It is important for women to take supplements during pregnancy.

In the third episode of our pregnancy and nutrition feature Dr Helen Crawley, public health nutritionist, First Steps Nutrition Trust, explains which supplements your patients should take.

Supplements in pregnancy

All pregnant women in the UK are recommended to take a supplement of 400µg/day of folic acid as soon as they start planning a pregnancy or as soon as they know they are pregnant.

While advice has been restricted to taking supplements for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, taking it throughout pregnancy is a prudent measure and ties in with advice for those who are eligible for, or given, free Healthy Start vitamins.

Some women may be recommended to have much higher amounts of folic acid in early pregnancy (5mg/day) as they are at particular risk of a neural tube defect affected foetus, but this is likely to be given by prescription.

In addition, all pregnant women are recommended to take 10µg of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) during their pregnancy and throughout the time they are breastfeeding.

These supplements are the only ones currently recommended and Healthy Start vitamins (which also contain vitamin C) are the vitamins to recommend.

If they are not available, a simple folic acid and vitamin D supplement is the cheapest option.

It is important pregnant women do not have supplements containing Vitamin A (as retinol) as this can be teratogenic, generally caution is advised before taking other supplements as these may be unnecessary or potentially dangerous if they cause nutrient imbalance.

In general, nutrients should come from foods, and it is only in a few cases we recommend a supplement as a population public health safety net.

Public health advice and clinical guidance can be accessed via NICE guidelines for women ante-natally, post-natally and specifically for maternal and child nutrition.

Supplements are only half the story however, join us tomorrow to fund out what foods pregnant women should avoid.