Pregnancy essentials: the vitamins and minerals you need

Good nutrition during pregnancy can help to keep both the expectant mother and baby healthy. Certain nutrients are particularly important at this time and may be required in higher amounts than usual including the vitamins and minerals discussed below.

Folic acid – Folic acid requirements increase substantially in pregnancy to support healthy foetal development and reduce the risk of having a child born with neural tube defects. It is recommended to take a specialised pregnancy supplement with at least 400mcg of folic acid one month before conception and during pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of such outcomes.

Iodine– Adequate iodine is required during pregnancy to support healthy hearing and brain development of the baby. Because of its importance in healthy growth and development, it is recommended that pregnant and lactating women as well as those planning on conceiving take a specialised pregnancy supplement with 150mcg of iodine to ensure their needs are met.1

Omega 3 – Omega 3 essential fatty acids, in particular DHA (docosahexanoic acid), are needed for the normal development and function of the baby’s brain, nervous system and retina as well as for the expectant mother’s general health and well-being.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb and use calcium and is therefore essential for forming and maintaining strong healthy bones. Vitamin D is particularly important during pregnancy and lactation to support the development of the baby’s skeleton and there is evidence to suggest that low maternal levels of vitamin D may be associated with adverse outcomes for both the mother and baby, before and after birth. The requirement for vitamin D can increase four‐to‐five fold in pregnancy to facilitate the absorption of extra calcium needed for foetal skeletal growth but many mothers may be at risk of insufficiency particularly those with reduced sun exposure such as women who cover up for religious or cultural reasons, and those who are darker‐skinned or live in higher latitude locations.