Every mother is concerned about the development of their child, especially during the whole period of conception until birth. Mothers would take every needed precaution in preventing any harm to the developing fetus through their diet, physical activity, and mental status. A regular routine which is essential in the development of the fetus is the intake of prescribed multivitamins.

Today, brace yourself as you get to learn in detail the essentials of multivitamins in the perinatal period. But before we dive-deep, what are multivitamins?

Multivitamins are a combination of vitamins and minerals which are essential in good dietary health. In the perspective of maternal health and fetal development, it is needed by a woman before, during, and after her pregnancy for optimum maternal and fetal outcomes.

These vitamins and minerals include folic acid (folate), calcium, iron, vitamin D, and iodine in their rightful proportions. Vitamins such as vitamins A, B, C, E, zinc, magnesium, and thiamine are also present.

These vitamins and minerals play a vital role during embryonic and fetal development. Normally, a healthy balanced diet is adequate for providing a growing baby’s nutritional needs. However, it is prescribed for every woman who plans to conceive or is already pregnant.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that multivitamin supplements be given for pregnant women who do not consume a balanced diet.

Now, let us look at how these vitamins function in fetal development.

1. Iron:

An important nutrient in the development of the placenta and fetus. Iron also increases the number of red blood cells in the mother. The daily requirement of iron in pregnant women is about 30 mg/day to prevent iron deficiency anaemia.

2. Calcium and vitamin D:

Vitamin D increases enteric absorption of calcium which is a building block for developing fetal skeleton. The recommended requirement is 1000 to 1300 mg/day for pregnant or lactating women.

3. Folic acid:

This is essential for the development of the baby’s spinal cord (prevents neural tube defects) and brain. The CDC recommends that childbearing age women consume 0.4 mg of folic acid as a daily dietary requirement.

4. Zinc:

It is involved in the normal development and birth weight of the baby. Deficiency of zinc causes slow growth of the baby.

5. Iodine:

This is needed for the development and functioning of the thyroid gland. Iron deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism in the mother or baby. The daily requirement of iodine in pregnant or breastfeeding women is 0.22 mg to 0.29 mg.

6. Vitamin A:

It is necessary for eye development. Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to night blindness. The daily dietary requirement of vitamin A is 0.77 mg.

Vitamins such as vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also essential in fetal and embryonic development.

In summary, multivitamins are recommended by general practitioners for women prior to getting pregnant, throughout the pregnancy and after delivery of the baby. A few side effects of multivitamins such as diarrhoea, stomach discomfort, abdominal cramps, decreased appetite, and change in stool color or texture should not deter women from taking them. However, when taken along with a healthy diet and adequate amounts of water, these side effects eventually subside.

One might ask, should all pregnant women take multivitamins? In actual fact, all pregnant women are prescribed multivitamins during their antenatal visits. Proper maternal nutrition is important for the baby’s needs because the baby depends on the nutritional needs of the mother.

Consult with your obstetrician, midwife or health-care professional before taking multivitamins.