Vitamins and supplements in pregnancy
You'll get most of the vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy, varied diet. But when you're pregnant you also need to take a folic acid supplement.
Also, it's that time of year in the UK when our bodies stop making vitamin D from sunshine. But don't worry, you can take a vitamin D supplement - these are available from most pharmacies, supermarkets and other retailers. You just need 10 micrograms a day.
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 via the Healthy Start scheme. You can request an application form for Healthy Start vitamins by calling 0345 607 6823.
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 and other green leafy vegetables as well as 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 do I need?
You'll need 400 micrograms (mcg) every day until the end of your first trimester (12 weeks).
Everyone needs vitamin D – it helps us absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate in the body (needed to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy). We can usually get enough vitamin D from sunlight, but not at this time of year.
So, it's best to take a vitamin D supplement every day between October and early March. This is especially important as many of us have been indoors more than usual this spring and summer. If you're pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement.
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 do I need?
Whether you are pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement containing 10mcg.
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Where can I get vitamin supplements?
You can get your vitamin supplements from the following places:
- Your GP
- Healthy Start – if you are on income-related benefits, or under 18, you can get free vitamins while you're pregnant. Call 0345 607 6823 to request an application form.
Are there any vitamins I should avoid?
Yes. If you're pregnant, you should avoid supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin A (retinol) - as too much of it can harm your baby's development. You should also avoid liver and liver products (including fish liver oil), as they are high in vitamin A.
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.