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Suboptimal nutrition or deficiencies during pregnancy can result in an increased risk of low birth weight, neural tube defects, congenital birth defects, complications of preterm delivery and rickets. The nutriture of the natal environment can also influence the risk of developing various chronic diseases later in life including type 2 diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy. A 2009 meta-analysis found prenatal multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy resulted in a significantly lower risk of low birth weight babies compared to a folic acid-iron combination.

In addition, low maternal micronutrient intake of zinc, calcium, magnesium, copper, selenium and vitamins A, B and C is associated with premature birth and low birth weight.

Multivitamins reduced the risk of placental abruption by 26% versus no supplementation and this risk was further reduced in combination with folic acid.

The maternal risk of developing pre-eclampsia is also reduced with the use of multivitamins during the periconceptual period.

Prenatal multivitamin supplementation has also demonstrated protective effects against the development of some forms of paediatric cancers. Although it is unknown which constituents are responsible for this effect, a meta-analysis found a protective effect against leukaemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma.

In selecting a quality multivitamin for pregnancy, I would suggest selecting one that fulfils the specific nutritional requirements of pregnancy. Of particular importance are appropriate levels of key nutrients including iodine, vitamin D, vitamin K, folic acid and B-vitamins and antioxidant nutrients such as betacarotene and vitamin C. This will provide the nutritional foundation for the health of mother and baby.