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Vitamins and supplements in pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you'll get most of the vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy, varied diet – but you also need to take folic acid and vitamin D supplements.

Find out why, how much to take and where to get them, as well as what vitamins to avoid.

Folic acid

It's best to start taking folic acid as soon as you start trying for a baby, or as soon as you find out you're pregnant.

Folic acid is very important for your pregnancy, as it can prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida.

Certain foods contain the natural form of folic acid (folate), such as:

  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • other green leafy vegetables
  • granary bread
  • beans and pulses

While it's good to include these foods in your diet, you'll still need to take your folic acid supplements.

How much folic acid do I need?

You'll need 400 micrograms (mcg) every day until the end of your first trimester (12 weeks).

Vitamin D

We need vitamin D to keep bones and muscles healthy.

From late March/early April to the end of September, most people make enough vitamin D from sunlight on their skin.

However, between October and early March, kids and grown-ups should all consider taking a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement because we cannot make it from sunlight – and some people should take supplements all year round.

Some foods like oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), eggs, red meat and fortified foods (such as fat spreads and some breakfast cereals) contain vitamin D.

However, it would be difficult to get the amount of vitamin D you need from food alone.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Whether you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement containing 10mcg.

Where can I get vitamin supplements?

Ask your GP, midwife or pharmacist about supplements – your GP may be able to prescribe them to you.

If you're on income-related benefits, or under 18, you may be entitled to free vitamins while you're pregnant via the Healthy Start scheme. Call 0345 607 6823 to request an application form.

You can also get supplements from pharmacies.

Vitamins to avoid during pregnancy

You should avoid supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin A (retinol), as too much of it can harm your baby's development.

Liver and liver products (including fish liver oil) are also high in vitamin A, so you should avoid these too.

Need more advice?

If you're in any doubt about taking vitamin supplements during your pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding, speak to your GP or another health professional such as a pharmacist.

More info on vitamins and supplements

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