Multivitamin and mineral supplements, often promoted to pregnant women as a means of giving their child the best possible start in life, are an “unnecessary expense” and do not result in better health outcomes for a mother or her baby, according to a review published in this month’s issue of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.
Instead, experts said women should focus on taking the single vitamins – available for a few pence per day – recommended by the NHS. These include folic acid in the first three months of pregnancy, and vitamin D. They should also follow a healthy diet.
Pregnancy multivitamins can cost more than £15 a month.
In the new research, a large panel of experts in the field reviewed available evidence on folic acid, vitamin D, iron, vitamins C, E, A, and multivitamins in pregnancy.
They found good evidence for the use of folic acid to reduce the risk of infants being born with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and some evidence – although “less clear cut” – for the use of vitamin D, which is important for bone and tooth formation and the ability to absorb calcium. But the experts found “no evidence” that women should take multivitamins, which often contain 20 or more vitamins and minerals.
The authors said that women were subjected to “heavy marketing” of multivitamins in pregnancy, but “much of the evidence for vitamin supplementation in pregnancy comes from studies carried out in low-income countries, where women are more likely to be undernourished or malnourished than within the UK population”.
Source: Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin