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Nutritional supplements in pregnancy: commercial push or evidence based?

Glenville, Marilyn

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: December 2006 - Volume 18 - Issue 6 - p 642–647
doi: 10.1097/GCO.0b013e328010214e
Women's health

Purpose of review This review examines whether nutritional supplements during pregnancy have a role to play in the health of the mother, outcome of pregnancy or health of the baby. It will put into context the increased use of nutritional supplements in pregnancy and whether there is an evidence base for this supplementation.

Recent findings Women are not consuming enough nutrients from their diet alone and food is depleted in many important minerals. There is increasing support that supplementation of specific vitamins, minerals and ω-3 fatty acids can have a positive impact on maternal health in terms of prevention of preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm birth, low birthweight, gestational diabetes and also on the long-term health of the baby. There are some contradictory findings with antioxidants and prevention of preeclampsia, and these are discussed.

Summary With soil depletion, overfarming and transportation of foods over hundreds of miles with loss of nutrients en route, together with the increased use of convenience and fast foods, women can be over-fed, but under-nourished in our modern society. These can lead to nutrient deficiencies which can have an impact on the outcome of pregnancy. Evidence shows that supplementation can play a valuable role in the health of the pregnant mother and her baby. Emphasis must always be on eating a good diet, but given the limitations of the 21st century lifestyle and the nutritional content of food, good quality nutritional supplements should be used during pregnancy in combinations rather than isolated single nutrients.

Correspondence to Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, 14 St Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9NP, UK e-mail:,

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.