Key Findings: Daily Multivitamin Use among Women of Reproductive Age Declines

A CDC study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that, from 2006-2016, daily multivitamin use among women of reproductive age in the United States declined.

Taking a multivitamin every day is one way women can get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. In addition to consuming food rich with folate from a varied diet, getting 400 mcg of folic acid can help to reduce the chance of having a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain (anencephaly) or spine (spina bifida). These types of birth defects occur very early during pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. Every woman of reproductive age needs to get the recommended dose of folic acid each day, whether or not she is planning to get pregnant.

You can read the scientific summary of the article here.

Main Findings from the Study

Happy office worker showing a vitamin supplement pill

From 2006-2016, daily multivitamin use declined among women of reproductive age who completed the survey. Specifically, daily multivitamin use declined over time among

  • Women aged 25-44 years; and
  • Non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women.

In general, women aged 18-24 years reported the lowest daily multivitamin use, compared with women in the other age groups.

Between 2006 and 2012, women who responded to the survey could report their pregnancy status. Of those women who reported pregnancy status, the findings showed a decline in daily multivitamin use for women who were not pregnant and not trying to get pregnant.

About This Study

Researchers used the Porter Novelli HealthStyles/SummerStyles surveys conducted during 2006-2016 to look at the responses of women aged 18-44 years regarding their multivitamin use based on

  • Age;
  • Race/ethnicity; and
  • Pregnancy status
    •  Pregnant;
    • Trying to get pregnant; or
    • Not pregnant and not trying to get pregnant


CDC urges all women of reproductive age to take 400 mcg of folic acid each day, in addition to consuming food with folate from a varied diet, to help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida).

Women can get the recommended daily dose of folic acid by

  • Taking a multivitamin containing 400 mcg of folic acid each day;
  • Eating a bowl of breakfast cereal each day that contains 100% of the daily value of folic acid; and/or
  • Eating a diet with plenty of fortified grains, as well as foods that are rich in folate.

When taking folic acid, a higher dose than 400 mcg of folic acid each day is not necessarily better to prevent some types of birth defects, unless a doctor recommends taking more due to other health conditions.

Learn more about CDC’s folic acid recommendations here.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities is working to understand folic acid and its relationship to birth defects by

  • Tracking Birth Defects: CDC works with state birth defects programs to track the number of babies born with spina bifida and other birth defects in the United States.
  • Conducting Research: CDC funds the Centers for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, which collaborate on large studies such as the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (births 1997-2011) and the Birth Defects Study To Evaluate Pregnancy exposures (started with births in 2014).
  • Developing a Global Initiative: Birth Defects COUNT is CDC’s global initiative to reduce death and lifelong disability resulting from birth defects of the brain or spine.

Learn more about what CDC is doing around folic acid.

Key Findings Reference

  1. Wong, EC, Rose CE, Flores AL, and Yeung LF. Trends in Multivitamin Use Among Women of Reproductive Age: United States, 2006–2016. Journal of Women’s Health. 2019. [published online ahead of print].

Give your vitamin intake a boost by enjoying this healthy smoothie!