Supplementing Vitamins and Minerals During Pregnancy

One of the most important tenets of a healthy pregnancy is adequate nutrition. If you are eating a health, balanced diet, then you should be getting everything your body and your baby needs for a smooth and healthy pregnancy. However in many cases despite a healthy diet, or perhaps because of a less healthy diet, certain vitamins and other important substances may need to be supplemented. If you are pregnant you will undoubtedly have had an antenatal appointment during which your midwife/doctor will have informed you about the importance of these supplements.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is an important player in the early neurological development of a foetus (when the brain and spinal cord are forming). A deficiency in folic acid can result in spinal bifida, a debilitating condition where the abnormal development of the spinal column results in severe disability.

It is recommended that you begin supplementing folic acid (at about 400 micrograms a day) when  you start trying to get pregnant, and that you carry on with this supplementation until the end of the first trimester at about 12 weeks. If you didn’t begin this process before the beginning of the pregnancy, then you shouldn’t worry and begin taking the supplement as soon as you find out about the pregnancy.

On top of the supplementation of folic acid you should also include foods that are rich in the substance in your diet. Brown rice, certain fortified breakfast cereals, and green vegetables are great sources of folic acid.

Your doctor or midwife might recommend a bigger dose of folic acid if you suffer from celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten) or diabetes, or are taking particular medications (for epilepsy for instance), or have had a baby previously which suffered from spina bifida.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important part of any diet as this particular vitamin is vital for healthy bones and teeth, and as such is needed by both mother and growing unborn child. The recommended dose of vitamin D is actually about 10mg/day, and can be found in a number of dietary sources like fortified cereal and margarine, as well as oily fish. Your skin can in fact manufacture vitamin D hen exposed to sunlight, which doesn’t mean that you need to sunbathe as in fact regular exposure to sunlight will do the job in terms of providing you with the amounts of vitamin D produced.

Deficiencies (abnormally low amounts of a vitamin) of vitamin D is result in a weakening of bones and teeth. The condition typically associated with vitamin D deficiency is called rickets, and presents with a softening of bones that causes them to bend or curve in an unusual way.


Iron is an essential component of our diet, albeit one that is only needed in very small amounts. Iron is important because it is essential to the healthy function of our red blood cells, which carry nutrition and oxygen to the rest of the body. Iron is particularly important during pregnancy where another life is in need of regular supplies to keep growing and developing.

Iron can be found in a number of different dietary sources, but is often supplemented by pregnant women upon doctor’s advice. The deficiency of iron causes a condition called anaemia (not to be confused with sickle cell anaemia, which is a genetic illness to do with the shape of red blood cells).

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