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Vitamins and minerals

Wandsworth Little Feet

Folic Acid

Helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in your baby.

Take a daily 400 mcg (microgram) folic acid (or 5 mg (milligrams) if you have diabetes) supplement one month (preferably three months) before you start trying to conceive, until the 12th week of pregnancy. 

A higher dose of 5 milligrams of folic acid a day is recommended for women who are planning a pregnancy, or are in the early stages of pregnancy, if they: 

  • (or their partner) have a neural tube defect
  • have had a previous baby with a neural tube defect

  • (or their partner) have a family history of neural tube defects

  • have diabetes.

Your doctor will need to prescribe the 5mg dose.

Eat foods containing folate - the natural form of folic acid - such as dark green vegetables, beans and pulses, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin D

Helps your baby’s bones develop, preventing rickets.

Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods but you get most of your vitamin D from sunlight.

You are advised to take a supplement containing 10 mcg of vitamin D each day during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.

You are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:

  • Have dark or pigmented skin (South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern family origin). People with dark skin take longer to make similar amounts of vitamin D compared with people with white skin.

  • Have limited exposure to sunlight, such as women who are predominantly housebound, or usually remain covered when outdoors.

  • Eat a diet particularly low in vitamin D, such as women who consume no oily fish, eggs, meat, vitamin D-fortified margarine or breakfast cereal.

  • Have a pre-pregnancy body mass index above 30 kg/m².

If you fit within any of the above categories you will need to take vitamin D supplements, speak to your doctor or midwife for advice.

Vitamin B12

Helps to make new cells, such as blood cells, and the building of a healthy nervous system in your developing baby.

Vitamin B12 is found in:

  • Meat 

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Milk

  • Hard cheese

  • Fortified breakfast cereals

  • Soya products

If you are a vegetarian or vegan getting enough vitamin B12 can be difficult. You may need to take vitamin B12 supplements during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding, speak to your doctor or midwife for advice.


A normal balanced diet should give you all the iron that you need. However, some pregnant women (especially if vegetarian or vegan) can become deficient in iron called anaemia. Therefore make sure you include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet such as:

  • Red meat

  • Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, watercress, spinach and kale.

  • Pulses such as chick-peas, kidney beans, lentils and baked beans.

  • Fortified breakfast cereals.

Although liver contains a lot of iron, you should avoid eating it while you are pregnant due to the high levels of vitamin A which can harm your unborn baby.

To help your body make best use of the iron in your food, eat some food rich in vitamin C with every meal, especially if you do not eat meat. Green or red vegetables and most fruit contain vitamin C.

Drinking tea or coffee can make it harder for the body to absorb iron, so cutting down on tea and coffee at meal times could help improve iron levels in the body. Drink them an hour before you eat or two hours afterwards.

Screening for anaemia occurs early in pregnancy at 28 weeks, if the iron level in your blood is found to be low your doctor, midwife or health visitor will advise you to take iron supplements.

Be aware some iron supplements can cause constipation, speak to your doctor for advice.


A normal balanced diet will give you all the calcium you need. However, vegans can have very little in their diets which may affect the bone development of the baby and increase risk of osteoporosis in the mother later in life. Make sure you include plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet such as:

  • Dairy products

  • Dark green vegetables

  • Beans

  • Tofu

  • Calcium-enriched soya milks

  • Nuts and seeds

Vitamin A

A normal balanced diet will give you all the vitamin A that you and your baby need. Too much vitamin A may harm your developing baby.

During pregnancy:

  • Do not eat liver or liver products such as pâté.

  • Do not take any fish liver oil supplements (they contain high levels of vitamin A; instead eat one portion of oily fish such as tuna steaks or salmon a week or take a fish oil supplement containing no vitamin A).

  • Do not take any vitamin supplement/multivitamin containing vitamin A.

 Related internet links

Vitamins and nutrition during pregnancy

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