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Vitamins improve pregnancy rates of subfertile women in small study

05 December 2011

By Dr Caroline Hirst

Appeared in BioNews 636

Women receiving fertility treatment are more likely to become pregnant if they take multivitamin supplements, reports a UK pilot study.

The study recruited 56 subfertile women, between 19 and 40 years old. Participants were split in to two groups at random. One group was given multivitamin, or multiple micronutrient (MMN), supplements once daily and the other group folic acid, a government-recommended supplementation proven to reduce the risk of certain birth defects (the MMN supplements also contained folic acid). After four weeks both groups received standard drug fertility treatment with either clomiphene citrate (Clomid) or human menopausal gonadotrophin (HMG).

The fertility rate was increased in women receiving MMN supplements compared with the women receiving folic acid only. Sixty percent of women (18 of the 30 patients) on MMN fell pregnant versus 25 percent of women (11 out of 28) of women on folic acid. Viable pregnancies beyond three months were determined by detection of a fetal heart beat.

Furthermore, women on MMN supplementation had significantly fewer attempts to achieve pregnancy compared to women on folic acid. Fifteen women taking MMN became pregnant at their first attempt, whereas only two women receiving folic acid alone had the same outcome.

Lead author of the study Dr Rina Agrawal, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist and associate professor in reproductive medicine at the University of Warwick, said: 'All women considering pregnancy should take a specifically formulated prenatal micronutrient supplement to optimise their chances of conception'.

However, Catherine Collins, principal dietician at St George's Hospital NHS Trust, told the Daily Telegraph: 'As this study was of women with conception problems there's no evidence to suggest every woman considering pregnancy should take them'.

Other scientists have pointed out that this study is very small and a much larger study on a more diverse group of women is required to establish the possible benefits of MMN supplementation. Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield said: 'We should acknowledge that this is a relatively small number of patients and the study would need to be repeated in a larger trial before we could be certain of the results'.

This study was conducted at University College London and the Royal Free Hospital and published in Reproductive BioMedicine Online. A larger study is underway.

Mail Online | 02 December 2011
Reproductive BioMedicine Online | 17 October 2011
Vitamin pills 'are conception aid'
Press Association | 02 December 2011
Daily Telegraph | 02 December 2011


28 September 2015 - by Arit Udoh 
A study shows that treatment of unexplained infertility with the standard treatment clomiphene results in more live births, and a lower risk of multiple births, than a potential new drug letrozole...
12 August 2013 - by Emma Stoye 
There is no evidence to suggest taking antioxidant supplements will help infertile women become pregnant, according a review of fertility clinic trials published in The Cochrane Library...
15 October 2012 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
A mathematical model has been developed that predicts the probability that a couple will become pregnant...
09 July 2012 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
Drinking more than five cups of coffee a day or having a diet with too much saturated fat could adversely affect the chances of success of fertility treatment...
06 February 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Exposure to increased levels of vitamin D could boost your fertility, a recent study suggests. The findings may also explain why conception rates fall in the winter and peak in the summer in Northern European countries....

08 February 2010 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Women who eat too much fibre may ovulate less and have lower oestrogen levels, according to a recent study...
16 February 2009 - by Misty Hatfield and Dr John MacMillan 
Dian Shepperson Mills' 'Commentary' in BioNews 493 (2/2/2009) 'Why fertility patients should consider what they eat before resorting to more invasive treatment' directs us to observational studies on the links between diet and (in)fertility as well as pregnancy outcomes. Since the original observations were made in the...
02 February 2009 - by Dian Shepperson Mills 
Eating is something we do every day. It sustains us and keeps us healthy, and poor food choice can make us unhealthy. The maturing ova, sperm, endometrium and fetus depend upon nutrients for development. If the diet is laced with environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals, trans-fats, refined sugars, or excess additives, or...
30 October 2006 - by Dr Laura Bell 
A Harvard Medical school study involving 18,000 women has shown that taking multivitamins, particularly folic acid, can improve chances of pregnancy in couples having difficulty conceiving. Around 150,000 couples in the UK suffer from infertility problems due to the woman's inability to ovulate, which is about 1...
08 May 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Increasing dietary intake of folic acid could result in more women giving birth to twins after IVF treatment, UK researchers report. The research team, based at Aberdeen University, studied the likely impact of fortifying white flour with the vitamin. It is hoped that this proposed measure...

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