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Vitamin supplements and folic acid

Vitamin supplements

Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. There are some vitamins and minerals that are especially important.

It is best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but when you are pregnant you will need to take some supplements as well which are:

  • 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy and if you breastfeed
  • 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Ideally you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant

Do not take: vitamin A supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A, as too much could harm your baby.

You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or your GP may be able to prescribe them for you. If you want to get your folic acid or vitamin D from a multivitamin tablet, make sure that the tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol).

Folic acid

Folic acid is important for pregnancy as it can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, which can cause conditions such as spina bifida. You should take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant. If you didn't take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. You should also eat foods that contain folic acid, such as green leafy vegetables and brown rice. Some breakfast cereals, breads and margarines have folic acid added to them. Find out more about healthy eating in pregnancy here.

Some women have an increased risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD). You will need to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams of folic acid every day if:

  • you or your partner have a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida
  • you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
  • there is history of neural tube defects in your family or your partner's family
  • you have diabetes

You may also need to take a higher dose of folic acid if you are taking medication for epilepsy or your BMI is 35 or more.

If any of the above applies to you, talk to your GP as they can prescribe a higher dose of folic acid. Your GP or midwife may also recommend additional screening tests during your pregnancy.


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