WOMEN taking excessive nutrient supplements during pregnancy are wasting money and potentially putting their baby’s health at risk, experts say.
Healthy mums-to-be popping combinations of multivitamins, zinc, iron and calcium supplements are increasing their chances of delayed birth, induced labour and medical interventions, such as epidurals.
Griffith University researcher Janelle McAlpine believes the micro-nutrients in supplements act as an anti-inflammatory, which stop the body going into labour spontaneously.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about multivitamins and supplements, with women often spending money on products that don’t afford any real benefit, and may even be harmful,” she said.
Research by Ms McAlpine has found educated, wealthy women over 30 are most likely to buy into the marketing hype around the products and take multiple supplements when they do not have a deficiency.
Her research found women under 25 who took no supplements during pregnancy had the least complications and gave birth without inducement.
Healthy women in their third trimester who took individual supplements such as zinc or iron in combination with a multivitamin were twice as likely as non-supplements users to give birth after 41 weeks. Non-supplement users had a low rate of inducement.
A folate supplement pre-pregnancy and during the first trimester is the only supplement women need to be taking with the rest “dumped by the body”, Ms McAlpine said.
“They have no positive effect on the outcome or the health of women if they’re unnecessary, particularly if they have a well-balanced diet,” she said.
“It is because of marketing that they are getting away with it because women don’t have the education.”
Ms McAlpine has set up a website – mybodymybaby.com.au – to provide correct information and to recruit women for surveys on the topic.
Gold Coast mum Jade Cooke, 37, took supplements during her pregnancies with children Lily, 4, Clara, 2, and Jensen, 8 months, on the advice of her GP and a dietitian.
“It’s just the done thing. With Lily, the GP said ‘if you’re not, you should be’,” Ms Cooke said.
“You want the best for your children and the advertising of them really plays on that … you’re more inclined to think ‘it’s just a multivitamin, I better get them’.”
She said it was hard to know if multivitamins were needed, especially if a balanced diet was followed.
“You just assume you need a multivitamin when pregnant, (but) do you really? It’s hard to know. They’re expensive, too.”