Expectant mothers want the best for their unborn child, and oftentimes that means taking vitamin supplements to ensure optimum health for both themselves and their baby.
However, a study published by the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin suggests that the multivitamins marketed to pregnant women don’t do much in preventing health complications at birth.
“For most women who are planning to become pregnant or who are pregnant, complex multivitamin and mineral preparations promoted for use during pregnancy are unlikely to be needed and are an unnecessary expense,” the study concludes.
“We found no evidence to recommend that all pregnant women should take prenatal multi-nutrient supplements beyond the nationally advised folic acid and vitamin D supplements."
The researchers reviewed data from dozens of previous studies examining the effects of taking multivitamin supplements in pregnant women. These supplements can be a combination of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E and K, along with folic acid, iodine, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and selenium.
The study also looked at the effects of taking individual vitamins such as A, C, D and E as well as iron and folic acid.
“We found no evidence to recommend that all pregnant women should take prenatal multi-nutrient supplements beyond the nationally advised folic acid and vitamin D supplements, generic versions of which can be purchased relatively inexpensively,” researchers said.
The review did confirm that folic acid helps to lower the risk of birth defects by up to 70 per cent, and while the data for the benefits of vitamin D isn’t as clear-cut, researchers advise women should still take it throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
"We would encourage women who are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant to have a healthy, varied diet including fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside taking folic acid supplements."
In Australia and other developed countries, pregnant women can ensure optimum health for themselves and their baby by eating a balanced diet while taking the recommended dose of vitamin D (5 micrograms) and folic acid (600 micrograms).
"We would encourage women who are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant to have a healthy, varied diet including fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside taking folic acid supplements,” said Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives in the UK.
"We would also stress that there is no need for pregnant women to 'eat for two’. This is a myth, and all that is required is a normal balanced amount of food.”