnatal vitamins is important for breastfeeding mothers as they need even higher doses of certain nutrients than during pregnancy. Vitamin A, complex of B vitamins, vitamin D, DHA, iodine, and choline, are required to make breast milk.

Optimal nutrition through dietary intake and postnatal supplements is vital to help a new mother maintain her health through postpartum recovery while having enough energy to take care of her baby. 

What prenatal vitamins do doctors recommend?

Along with prenatal vitamins, balanced diets will provide the key nutrients pregnant women require. However, some women need higher amounts of certain nutrients based on their health history. That’s why your OB/GYN may recommend a specific brand of prenatal supplement that suits your lifestyle and preference.

When choosing prenatal and postnatal supplements, check for important nutrients like folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, DHA, iodine, and choline.

Keep in mind that taking excess prenatal vitamins can be harmful to you and your baby, so it’s best to stick to the recommended doses.

When should I start taking prenatal vitamins?

The ideal time to start taking a prenatal vitamin is before you conceive. Healthcare providers recommend that women of reproductive age who are planning a pregnancy at some point in the future should take a prenatal vitamin regularly. This is because the baby's neural tube (brain and spinal cord) develops very early in the pregnancy, often before you even realize you’re pregnant. Taking a prenatal vitamin before conception can help ensure you get adequate amounts of vital nutrients required for the baby’s healthy development throughout the pregnancy. 

What is better: Prenatal or postnatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are designed to meet the needs of an expectant mother and growing baby. Postnatal vitamins are formulated to meet the needs of new nursing mothers and their babies in the postpartum period (after giving birth). 

Prenatal and postnatal vitamins contain many of the same key vitamins and minerals. Consequently, many women choose to continue taking the same prenatal vitamin after they have given birth.

Though they are similar, postnatal multivitamins provide some key advantages specific to the postnatal period. For instance, a postnatal multivitamin can help new mothers recover from delivery and boost milk supply in nursing moms while balancing hormonal changes due to the drastic drop in estrogen and progesterone. In addition, the higher content of vitamin B in postnatal multivitamins also helps boost the energy level of new moms.

The decision about taking supplements—prenatal vs. postnatal vitamins—will depend on your health needs and preferences, such as vegan, gluten-free ingredients, or dosage forms such as gummies versus tablets. If you like a brand of prenatal vitamin during your pregnancy, you can certainly continue taking it in the postpartum period. However, if you have specific concerns in the postnatal period, such as issues with milk supply, a postnatal supplement may be the better option. 

A healthcare professional can help you choose if you’re unsure which one is right for you.

How to choose a good postnatal vitamin?

In addition to a balanced diet, a good postnatal supplement should contain all the essential vitamins and minerals in whole foods. These include vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega-3s, calcium, iron, choline, folate, zinc oxide, magnesium oxide, and selenium.

An over-the-counter postnatal multivitamin may not contain all the nutrients you need. Your doctor may recommend a postnatal vitamin and additional supplements to provide other nutrients. The goal is to meet your unique nutritional needs and the needs of  breastfed infants.

The right choice of postnatal is even more important for breastfeeding mothers. For example, if your postnatal supplement does not have enough vitamin D, you may need to take an additional supplement. Or, your doctor may recommend iron-containing products in addition to a postnatal vitamin to replenish iron stores which is essential for hemoglobin production. A fun fact about hemoglobin is that it helps red blood cells deliver oxygen from the lungs to all body parts. For newborns, iron is essential for a baby's development, especially in the brain. A daily dose of docosahexaenoic acid (often abbreviated as DHA) may be recommended for breastfeeding women to support the growth and development of breastfed babies.

How long after birth should you take postnatal vitamins?

Postnatal vitamins are usually started after giving birth. Your doctor will advise you about when to start taking these postnatal supplements. How long you should continue taking a postnatal vitamin depends on your reason for taking it. Some women continue taking a postnatal supplement until they stop breastfeeding. Others take a postnatal multivitamin until they feel more like their pre-pregnancy self. Keep in mind that mental health is as important as physical health; you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms of “baby blues,” taking good care of yourself will allow you to provide the best care for your new baby. 

Your healthcare professional can help you decide when to stop taking postnatal vitamins and switch to a regular multivitamin for women. 



  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9754-pregnancy-prenatal-vitamins
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561751/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33230681/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29603407/