pregnant woman
There is no proof taking multivitamins during pregnancy boost the health of mothers and babies, researchers have said Getty

Mothers-to-be do not need to take multivitamins during their pregnancy in order to give their child the best start in life, according to researchers. A review of research has found there is not enough evidence to prove these pills will boost the health of both mothers and babies.

Instead it suggested that every woman should include Vitamin D and folic acid supplements, which are available at a relatively low cost, as well as focus on a balanced diet for healthy living.

Experts reviewed the already published research on folic acid, Vitamin D, iron, Vitamins C, E, A and multivitamin supplements that pregnant women have been taking. The review of the research was published in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (Dtb).

However, the report mentions there is strong evidence to support use of folic acid; the UK health guidance advises a normal pregnant woman in her first trimester to take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, to protect the foetus from developing neural tube defects (abnormalities of brain and spinal cord) by the end of 12 weeks.

It also found some "less clear cut" evidence for the use of Vitamin D, although a daily dose of 10 micrograms during pregnancy and breastfeeding has been recommended for healthier bones and tooth formation.

However, the panel warned against the intake of too much Vitamin A supplement, which can harm the baby. They further added that research reports do not show evidence of any obvious clinical benefit of taking other supplements, which mostly contain 20 vitamins or minerals, in pregnant women who were well nourished.

The Dtb report pointed out that most of the studies based on multivitamins have been carried out in low income countries, where women are more likely to be undernourished or malnourished than women in Britain. As a result, UK women are subjected to heavy marketing and taking multivitamin supplements are an "unnecessary expense", it said.

"The marketing of such products does not appear to be supported by evidence of improvement in child or maternal outcome," the research review concluded, suggesting that: "Pregnant women may be vulnerable to messages about giving their baby the best start in life, regardless of cost."