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Super supplements- Eating a healthy, varied diet will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need, but when you are pregnant you will also need to take a folic acid supplement. The Department of Health also advises you consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, particularly in the winter months (from October to the end of March) when we don’t get vitamin D from sunlight.

It can be difficult to get the recommended amount of folic acid and vitamin D from food alone. You can also ask your GP, midwife or pharmacist about supplements – your GP may be able to prescribe them for you. If you're on income-related benefits or under 18, you can get free vitamins while you're pregnant from the Healthy Start scheme.

Find out if you qualify for Healthy Start.
Folic acid

Super supplementsTaking a 400 microgram folic acid supplement before and during the early days of your pregnancy helps with the development of your unborn baby. However, women who suffer from diabetes, or have had a previous neural tube defect (NTD) affected pregnancy, or have a history of spina bifida or similar conditions in the family, should consult their doctor as they may need to take a daily dose of 5mg of folic acid.

This applies to all women who are either pregnant or planning to get pregnant, whatever their age, and whether or not there is a history of spina bifida or similar conditions in the family. Many people with spina bifida will have some paralysis and need aids to help them to walk or will need to use a wheelchair. It can also affect the nerves controlling the bowel and bladder.

Folic acid is a man-made form of folate, a B vitamin that occurs naturally in food. It’s unlikely that you’ll get enough folate to protect your baby just from the food you eat, which is why folic acid supplements are recommended. But it’s still a good idea to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes folate-rich foods such as granary bread, beans and pulses, and green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Look out for the symbol on some breads and breakfast cereals which shows they’re fortified with extra folic acid.

Find out more about eating healthily while you’re pregnant

Folic acid supplements are widely available in pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets, and cost as little as under £1 for a month’s supply. You can also get them free on prescription from your GP It doesn’t matter which brand of folic acid supplement you choose – just make sure each tablet contains 400 micrograms of folic acid. You’ll only need to take one tablet a day.
Vitamin D during pregnancy

Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium in the body, which helps to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy.

Although we can get vitamin D from sunlight, it is also in some foods, including oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), eggs and red meat and foods fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and most fat spreads.

Vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods and it might be difficult to get enough from foods alone. So all adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October until the end of March).

From late March/early April to September most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

Some groups may be at particular risk of vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your midwife or doctor to see if this applies to you.

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.

Warning: 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.