Pregnancy multivitamins 'are a waste of money'
Pregnancy multivitamins are a waste of money because most mothers-to-be do not need them, researchers claim.
In the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, researchers assert that they reviewed all evidence on folic acid, vitamin D, iron, vitamins C, E, and A, and multivitamin supplements. Accordingly, they said they found no evidence to support the idea that supplements boosted the wellbeing of healthy mothers and babies.
But they did state that pregnant women should ensure they take folic acid and vitamin D, as well as eat a well-balanced diet, as per National Health Service (NHS) guidelines. The researchers said folic acid had the strongest evidence to support its use - taking 400 micrograms a day can protect against abnormalities called neural tube defects in the developing baby, while taking vitamin D - 10 micrograms a day - is recommended for healthy bones in the mother and baby. As to the other supplements, there was no evidence of any obvious clinical benefit for most women who are well nourished, and high doses of vitamin A may even be of harm to a developing foetus.
"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," the report concludes. "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."
No need to eat for two
The researchers said pregnant women may feel pressured into buying expensive multivitamins in order to give their baby the best start in life. But they would do well to resist the marketing claims, which did not seem to translate into better outcomes for mother or baby, they said.
Janet Fyle, from the Royal College of Midwives, said their policy is to 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.
"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," she said.
However, the Health Food Manufacturers' Association, which represents the food supplements industry, insists that a substantial proportion of women of child-bearing age are not getting enough nutrients from diet alone. They claim food supplements could help plug dietary gaps. In any case, pregnant women should consult their GP if they are concerned they are vitamin deficient.