Folic acid is an essential B vitamin that if taken at the right time and in the correct dose, can reduce the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect such as spina bifida (where a gap develops in the spine and damage to the central nervous system occurs) by up to 75%.
You should take a folic acid supplement in the three months before conception and then during the first three months of pregnancy.
If your pregnancy was unplanned you should begin taking it as soon as possible.
Folic acid is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, yeast extract, fruits, wholemeal breads and cereals, but it’s hard to get enough from your diet alone, so it is recommended that you take a 400mcg supplement every day.*
If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect, you are on anti-epileptic medicines, you have coeliac disease, sickle cell disease or diabetes or your BMI is over 30, you will be advised to take 5mg a day.
Folic acid supplements are available from a chemist or you can get them free on prescription.
If you take any other vitamin supplements, make sure they are specially formulated for pregnancy as some brands contain vitamin A, which has been linked to birth defects if taken in large quantities.
Specialist pregnancy supplements provide nutritional support throughout pregnancy, not just for the first 12 weeks.It is important to maintain adequate vitamin D stores during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Your family origin, limited exposure to sunlight, a diet low in vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, eggs and meat and being overweight can all cause deficiency.
You should also be advised by your doctor to take 10mcgs of Vitamin D throughout your pregnancy and after your baby is born if you are breastfeeding.** Ask your doctor about a suitable supplement
Herbal remedies are best avoided too, as their effects have not been researched thoroughly enough to be safe in pregnancy.
Not all over-the-counter medicines are suitable for use in pregnancy or when breastfeeding either, so always check with the chemist before taking these.
Visit the UK-based NHS website for more information about taking supplements during pregnancy.
*/**Source: NHS Choices