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Prenatal Multivitamins and Folic Acid for Pregnancy


How soon can you influence your baby’s health? You can help even before you are pregnant by taking a prenatal multivitamin containing folic acid.

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

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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).


  • Birth defects that occur very early on in pregnancy.
  • Can lead to abnormalities of the skull, brain and spinal cord.
  • Spina bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord, is the most common NTD in Canada.
  • Can occur as early as the first 3 to 4 weeks of baby’s development (when you may not even know you’re pregnant).

NTD prevention

One way to help prevent NTDs is to make sure you get enough folic acid daily, before and during pregnancy, with the help of a healthy diet and a prenatal vitamin.

Folic acid

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.

Compare the benefits

There are many good reasons to take a prenatal multivitamin instead of just a folic acid supplement.

Folic Acid Supplements Prenatal Multivitamins
  • help prevent neural tube defects
  • help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs)
  • help prevent iron deficiency
  • help maintain maternal bone health
  • help prevent vitamin D deficiency

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 day.1

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends that all women who could become pregnant take a daily a with 0.4 mg to 1.0 mg of folic acid at least 12 weeks before conception, throughout pregnancy, and for 6 weeks postpartum or as long as breastfeeding continues.2

You may be at greater risk of having a baby with an NTD if:

  • You or your partner have a personal history positive for folic acid-sensitive birth defects.
  • You or your partner have a family history for NTD in a first- or second-degree relative.
  • You have type I or II diabetes.
  • You are taking epilepsy or folate antagonist medications (Ask your doctor about any medications you are taking).
  • You have a medical or surgical condition that results in gastrointestinal malabsorption.

Woman at greater risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy may need to take a higher dose of folic acid and should speak to their doctor.


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.

Choosing your multivitamin

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

Nestlé Materna helps provide the vitamins and minerals you need before pregnancy, as well as during all stages of your pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Why start Nestlé Materna before pregnancy?

Starting prenatal multivitamins before you get pregnant prepares your body for your future pregnancy.

Nestlé Materna prenatal multivitamins contain folic acid, which helps prevent NTDs.*

During pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, your need for a number of essential nutrients increases. Look at iron as an example.

  • Your body needs extra iron to help make red blood cells.
  • Not getting the extra iron you need puts you at risk of developing iron deficiency.

Each Nestlé Materna tablet contains 27 mg of iron, the recommended daily allowance of iron for pregnancy, in a convenient once-daily dosage.

Tips for the taking

If you’re taking prenatal multivitamins and you experience difficulty swallowing or stomach upset, try these tips:

  • Take your tablet with food.
  • Include your tablet in your bedtime routine.
  • Break it in half and consider taking at two different times in the same day (Make sure to have clean, dry hands and keep the remaining half of the pill out of reach of children).
  • Crush it and mix the powder into a drink.

While breastfeeding

“Baby’s here!”…and suddenly eating well can get a lot tougher.

Taking Nestlé Materna for the first six weeks (or for as long as you breastfeed) can complement a healthy diet and help ensure you and baby get the vitamins and minerals you need.

Nestlé Materna provides:

  • Folic acid
  • Iron
  • B vitamins
  • Calcium and vitamin D (to help maintain bones and teeth, as well as prevent bone loss).

Nestlé Materna provides nutritional support before, during and after pregnancy.


*When taken daily prior to becoming pregnant and during early pregnancy.

**Health Canada and Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.



1 Health Canada. Prenatal Nutrition. 2010. Accessed: August 14, 2017.

2 Wilson RD et al. Pre-conception Folic Acid and Multivitamin Supplementation for the Primary and Secondary Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and Other Folic Acid-Sensitive Congenital Anomalies. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline, No. 324. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2015;29(12):1003-1013.

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