Vitamin and mineral requirements are increased during pregnancy to support fetal growth. Prenatal multivitamins are a safe way to help meet these elevated needs.
Prenatal multivitamins for all pregnant women
Pregnant women require higher intakes of certain vitamins and minerals to support the growth of their unborn child. For various reasons, it can be difficult to meet those needs solely through diet, particularly when it comes to iron and folic acid. This is why Health Canada recommends a multivitamin containing folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron for all pregnant women.
Are there certain contexts in which prenatal multivitamins are particularly important?
Financial difficulties can affect the quantity and the quality of the foods that are purchased. Indeed, several nutritious foods such as meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables can be particularly expensive. About 30% of pregnant women who live with limited financial resources suffer from anemia, which can result from a lack of iron in the diet. This condition may increase the risk of prematurity and low birth weight.
Pregnant women who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet could also be at an increased risk for developing certain nutrient deficiencies as several foods are excluded from their diet. For instance, iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies could arise, as these nutrients are most often found in animal-derived foods such as meat, fish, and chicken.
Pregnancy discomforts (e.g., nausea and vomiting), which often occur in early pregnancy, may affect the quantity and the quality of the foods that are consumed. Moreover, it is not uncommon that women develop aversions to certain nutritious foods such as meat and fish during particular periods of their pregnancy.
In all of these cases, a prenatal multivitamin acts as a safety net to complement the diet of the pregnant woman. In fact, science shows that taking a prenatal multivitamin during pregnancy may reduce the risk of low birth weight, particularly in women at risk for deficiency.
Prenatal supplements and a balanced diet
Although important, prenatal multivitamins are not a replacement for nutritious foods. They simply supplement the diet. Three balanced meals and two to three snacks a day, made up of a variety of foods, are essential to meet the nutrient requirements of the mother and unborn child.
Prenatal multivitamins are safe for pregnant women. However, the recommended daily dose (i.e., the number of daily tablets), written on the label, should never be exceeded.