Nurturing life Your reference in perinatal nutrition, from pregnancy to childhood

Why is it so important for low-income pregnant women to take a prenatal supplement?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary

A low income is often associated with food insecurity. Therefore, pregnant women with a low income are at risk for nutritional deficiencies that can affect the development of their unborn baby. Prenatal multivitamins help women meet their vitamin and mineral needs, and they are safe.

Health Canada recommends taking a multivitamin containing folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron for all pregnant women. Women with low income may, among other things, present a deficit in iron and vitamin B12, as these nutrients are found mostly in animal foods (such as meat), which are generally expensive.

About 30% of low-income pregnant women suffer from anemia, a secondary effect of iron deficiency. This condition increases the risk of low birth weight for the newborn, and possibly prematurity and perinatal mortality because it decreases the amount of oxygen carried to the foetus and causes the secretion of stress hormones in the body.

Particular attention should also be paid to vitamin D, because it is quite difficult to meet the needs of this vitamin through diet only. Vitamin D is essential for the formation of bones and teeth. The multivitamin should also contain vitamin D.

Because of food insecurity, low socioeconomic status predisposes to risk factors for low birth weight in newborns. However, studies show reduced numbers of low birth weight babies when the mother takes a multivitamin supplement during pregnancy, especially in populations at risk of deficiency.

At the Montreal Diet Dispensary, there are many pregnant clients who do not consume enough fruits, vegetables nor animal foods. Before the intervention of a nutritionist, a risk of deficiency of certain very important vitamins and minerals is often identified. .

It is essential to stress that prenatal multivitamins do not replace meals, but complete them. Indeed, as the need for vitamins and minerals are increased during pregnancy, prenatal supplements fill additional needs only. Three balanced meals and 2-3 snacks composed of a variety of foods and of good nutritional value are essential every day to meet the needs of the mother and the foetus.

Finally, prenatal vitamins are safe for pregnant women, because they do not contain the maximum tolerable amounts of these nutrients, even when they are added to the nutrients provided by food. However, you should never exceed the number of tablets per day recommended on the label. Several brands (English to follow) are available on the market and are offered at different costs (English to follow) to meet the needs of pregnant women.


  • Besso, A. (2015). Is taking a multivitamin during pregnancy necessary and effective? Literature Review. Dispensaire diététique de Montréal.
  • Institute of Medicine. (1990). Nutrition During Pregnancy: Part I: Weight Gain, Part II: Nutrient Supplements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • Kaiser, L., & Allen, L. H. (2008). Position of the American Dietetic Association: nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(3), 553-561.
  • Shah, P. S., & Ohlsson, A. (2009). Effects of prenatal multimicronutrient supplementation on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 180(12), E99-E108.
  • Utomo, B., & Hidayat, A. (2009). Preventing low birthweight through maternal multiple micronutrient supplementation: a cluster-randomized, controlled trial in Indramayu, West Java. Food & Nutrition Bulletin, 30(Supplement 4), 488-495.


The Public Health Agency of Canada has contributed financially to the production of Nurturing Life.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.