Women who began using multivitamin supplements around the time of conception had a lower risk of giving birth prematurely, says a new study. Multivitamin use was associated with a 16% reduction in the risk of pre-term birth and a 20% reduction in the risk of preterm labor, according to findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The reported benefits were limited to normal weight women, and no benefits were observed in overweight women, report researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. and the University of Aarhus in Denmark. “It may be that multivitamin use around the time of conception could be a safe and simple strategy to improve pregnancy outcomes, similar to folate supplementation,” wrote the researchers. The authors said that their results should be “interpreted with caution” because multivitamin use is linked to other lifestyle factors. “Because of current recommendations, it is unlikely that a randomized trial of peri-conceptional multivitamins is feasible,” they said. “Therefore, methodologically rigorous prospective observational studies may be the only way to investigate if multivitamin supplementation around the time of conception may reduce risk of preterm births or small-for-gestational-age births.” The researchers followed 35,897 women participating in the Danish National Birth Cohort. Multivitamin use was recorded during a 12-week period around the time of conception. Premature birth was defined as birth prior to the 37th week of pregnancy. Results showed that normal weight regular users of multivitamins—defined as using for four to six weeks around the period of conception—had significantly reduced risks of preterm birth and labor. Multivitamin use was also associated with a 17% reduction in the risk of giving birth to underweight babies, relative to the gestation period. “The dominant brand of multivitamin supplements reported in the Danish National Birth Cohort contained 200 mcg of folic acid,” the researchers explained. “Thus, folate may be involved in the multivitamin-small-for-gestational-age births association, but other micronutrients may be important in the association between peri-conceptional multivitamin use and pre-term birth.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94:906-912, 2011
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