Vitamins and minerals

You may be entitled to free vitamin supplements including Folic Acid and Vitamin D through the Healthy Start scheme. For more information ask your Midwife or visit Healthy Start.

Folic acid

You should take a daily 400 microgram (mcg) folic acid supplement from the time you stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy.You should also eat foods containing folate – the natural form of folic acid – such as green vegetables and brown rice, fortified bread and breakfast cereals.Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. If you would like to take your folic acid in a supplement that contains other vitamins, make sure it contains 400mcg folic acid and doesn’t contain vitamin A. (See ‘What to avoid’.)If you have already had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect or have diabetes you should take a higher dose of folic acid – 5 milligrams (mg) a day – for the same period of time, and ask your Midwife or GP for further advice.IronPregnant women can become deficient in iron, so make sure you have plenty of iron-rich foods.

Vitamin C and Iron

Try to have some food or drink containing vitamin C, such as fruit or vegetables or a glass of fruit juice, with any iron-rich meals because this might help your body absorb iron.Tea and coffee can make it harder for our bodies to absorb iron, so cutting down on these drinks at meal times could help to improve iron levels in the body.If the iron level in your blood becomes low, your midwife or GP will advise you to take iron supplements.

Good sources of iron include:

  • red meat
  • pulses
  • bread
  • green vegetables
  • fortified breakfast cereals

Although liver contains a lot of iron, you should avoid eating it while you’re pregnant (see ‘What to avoid’).

Vitamin D

You should take supplements containing 10mcg of vitamin D each day.

Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods but we get most of our vitamin D from summer sunlight – if you’re out in the sun, remember to take care not to burn!

If you have dark skin, if you always cover up all your skin when you’re outside, or if you rarely get outdoors, you may be particularly short of vitamin D. Ask your Midwife or GP for more information.