Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.
When you’re pregnant, or there’s a chance you might get pregnant, it’s important to also take a folic acid supplement. Folic acid reduces the risk of problems in the baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy.
When taking folic acid, it’s recommended that you take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day – from before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.
It is also recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement. You’ll need 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day and especially during the winter months from September to March.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.
Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight (from late March/early April to the end of September).
It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s needs, but if you’re in the sun take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you start to turn red or burn.
You can also increase your Vitamin D intake through your diet. Some great sources of Vitamin D include:
- Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines)
- Red meat
- Vitamin D is added to some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives. The amounts added to these products can vary and might only be small.
Because Vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods, whether naturally or added, it can be difficult to get enough from foods alone.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.
Iron deficiency (anaemia) can result in you feeling very tired, pale, weak and short of breath. A lack of iron means your body is unable to produce enough haemoglobin – a substance that carries oxygen in red blood cells.
Iron supplements can be taken to help iron deficiency anaemia in most cases.
Iron can also be found in lots of food, including:
- Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts contain iron.
- If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods that contain peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can do so as part of a healthy, balanced diet unless you’re allergic to them or your health professional advises you not to.
- Many breakfast cereals have iron added to them. If the iron level in your blood becomes low, a GP or midwife will advise you to take iron supplements.
Vitamin C helps your body form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones, vital to your body’s healing process. Your body doesn’t produce vitamin C, you need to get it from your diet. It’s found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need.
Good sources include:
- Oranges and orange juice
- Red and green peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to a disease called scurvy, which causes anemia, bleeding gums, bruising and poor wound healing.
Calcium has several important functions such as helping build bones and keep teeth healthy, regulating muscle contractions, including your heartbeat, and making sure blood clots normally. You should be able to get all the calcium you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Sources of calcium include:
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Green leafy vegetables, such as rocket, watercress or curly kale
- Soya drinks with added calcium
- Bread and any foods made with fortified flour
- Fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines and pilchards
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