Understanding motivations for dietary supplementation during pregnancy: A focus group study

Lenka Malek, Wendy J Umberger PhD, Maria Makrides, Carmel Collins, S. J. Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: to increase understanding of psychosocial factors (behavioural, normative and control beliefs) motivating vitamin and mineral supplement use during pregnancy.

DESIGN: ten focus group discussions and two in-depth interviews were conducted using a script comprising questions based on study objectives. All discussions were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using a framework approach.

SETTING: South Australia, Australia.

SUBJECTS: 40 women aged 21-45 years who were either pregnant or<12 months postpartum. Groups were stratified by education level (secondary education only vs. post-secondary) and gravidity (first vs. subsequent pregnancy).

RESULTS: all women, except one, used dietary supplements during pregnancy. Most women took supplements to achieve peace of mind knowing that nutrient requirements were 'definitely' being met. Other common factors motivating supplement use were the beliefs that supplementation: benefits maternal and fetal health; corrects known nutritional deficiencies; and is a more efficient method of obtaining required nutrients relative to food. Advice received from healthcare providers and marketing of supplements also motivated supplementation, while forgetting to take supplements was the most common barrier to use. Cost was only a barrier when considering whether or not to continue supplementation post-birth.

KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: women believe that supplements are an easier and more reliable source of nutrients than food intake alone, and rely on dietary supplementation as an insurance policy during pregnancy. Further studies are needed in larger and more representative samples to validate these findings and to test the effectiveness of information and intervention strategies targeting appropriate supplement use during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-68
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Feb 2018


  • Journal Article

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