Mother and Baby

Your go-to guide to taking supplements while pregnant

When you're pregnant, it's important to keep a balanced diet, to help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.

A healthy diet means a healthy mother and, a healthy baby. 

You can take supplements to reduce the risk of any problems with your baby's development or even to regulate your vitamin and mineral intake. 

Which supplements are suitable for pregnant women? 

Lucy Upton, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian & Nutritionist says the latest UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey reports that the following nutrients are lower than recommended in the diets of some UK women of childbearing age: Vitamins A and D, riboflavin, folate, iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and fibre.

The survey also reveals that approximately 10 percent of women are anaemic and, depending on the season, 10 to 40 percent are deficient in vitamin D.

She continued to say: "whilst there are many steps that pregnant women can take to increase their consumption and exposure to these key vitamins, minerals, and nutrients – such as adjusting their diet or increasing time spent safely in the sun outdoors – many pregnant women may still fall short of the required nutrients.

"Whilst supplementation with some key nutrients – including folic acid and vitamin D – is recommended in the UK for all pregnant women, others may find it beneficial to take an additional supplement to help ensure they are getting enough of other vital nutrients.”

The NHS says The Department of Health and Social Care also advises pregnant women to consider taking a vitamin D supplement. 

Healthy Start vitamins

Healthy Start is a government initiative, which gives mums (with children under four and pregnant women free vouchers every week to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk. You can also get free vitamins. 

Nutrients provided in Healthy Start vitamins:

  • 400µg folic acid
  • 10µg vitamin D
  • 70mg vitamin C

Healthy Start vitamins are suitable for all pregnant women and free to those eligible through the Healthy Start scheme

The benefits:

Taking the daily recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the baby's brain and spinal cord.

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to help keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

Vitamin C is essential for tissue repair, wound healing, bone growth and repair, and healthy skin.

Vitamin C also helps your body fight infections and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.

These vitamins are limited to CCGs where staff distribute it and are not available in retail outlets. 

Folic acid 

Folic acid is suitable for all pregnant women.

Benefits:

Taking the daily recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the baby's brain and spinal cord.

This vitamin is widely available in retail pharmacies, supermarkets and online. 

Read more: 9 folic acid-rich foods you should definitely eat if you're pregnant

Vitamin D

Depending on the brand, you will be taking 10-25µg of vitamin D and suitable for pregnant women to take. 

The benefits:

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to help keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. 

This vitamin is widely available in retail pharmacies, supermarkets and online

Multi-vitamins and minerals

Nutrients provided:

  • 10µg vitamin D
  • B vitamins including 400µg folic acid and vitamin B12
  • Vitamins C, E and K Betacarotene (carotenoid forms of vitamin A)**
  • Iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

These multi-vitamins and minerals are suitable for vegetarians, pregnant women who eat little or no fish or dairy products, and women and adolescents who do not eat a balanced diet. 

Benefits:

Iodine is critical for a woman’s healthy thyroid function during pregnancy.

Iron helps blood in both the mother and baby as it's function is to carry the oxygen.

This vitamin is widely available in retail pharmacies, supermarkets and online. 

Multi-vitamins and minerals (including calcium)

 Nutrients provided: 

  • 10µg vitamin D
  • B vitamins including 400µg folic acid and Vitamin B12
  • Vitamins C, E & K Betacarotene (carotenoid forms of vitamin A)**
  • Calcium
  • Iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, magnesium and copper
  • Omega 3 fatty acids

These vitamins are suitable for vegan women, pregnant women who eat little or no dairy products or calcium-fortified plant-based milk and products, and pregnant teenagers. 

The benefits:

Calcium is important for pregnant women. It can help prevent women from losing their own bone density as the baby uses calcium from the mother for its own bone growth.

Iodine is critical for a woman’s healthy thyroid function during pregnancy.

Iron helps blood in both the mother and baby as it's function is to carry the oxygen.

This vitamin is widely available in retail pharmacies, supermarkets and online. 

Lucy recommends to only buy supplements from a reliable company with robust quality control i.e. brands on sale in pharmacies.

Choosing a ‘pregnancy’ labelled vitamin and mineral supplement is essential. 

Preparations for the ‘general’ adult population are likely to contain vitamin A, which in large amounts can harm your unborn baby. 

Meet the expert: Lucy Upton, an HCPC registered Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist at the Infant Toddler Forum (ITF) which an independent, non-profit-making organisation, led by experts in pregnancy and early years nutrition and health. 

Now read:

Nutrients and vitamins you need if you’re trying for a baby

Pregnancy vitamins: the best antenatal supplements

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While training as a journalist at the University of Gloucestershire for 3 years, she was nominated for the Best Feature Category at the Midlands Student’s Media Awards this year, and Head of News and Social Media for the university’s radio station, Tone Radio. Ellie has been published by the likes of Heatworld, Heart, Gloucestershire Live, and ITV West Country. 

 
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