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Vitamins and supplements for those planning on becoming pregnant

Eating a healthy and balanced diet in pregnancy will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need but those who are planning on becoming pregnant should take a folic acid supplement.  

Folic acid 

All those planning to become pregnant are advised to take a daily folic acid supplement containing 400 micrograms. This will help reduce the risk of their baby having development problems in the early stages of pregnancy. 

Taking a supplement, plus eating a diet rich in natural folate and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals is recommended. Good sources of folate are green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, oranges and wholegrain foods.

Some people are advised by their midwife or doctor to take a higher daily dose of folic acid (5 milligrams) to support a healthy pregnancy; for example if they have diabetes, coeliac disease, a raised BMI (Body Mass Index), or take anti-epilepsy medicine.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorous in the body to build and protect healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Having enough vitamin D helps the body to absorb all the calcium it needs for good bone health.

Foods that provide a good source of vitamin D are oily fish such as salmon, sardines and pilchards, eggs (yolk), and some fortified breakfast cereals and yogurts; however, we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight. Having a healthy balanced diet is vital for all the other important nutrients that our body needs, but it is unlikely to provide us with enough vitamin D. During autumn and winter months, we call upon stores in our body to supply vitamin D, but often these are not enough to keep levels topped up, and so taking a daily 10 microgram supplement is recommended for everyone, adults and children, at this time of year.

Vitamin D supplements may be labelled in IU (international units) rather than micrograms. Note: 400 IU is the same as 10 micrograms.

A number of vitamin D supplements are not suitable for those following a vegan diet so check labels and make sure that these provide the same or similar daily amounts as recommended above.

Those who are, or could become pregnant should avoid any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol).

Where to get pregnancy supplements

You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or a GP may be able to prescribe them for you.

If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin supplement, make sure it is suitable for pregnancy and does not contain vitamin A (retinol). However, multivitamin supplements are not routinely recommended for those planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant. Public health recommendations advise that folic acid and vitamin D are most important to take as a supplement at this time.

The Healthy Start Scheme offers eligible families who are pregnant or have a child under 4 years old, free vitamins and help to buy healthy food and milk.