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When choosing supplements, make sure you choose supplements for pregnancy, rather than general supplements. This is because they may contain vitamins and nutrients that are either not safe, or contain unsafe levels for you in pregnancy. Supplements which are safe for pregnancy will be clearly labelled.

Multivitamin / mineral

Your nutritional needs are different during pregnancy, compared to other times in your life, so it is important to choose a multivitamin / mineral supplement that has been specifically designed for pregnancy. Plus, some multivitamins contain higher than safe levels of vitamin A – which is harmful for pregnant women, see Foundations of a health diet: part two for more information.

Vitamin D

NICE Guidelines recommend that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a vitamin D supplement. The recommended minimum daily does is 10 micrograms (0.01 mg) and this level is often not present in a multivitamin, so a separate supplement is required. See 3 important times to take vitamin D.

Folate or Folic Acid

Ideally 400 micrograms ( 0.4 mg) of Folate or Folic Acid should be taken as soon as you know you are pregnant (or earlier if you are trying for a baby) until your twelve weeks pregnant – or for the duration of your pregnancy and whilst you are breastfeeding.

Food-stable Folate is prefered by some to synthetic Folic Acid, as Folate crosses the placenta much more easily in its natural form. However, Folic Acid supplements do meet the UK guideline standard.

See the Department of Health recommendation.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are made up of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are vital for normal development of the brain and eye function of your baby. This is particularly important during your third trimester.

If you don’t have the necessary Omega 3 levels in your blood stream to meet your baby’s needs as they grow and develop, your baby will use the Omega 3 from your body. The richest store of Omega 3 is found in your brain! ‘Baby brain’ can be a sign of low Omega 3 levels – so it’s worth investing in a high quality supplement that provides 200 – 400 mg of DHA per daily dose. This should be specifically Omega 3, not cod liver oil or similar.

Probiotics

Research shows that taking probiotics while pregnant improves the strength of your baby’s immune system, and their ability to tolerate lactose when they are born. Recent studies also suggest that babies whose mums took probiotics whilst pregnant are also at a lower risk of developing allergic diseases and conditions such as eczema.

Another benefit, probiotics can reduce your susceptibility to colds and infections, and alleviate constipation when your pregnant and breastfeeding.  Choose a multi-strain probiotic which contains at least 10 billion colony-forming-units (CFUs).

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