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Why prenatal multivitamins are important

Why prenatal multivitamins are important

Start your healthy pregnancy now: benefits of prenatal multivitamins

The choices you make now, before you become pregnant, are important to your baby's health.

One of those choices should be to start taking a prenatal multivitamin containing folic acid before you are pregnant.

If a woman doesn't get enough folic acid, her baby has a higher risk of developing a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD).

NTDs are birth defects that occur very early on in pregnancy and can lead to abnormalities of the skull, brain and spinal cord. In Canada, the most common of these abnormalities affects the spinal cord, a condition known as spina bifida.

These conditions can occur as early as the first 3 to 4 weeks of a baby's development, a time when many women don’t even realize that they are pregnant.

One way to help prevent NTDs is to make sure you get enough folic acid daily before and during pregnancy, one of many prenatal vitamin benefits. While folic acid can be found in some of the foods you eat, most Canadian women don't get their recommended daily allowance when they’re not pregnant, much less the extra folic acid they need during pregnancy.

What do the experts say?

Health Canada recommends that all women who could become pregnant, as well as those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, take a multivitamin containing folic acid every day1.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada also recommends that women with no personal health riskstake a daily multivitamin with 0.4 mg to 1.0 mg of folic acid at least 12 weeks before conception, throughout pregnancy, and 4 to 6 weeks postpartum or as long as breastfeeding continues2.

Women with increased health risks such as epilepsy, insulin-dependent diabetes or a family history of neural tube defects should consult their doctor.

It is important to choose a multivitamin that is specifically formulated for use during pregnancy because your body’s needs for certain nutrients change while you are pregnant.

When to start

Women should begin taking a daily prenatal multivitamin at least 12 weeks before becoming pregnant.

Since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, starting a prenatal multivitamin now may be one of the best things you can do for your future baby.

Your baby's good health starts with you.


1Health Canada. Prenatal Nutrition. 2011. Accessed: February 12, 2014.
2Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Motherisk Program. J Obstet Gyneacol Can. 2007; 29(12): 1003-1013.