Which vitamin supplements are suitable for pregnant women?

Which vitamin supplements are suitable for pregnant women?

It is recommended that all pregnant women take a daily vitamin supplement that contains 400 micro-grams of folic acid and 10 micro-grams of vitamin D in pregnancy. Healthy Start vitamins include folic acid and vitamin D and are suitable for all women except those who choose a vegan diet. If other vitamin supplements are taken, it is important that they do not include vitamin A. If you cannot source Healthy Start vitamin supplements in your area, or cannot access these while attempting to become pregnant or in the first weeks of pregnancy, the best alternative supplement is a simple folic acid and vitamin D supplement, available from most pharmacies. Boots sell own- brand vitamin supplements with 400 micro-grams of folic acid and 10 micro-grams of vitamin D, which cost 5p a day to take. You could also take folic acid supplements and vitamin D supplements separately, and you can buy folic acid supplements of the correct strength (400 micro-grams a day) from most pharmacies very cheaply. Vitamin D sold as a single product may come in different doses, but many pharmacies sell inexpensive supplements containing between 10 and 25 micro-grams of vitamin D suitable for women to take in pregnancy.

What about branded specialist vitamins for pregnant women?

There are a range of expensive vitamin supplements sold for women planning a pregnancy or during pregnancy, many of which contain a whole range of other vitamins and minerals that are not needed by most women. Eating a good diet should always be the suggested route for obtaining most of the nutrients needed. Unless someone has been specifically recommended to take supplements containing additional nutrients there may be a risk associated with taking additional supplements, and the money spent on these supplements would be more advantageously used on buying additional fruit, vegetables and milk.

Taking other vitamin supplements

It is important to remember that only supplements of folic acid and vitamin D – or the Healthy Start vitamins, which contain folic acid, vitamin D and vitamin C – are recommended in pregnancy. No other supplements are recommended and some may be dangerous (see page 37). Taking lots of supplements does not improve health and may have an adverse impact on health. Also, supplements are an unnecessary expense for many. Make sure that only vitamins suitable for pregnancy are taken. General multivitamins that contain vitamin A (retinol) are not suitable, as high intakes of this vitamin in supplement form can be dangerous for the fetus.

Vitamins for vegan pregnant women Folic acid supplements can be purchased cheaply from a pharmacist and are usually suitable for vegans. The Vegan Society produces a supplement called Veg1 which contains riboflavin, vitamin B6, folic acid (200 micrograms), vitamin B12 (10 micrograms), vitamin D (10 micrograms), iodine (150 micrograms) and selenium. This supplement is suitable for pregnant women, but does not contain enough folic acid (as it contains 200 micrograms rather than the required 400 micrograms). So it should be taken with an additional folic acid supplement. Vitamin D supplements are often marked in IU (international units) rather than micrograms. 400 IU is equivalent to 10 micrograms. Vitashine vitamin D is recommended by the Vegan Society and a 1,000 IU supplement (equivalent to 25 micrograms of vitamin D) is available, which is suitable for pregnant women. Vegan women should avoid any supplements that contain vitamin A.
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