Fertility and pregnancy

Vitamins may cut risk of low weight newborns

London study

Women can reduce their chances of having an underweight baby if they take multivitamins during pregnancy, new research suggests.

A study of more than 400 women in the first trimester of pregnancy was carried out in Hackney, East London - described as a "socially deprived, multi-ethnic population within a developed country."

At the start of the study, 72 per cent of the women had low levels of vitamin D in their blood, 13 per cent were anaemic and 12 per cent were deficient in thiamin, said the researchers.

Around half of the women were given a tablet consisting of a "multiple micronutrient supplement" and the rest given a placebo (dummy pill).

The results, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that "small-for-gestational-age babies" were less than half as common in mothers taking the vitamins than those who took the placebo.

However, only 39 per cent of the women remained in the trial for the duration of the study, with some reporting sickness and constipation.

The researchers from the London Metropolitan University said this was the first time "findings in a study performed in either the UK or developed world showing that supplementing with a specific multivitamin supplement may help reduce the number of SGA infants born," and their results justified a larger study being done.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Louise Brough at the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition, who led the study said: “This research highlights the concerning fact that a number of women even in the developed world, are lacking in important nutrients during pregnancy.

It is especially important to have good nutrient levels during early pregnancy as this is a critical time for development of the fetus. Nutrient deficiencies are correctable and they may influence birth outcomes.

"Of course a good diet during pregnancy is important for a healthy pregnancy, but it is important, as with folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects, for those who do not have a good diet; a multivitamin and mineral supplement will help to reduce the risk of deficiency.”

This article was published on Fri 23 April 2010

Image © Melissa Schalke - Fotolia.com

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