Prenatal Vitamins: Do They Work?

Pregnant women who take prenatal vitamins may not need them, according to a review of published research on effectiveness.

A future mother wants nothing but the best for her child.

That’s often why she takes prenatal vitamins.

Supplements are often sold and marketed as necessary items for proper fetal development.

However, these vitamins do not have enough research to support their use, according to a review of the available evidence published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).

Although many vitamins have no noticeable benefit, researchers say pregnant women have good reason to supplement their diets with folic acid and vitamin D.

According to the researchers, most multivitamins are just an added cost with no documented return on investment.

“We found no evidence to recommend that all pregnant women take prenatal multinutrient supplements beyond the nationally recommended folic acid and vitamin D supplements, generic versions of which can be purchased at a relatively low price. low,” the researchers concluded.

Read more: Americans spend billions on vitamins and herbs that don’t work »

Some over-the-counter vitamins marketed to pregnant women contain 20 or more vitamins or minerals.

To see if these vitamins had the necessary science to back up their use, DTB researchers scoured the published literature to determine the effectiveness of their claims.

Folic acid — the gold standard of prenatal vitamins — made the cut. Along with vitamin D, it is the only supplement the DTB recommends for all pregnant women.

Folic acid, a synthetic version of folate, helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly, or a birth defect where a child is born without parts of the brain or skull.

The protective benefits of folic acid against these conditions were first identified in the 1980s and its effectiveness has continued in the scientific literature.

According to DTB researchers and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so women of childbearing age should take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid Daily.

According to the researchers, women most at risk of having a child with NTDs may benefit from taking up to 5 milligrams of folic acid daily during pregnancy.

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone development, as it increases calcium consumption from the intestine.

Studies show, just like folic acid, that supplementing your diet with vitamin D during pregnancy results in better health.

Women in the UK are advised to take 0.01 milligrams of vitamin D daily throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The DTB, a publication of the British Medical Journal, notes that the UK is not known for having a lot of sunshine and the dark winter months make it difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun.

Read more: Should the FDA regulate vitamins and other supplements? »

Iron is often another suggested supplement for pregnant women who sometimes suffer from anemia when the body does not have enough red blood cells.

Iron can help with this condition, but not all women need it. Iron supplementation can also cause stomach irritation, constipation, or diarrhea.

Other vitamins in multivitamin supplements such as vitamins A, C, and E lack evidence to suggest their effectiveness in helping the mother or child.

That’s not to say that some women can benefit from these vitamins, but there isn’t enough research to suggest. all pregnant women should take them.

“For most women planning to become pregnant or who are pregnant, the complex multivitamin and mineral preparations recommended for use during pregnancy are unlikely to be necessary and are an unnecessary expense,” the article concludes. DTB.

While women in developing countries may lack these important nutrients in their diets, women in countries like the UK and the US have access to these vitamins through their diets.

The best way to get needed nutrients is from the foods we eat, not necessarily through a supplement industry that has little oversight from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to researchers, future mothers want the best for their child.

“Pregnant women may be vulnerable to messages about giving their baby the best start in life, no matter the cost,” they conclude. “The marketing of such products does not appear to be supported by evidence of improved child or maternal outcomes.”

Patricia J. Callender