Do Prenatal Vitamins Prevent Miscarriages?

You're probably aware that prenatal vitamins are important for the health of a developing baby during pregnancy, but can they also help prevent a miscarriage? If you've experienced a pregnancy loss in the past, you may be feeling especially concerned about the outcome of your next pregnancy.

Let's take a look at what the science says about prenatal vitamins and the risk of miscarriage. 

Pregnant woman taking vitamin

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What the Evidence Shows

While research shows a clear benefit of taking prenatal vitamins to lower the risk of neural tube defects and support fetal development, the data on prenatal vitamins and miscarriage has not been so conclusive. 

For example, a 2011 review of more than 96,000 pregnant women found that "taking any vitamin supplements prior to pregnancy or in early pregnancy does not prevent women from experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth."

Another study of Danish women even found an increased risk of miscarriage in women who took multivitamins, although the authors cautioned that more research was needed before making any recommendations.

The most definitive answer may come from the largest systematic review of studies to date on vitamin supplementation in pregnancy. Published in 2016, the review looked at studies of 276,820 pregnant women.

Data from these studies showed that supplementation with various combinations of vitamins and minerals did not have any effect on the risk of miscarriage, although supplementation with a multivitamin containing folate and iron did decrease the risk of stillbirth (pregnancy loss after 20 weeks) compared to supplementation with folate and iron alone.

Interestingly, multiple studies have shown that women who begin taking folate supplements before pregnancy experience fewer spontaneous abortions (another term for miscarriage).

While research over the past decade has produced conflicting results, folate may be one vitamin that shows promise in reducing the risk of miscarriage.

As for prenatal vitamins overall, data do not show a direct link between taking them and lowering miscarriage risk.

However, prenatal vitamins are still important during pregnancy for other reasons.

How Prenatal Vitamins Can Help During Pregnancy

While research is inconclusive on the connection between prenatal vitamins and miscarriage risk, taking them is still a good choice for your baby's development and your health during your pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a unique time in life and comes with its own nutritional challenges. Not only does your baby need high levels of nutrients to grow and develop, your body is doing quite a lot of work to support that growth.

Specifically formulated for the nutritional needs of pregnant women, prenatal vitamins contain higher levels of iron, folic acid, and calcium compared to regular multivitamins.

Prenatal vitamins are recommended from the time a woman begins trying to conceive all the way through pregnancy.

Keep in mind that it isn't a good idea to rely completely on your prenatal vitamin for your and your baby's nutrition. Following a healthy diet is just as important for optimal health and to keep you feeling your best.

One 2016 study noted that women who follow a poor diet during pregnancy are at risk of becoming deficient in iron, folate, vitamin D, and calcium, which can lead to health problems for both mom and baby.

The Special Role of Folate

Folate is a critical nutrient in the development of the neural tube, which goes on to form the baby's spinal cord, spine, brain, and skull. If adequate amounts of folate are not present during neural tube development, the birth defects known as spina bifida and anencephaly may occur.

Because the neural tube completes its development by about 28 days after conception—before many women even know they're pregnant—ensuring an adequate intake of folate prior to getting pregnant is important.

The National Institutes of Health notes that folate deficiency in pregnant women "has also been associated with low infant birth weight, preterm delivery, and fetal growth retardation." 

Doctors recommend that women start taking folic acid supplements (400-600 micrograms daily) at least one month before they begin trying to conceive.

What to Look For in a Prenatal Vitamin

According to the Cleveland Clinic, women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should look for a prenatal vitamin that contains the following key nutrients:

  • Calcium
  • DHA
  • Folic acid
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin D

Your doctor may also prescribe a prenatal vitamin that is tailored to your individual health needs.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone in your family has experienced a miscarriage, it's understandable to be concerned about another one and want to do all that you can to prevent it.

Keep in mind that miscarriage can be caused by a variety of factors, many of which are out of our control. Taking prenatal vitamins, getting good prenatal medical care, and taking care of yourself are the best ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor if you are unsure of what to do during your pregnancy or feel worried about the health of your baby.

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Article Sources
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  1. Rumbold A, Middleton P, Pan N, Crowther CA. Vitamin supplementation for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD004073. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004073.pub3

  2. Nohr EA, Olsen J, Bech BH, Bodnar LM, Olsen SF, Catov JM. Periconceptional intake of vitamins and fetal death: a cohort study on multivitamins and folate. Int J Epidemiol. 2014;43(1):174-184. doi:10.1093/ije/dyt214

  3. Balogun OO, da Silva Lopes K, Ota E, et al. Vitamin supplementation for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;(5):CD004073. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004073.pub4

  4. Milman N, Paszkowski T, Cetin I, Castelo-Branco C. Supplementation during pregnancy: beliefs and science. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2016;32(7):509-516. doi:10.3109/09513590.2016.1149161

  5. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Folate. Updated June 3, 2020.

  6. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Reducing risks of birth defects. Reviewed October 2019.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Expectant moms: choose a prenatal vitamin with these key nutrients. July 13, 2020.

Additional Reading
  • Folic Acid. The American Pregnancy Association. July 2015.
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