Pregnancy supplements do not improve the mother's or the baby's health, a new study has found. Women who take these prenatal mineral supplements and multivitamins could be wasting both their time and money.
The researchers said that the marketing of these products seems to lack evidence in terms of health improvements for both mother and child. Expecting mothers could be "vulnerable to messages" in their goal to give their child the best possible start in life regardless of the price tag. For instance, people spend about £15 ($19.90) monthly for pregnancy supplements.
"The only supplements recommended for all women during pregnancy are folic acid and vitamin D, which are available at relatively low cost," the researchers said.
According to the review, the prenatal supplements are popular among expecting mothers because the deficiency in key nutrients during pregnancy has been associated with conditions such as restricted fetal growth, pre-eclampsia, skeletal deformity, neural tube defects and low birth weight.
The prenatal supplements often include over 20 vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc, copper and selenium. These also contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E and K.
However, the study published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin journal found no evidence that these prenatal supplements can deliver health improvements beyond what vitamin D and folic acid can do. Findings suggest that mothers-to-be should not be fooled by products with such unsupported claims and should simply stick to a healthy diet.
"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 Royal College of Midwives' Janet Fyle.
The supplements industry said the review findings were "unhelpful" and "confusing" for expecting mothers. But while the review findings caused a stir, it did confirm the current and official national advice that pregnant women should be taking enough vitamin D and folic acid.
In particular, mothers-to-be are advised to have a daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid until they reach their 12th week of pregnancy. This will help reduce the risks of neural tube defects, which could affect the baby's spine and brain.
Among the clinical trials the researchers reviewed, the team found little data that vitamin D can help reduce a woman's risk of pregnancy or birth complications. However, the reviews supported the advice that mothers should take it daily during the pregnancy and breastfeeding months.