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Pregnancy and breastfeeding vitamins

A healthy, varied diet is important for ensuring both the mother and her developing baby receive adequate nutrition. Although its best to get vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, when pregnant or breastfeeding, some specific vitamins are recommended to ensure you get adequate amounts. Below are 5 key messages from an article I wrote that discussed important vitamins required around the time of pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

  • Did you know: Supplements of folic acid (around early pregnancy) and vitamin D for pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended.

Several key vitamins are needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Wherever possible, these should be provided by a good diet. However some supplements are recommended.

  • Did you know: Although awareness of the need to take folic acid appears to be high among women, the number of women who actually take a folic acid supplement before conception is very low – only around 2 out of 10 women.

Since the early 1990s, it was evident that consumption of folic acid around the time of conception could reduce the risk of neural tube defects. The UK Government advises women who may become pregnant to take a daily folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms, continuing up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

  • Did you know: A daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms is recommended for all women throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Poor maternal vitamin D status can have an impact on the infant’s vitamin D status and their long-term bone health. Many women in the UK have a low vitamin D status which, if severe, puts them at risk of osteomalacia, the adult form of rickets.

  • Did you know: Any supplements containing vitamin A, high-dose multivitamin supplements and fish liver oil supplements should be avoided during pregnancy as they may not be safe.

Vitamin A is essential for normal structure and function of the skin and it’s also vital for vision, growth and a healthy immune system. Large amounts of vitamin A can harm the unborn baby, causing malformations.

  • Did you know: Vegan pregnant women may require a vitamin B12 supplementation in addition to folic acid and vitamin D.

Vegetarian diets that contain only small amounts of dairy products and eggs, and particularly vegan diets where no animal products are consumed, are likely to be lacking in vitamin B12 (and may also be low in calcium, vitamin B2, iron and vitamin D).

Wyness L (2015) Vitamin supplementation and nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding. British Journal of Midwifery 23(10): 695-701.

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