Taking pregnancy multivitamins a ‘waste of money’, researchers find

Pregnant women who take multivitamins are wasting their money, a study has suggested. Researchers have concluded that the “heavily marketed” products for expectant women, which often cost in excess of £15 a month, are an “unnecessary expense” - as there is no evidence to suggest that they bring better health for mother and child. Instead, mothers are being urged to follow NHS recommendations by taking folic acid for the first trimester of pregnancy as well as vitamin D - both of which can be purchased at a fraction of the cost.

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.

The authors of the report

The detailed research, published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, saw experts assess the evidence on the benefits of folic acid, vitamin D, iron, vitamins C, E and A, as well as multivitamins during pregnancy. Although there was substantial evidence to suggest the use of folic acid could reduce the risk of conditions such as spina bifida, and “less clear cut” evidence which indicated vitamin D was beneficial, there was “no evidence” in support of multivitamins. The Health Food Manufacturers’ Association has described some of the findings are “misleading”, as evidence suggests many women of child-bearing age in the UK consume insufficient amounts of micronutrients such as iodine, iron and calcium.

Pregnant women may be vulnerable to messages about giving their baby the best start in life, regardless of cost, and be unaware that the only supplements recommended for all women during pregnancy are folic acid and vitamin D, which are available at relatively low cost.