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Multivitamin Before Pregnancy Helps Infant Weight Health

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, June 18, 2009, abstracted from “Effects of prenatal multimicronutrient supplementation on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analysis“ in the June 9, 2009 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Defined as "being born at a weight of less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces", low birth weight affects one in 13 babies born every year in the United States and plays a factor in 65 percent of infant deaths. Even if they survive, low birth weight babies may face serious health problems as newborns, and are at increased risk of long-term disabilities (1). The National Academy of Sciences estimates that premature births cost our healthcare system $26 billion per year (2).

Fortunately, supplementation with cod liver oil (3) and folic acid (4) has been found to help increase birth weight. Two studies in 2007 found that multivitamins (5, 6) also help increase birth weight. Now a new review of past research (7) has confirmed the benefit of multivitamin supplementation before pregnancy to help with birth weight in newborns. In the review, researchers analyzed 13 studies on multivitamins, as well as just iron-folic acid supplementation before pregnancy. The research ranged from 1998 (8) through 2008 (9) and included nearly 62,000 women.

The multivitamins contained varying levels of vitamin A, B1, B6, folic acid, zinc, iron, and copper. The researchers "observed a significant reduction in the risk of low birth weight" in both the multivitamin and iron-folic acid group. Specifically, there was a 19% decreased risk in the multivitamin group and a 17% reduced risk in the iron-folic acid group, compared to the placebo.

When looking at birth weight, infants in the multivitamin group were an average of 54 grams heavier than those in the iron-folic acid group. No significant differences were seen between the three groups for premature birth. For the researchers, "Prenatal multimicronutrient supplementation was associated with a significantly reduced risk of low birth weight and with improved birth weight when compared with iron-folic acid supplementation."

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA. You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.CompleteChiropracticHealthcare.com.


1.  “Low Birthweight” posted on the March of Dimes Website
2.  “Preterm Births Cost U.S. $26 Billion a Year; Multidisciplinary Research Effort Needed to Prevent Early Births” posted on www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11622
3.  Olafsdottir AS. Relationship between dietary intake of cod liver oil in early pregnancy and birth weight. BJOG. 2005 Apr;112(4):424-9
4.  Relton CL. The influence of erythrocyte folate and serum vitamin B12 status on birth weight. Br J Nutr. 2005 May;93(5):593-9, Multimicronutrient Supplementation for Undernourished Pregnant Women and the Birth Size of Their Offspring, A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial
5.  Piyush Gupta, MD, MAMS; Mily Ray, MD; Tarun Dua, MD; Gita Radhakrishnan, MD; Rajeev Kumar, MSc; H. P. S. Sachdev, MD, FAMS, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:58-64
6.  Fawzi WW. Vitamins and Perinatal Outcomes among HIV-Negative Women in Tanzania. N Engl J Med 2007; 356:1423-1431, Apr 5, 2007
7.  Shah PS. Effects of prenatal multimicronutrient supplementation on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analysis. CMAJ 2009; 180 (12). doi:10.1503/cmaj.081777.
8.  Fawzi WW, Msamanga GI, Spiegelman D, et al. Randomised trial of effects of vitamin supplements on pregnancy outcomes and T cell counts in HIV-1-infected women in Tanzania. Lancet 1998;351:1477–82
9.  Zeng L, Dibley MJ, Cheng Y, et al. Impact of micronutrient supplementation during pregnancy on birth weight, duration of gestation, and perinatal mortality in rural western China: double blind cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2008;337:a2001