Hi, sweet reader! Cassy Joy here. If you’re diving into this topic, trying to suss out the very best prenatal you could possibly take, I just want to give you a squeeze. In writing this, I’ve had 3 babies (in pretty quick succession) and have experienced my own myriad of highs and lows with bouts of clarity and confusion in my journey to “build a healthy baby while maintaining a healthy me.” The spirit behind this “let’s pit them against each other” article is to show, side-by-side, how two of the most popular “healthier” prenatals available to us now compare. I asked my (brilliant) friend, Stephanie Greunke, RD, (co-host of the wildly popular Doctor Mom Podcast) to take the lead on this often confusing topic. She poured over the most recent literature, dove into these two brands (Needed and Ritual), and distilled out the relevant bits of information we need to make an informed decision. I hope this article leaves you feeling more empowered, less confused, and definitely on your way to optimal nourishment.

A container of Needed prenatal powder with a scoop in the scooper sitting in front of it on a wooden countertop.
A yellow background with a bottle of Ritual prenatal sitting on a clear pedestal.

What are prenatal vitamins, and why are they so beneficial?

Pregnancy and postpartum are two of the most nutritionally demanding times in a woman’s life. While it would be great if women could get everything they need from food, this is nearly impossible. Soil depletion, loss of nutrients due to storage and transportation, food aversions, digestive issues that impair nutrient absorption, and the increased nutrient requirements of pregnancy and postpartum make prenatal vitamins a necessity. 

A high-quality prenatal vitamin supports optimal nutrient levels before, during, and after pregnancy. It supports fetal development and healthy pregnancy outcomes and helps moms stay nourished and feel their best.

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

There are over one hundred prenatal vitamins on the market, so how do you choose the best option?

Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. Some brands cut corners to improve their profit margin, others appeal to consumers by marketing fewer capsules or gummy options that include only a few nutrients like folic acid. Others offer more vitamins and minerals, but are dosed based on RDAs. 

A nutrient’s RDA is the bare minimum amount needed to avoid deficiency. While seeing 100% for a specific vitamin looks promising, it may not be providing enough to meet the significant nutrient demands of pregnancy and postpartum and optimize health outcomes. In fact, while 97% of women take a prenatal, 95% are still deficient in important nutrients needed for pregnancy. 

Some nutrients aren’t ideal to include in a prenatal, including iron. While some women need additional iron during pregnancy, it’s best taken separately. If you already have high iron levels, taking 18 mg a day before and throughout your pregnancy could lead to excess iron levels, which can be detrimental. Additionally, iron competes with other minerals so it’s best taken away from your multivitamin and dosed according to your labs.

When should you start taking a prenatal supplement?

Prenatal vitamins aren’t just important when you find out you’re pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are recommended before and after pregnancy to make sure you’re optimally nourished. Most healthcare practitioners recommend taking a prenatal vitamin for at least three months prior to conception. This supports healthy egg quality, helps replenish nutrient deficiencies women may be experiencing heading into pregnancy, and helps your body be in a more optimally nourished state. 

Taking a prenatal well before conceiving has the potential to help you feel better and support a healthy pregnancy. For example, ensuring enough folate (ideally in the more active form methylfolate) for at least a month prior to conceiving can ensure you’re consuming enough of this nutrient to support healthy spinal cord development which starts to develop before some women find out they are pregnant. Taking enough B6, ideally in the bioavailable form P-5-P, can help support nausea or “morning” sickness in the first trimester. It’s also a nice insurance policy to see you through the first few weeks of pregnancy when your food intake may be limited due to nausea or aversions.

Take a prenatal before, during, and after pregnancy for the nourishment you need to feel your best, stay optimally nourished, and give your baby the support their body needs to thrive from the very start.

Three key things to look for in your prenatal:

  1. Key vitamins and minerals in optimal forms and dosages.
  2. Third-party testing.
  3. Easy-to-take form.

Ritual vs. Needed

Let’s discuss the differences between two popular Prenatal brands, Ritual and Needed. 

Ritual Prenatal

A clear bottle of Ritual prenatal vitamins.

What’s in it?

Ritual’s prenatal offers 12 nutrients in a two capsule serving. The 12 nutrients include folate, iodine, choline, iron, and omega-3, all of which are important for mom and baby. Ritual offers your choice of scented insert (citrus or mint) to help offset any smells that may contribute to aversions.

 

Quality of Ingredients

While Ritual is thoughtful about forms of nutrients, choosing methylated and chelated forms, the dosages are on the conservative side and may not be enough for what a mom needs to thrive. 

Here are some examples:

  • Choline: While choline is included, there’s only 55 mg. 95% of women aren’t meeting their baseline choline needs. Pregnant women need at least 450 mg/day to meet their needs, with new research suggesting more optimal outcomes with intakes of 930 mg/day. You’d need to eat at least 3 eggs each day along with this prenatal to hit the recommended amount for pregnancy. Needed’s Prenatal Multi includes 400 mg of choline, nearly 7x the amount that’s in Ritual’s.
  • Vitamin D: While vitamin D is included, there’s only 2,000 IUs in this prenatal. The latest research suggests 4,000 IUs is a more optimal amount for pregnancy. Depending on your lab results, you’ll likely need to include an additional vitamin D supplement on top of this prenatal to support optimal levels. Needed’s Prenatal Multi includes 4,000 IUs of Vitamin D, double what’s in Ritual’s.
  • Iron: As mentioned above, not all women need supplemental iron. Also, iron competes with other minerals so it’s best taken away from your multivitamin and dosed according to your labs. Needed’s Prenatal Multi intentionally leaves off iron. Needed uses a gentle form of iron that’s available separately, at a dose that makes it easy to adjust the dosage to your needs. 
  • Packaging Concerns: Omega-3 and some vitamins are prone to oxidation and nutrient loss when exposed to light. While their transparent packaging looks pretty, it has the potential to reduce the potency of nutrients. Needed’s Prenatal Multi is packaged in a way that reduces nutrient loss due to light exposure. It also intentionally leaves off omega-3 as that nutrient is best taken separately and dosed higher than what’s included in most prenatals. Needed offers a sustainably and cleanly-sourced omega-3 that’s available separately. 

Cost

$39.00 for a one-time purchase. Ritual does not offer tiered discounts for subscribers.

Needed Prenatal

3 Needed nutrition products propped up on a piece of wood with a pink flower on top.

What’s in it?

Needed offers the most complete prenatal in capsules and vanilla-flavored powder. Their Prenatal Multi Capsules and Prenatal Multi Powder include 24 vitamins and minerals in ideal forms and dosages. Their vanilla-flavored Prenatal Multi Powder is an ideal choice for those navigating pill fatigue or nausea in the first trimester. Needed also offers scented inserts to help support mamas who are more sensitive to smells. 

Quality of Ingredients

Needed’s Prenatal Multi was formulated in collaboration with perinatal practitioners, using data from testing thousands of mamas’ nutrient levels. This means the forms of the ingredients used and the dosages in the product meet the increased demands of pregnant and nursing women.

Needed is also intentional about their sourcing. They avoid unsustainably-sourced ingredients (like vegan D3) and unnecessary fillers. They also leave off nutrients better taken separately, such as omega-3 and iron.

Cost

Starting at $39.99 for a one-time purchase. Needed offers 10%, 15%, 25%, and 30% discounts on their monthly, 3-month, 6-month, and 9-month long subscriptions, respectively, with a lowest price of $27.99. 

Since a Prenatal vitamin is something you want to take at least 3 months before conceiving, during, and after pregnancy, a subscription makes the most sense.

Comparing Formulas

  • Nutritional Value Comparison: if you’re looking for the most comprehensive prenatal multivitamin, with a variety of vitamins and minerals you and your baby need to thrive in an easy-to-take form, Needed is the easy choice.
  • Price Comparison: with Needed’s Prenatal, you’re getting twice as many nutrients (12 vs 24) in more optimal dosages for the same price or just slightly higher than Ritual. Needed offers discounts on their subscriptions, which are delivered to your doorstep, for free.

An infographic outlining some of the differences between Needed's prenatal and Ritual's prenatal.

Bottom Line: Which One’s Better?

The prenatal I recommend is Needed, because:

  • Needed includes twice as many key nutrients in optimal dosages.
  • Needed third-party tests each batch and is Clean Label Project Verified.
  • Needed offers their prenatal in both capsule and powder form.
  • Needed is recommended by over 4,000 perinatal practitioners.
  • Needed offers a free nutrition consultation to subscribers.
  • Needed offers discounts on their convenient subscription offerings.
  • Needed leaves off iron – not all moms need it and it’s best taken separately.
  • Needed packages their products in a way that protects the nutrients from losing potency.

Frequently Asked Questions

You asked, and we’re answering! Below are the most frequently asked questions we received via Instagram about Ritual vs. Needed.

Which prenatal is the easiest to digest?

A lot of women report that supplements that contain iron are hard on their stomach, giving them stomachaches after taking it. Discomfort from consuming iron supplements can sometimes be eased by consuming the iron with a large meal, however, as noted above, iron competes with other minerals so skipping it in a prenatal supplement makes the most sense. If you need iron (not all women actually need it), many perinatal practitioners recommend taking it separately from the other nutrients in a prenatal and in an amount dosed according to your individual labs.

All that said, Needed’s prenatal does not include iron while Ritual’s does, so if you find that supplements with iron often upset your stomach, opting for Needed’s iron-less prenatal may be a better option for you for that reason alone.

What is the main difference between Needed’s Prenatal Multi Capsules and Needed’s Prenatal Multi Essentials?

From Needed’s website: “Our Prenatal Multi Essentials (3 capsules per day) includes 23 key nutrients in supportive dosages including: Folate as Methylfolate (B9) and 150mg of Choline for baby’s brain nervous system development, two active forms of B12 for mama’s energy metabolism, active B6 to support pregnancy discomforts such as nausea, and 2,000IU of Vitamin D3 to support mama+baby’s immune system. Our Prenatal Multi Essentials dosing is far more comprehensive than a one-a-day prenatal, but lower than the optimal dosing in our Prenatal Multi Powder or Capsules (8 capsules per day).”

Why do you have to take 8 Needed Prenatal Capsules?

From Needed’s website: “8 capsules allows our Prenatal Multi to deliver all of the vitamins, minerals, and botanicals needed for complete, comprehensive nourishment — many of the best nutrients are bulky and can’t fit into 1- or 2-a-day prenatal capsules. You’ll see that a number of nutrient dosages are quite unique including 400mg of Choline and 200mg of Magnesium. With our capsules, it is easy to divide the full dose among meals throughout the day.”



About the Author

Steph Greunke

Steph Greunke is a registered dietitian and internally recognized speaker specializing in elimination diets, women’s health, postpartum nutrition, and behavioral psychology who holds additional certifications in perinatal mental health and fitness. Over the last 12 years, she has helped thousands of individuals improve their health and their relationship with food. She co-hosts the “Doctor Mom” podcast, runs a postpartum nutrition program called Postpartum Reset, and is the Head of Practitioner Relationships at Needed.

Steph helps individuals loosen unnecessary diet restrictions and support a healthy blood sugar response, which ultimately improves their mental health, energy, sleep, cravings, and vitality. Steph works in partnership with her clients to customize a nutrition approach that works for their unique preferences and health goals. She believes your nutrition plan should feel sustainable, fun, flexible, and empowering. You can find her at stephgreunke.com and on IG @stephgreunke.


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2 Comments

  1. I looked into the Needed prenatal and loved a lot of things about it. Unfortunately, it was too expensive for my budget. In looking at their website, it shows the lowest you can get the prenatal capsules for is $41.99 a month with a 9-month subscription. On top of that, it was my understanding that the omega-3 would also need to be added since that’s not in the prenatal which is an additional cost. Could you share how you’re able to get it for $28 as mentioned in the article? Thanks for sharing all this information, it’s very helpful.

    1. Would love to know the answer to this as we are 3 months from trying to conceive and would like to start prepping my body. I too am interested in Needed but adding additional cost for omega 3 is just way out of budget.