Pregnancy supplements

Pregnancy supplements – What should I take, when & why?
Before conception

Folic acid is essential for anyone who is pregnant or thinking about having a baby. Studies have proven mothers who take folic acid prior to conception and during pregnancy reduce the chance of having a baby born with serious neural tube defects such as spine bifida by up to 70 per cent. The advice is to take 400 micrograms of folic acid at least a month before you start to try for a baby and everyday thereafter until baby arrives.

During pregnancy

Folic acid   Should be taken throughout pregnancy. If you are unsure of your folic acid needs, discuss with your GP to make sure you are taking the correct dosage and to put your mind at ease.

Vitamin D – Deficiencies of Vitamin D in pregnancy are thought to be linked to higher rates of Caesarean births, diabetes and lower-weight babies. Half an hour of sunshine should be enough for a daily allowance however, in Ireland, this is not always possible. Alternatives are oily fish, egg yolks and fortified dairy products. To be safe, a supplement of 10 micrograms daily will provide the recommended daily allowance.

Iron – Get used to hearing this word a lot. Iron levels are monitored throughout pregnancy but only if your iron level is low will your healthcare professional recommend you take a supplement. A natural way to get a good in-take of iron is from green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, lean meats and nuts. If you constantly feel exhausted ask your GP to check your iron levels.

Calcium – We all know the importance of calcium, it’s especially vital to a growing baby’s bones. Eat foods that are rich in calcium, such as dairy products, fish (with edible bones), leafy vegetables and dried fruit.

Vitamin C – Fruit and vegetables provide us with all the Vitamin C we need. Try to include a source of Vitamin C in every meal. Don’t take large doses of Vitamin C as it can upset the stomach and could be harmful. If you feel you are not meeting your body’s Vitamin C needs, seek advice from your GP.

Omega-3 – Aids baby’s brain and eye development. It’s recommended that pregnant women take 300 milligrams twice weekly as well as eating the natural sources of omega-3 such as salmon and trout. Buy a supplement specifically for pregnant mums. Avoid cod liver oil as it contains Vitamin A, which can be dangerous for the baby.

After Pregnancy

Prenatal Supplements – If you are breastfeeding, keep to a healthy diet. You may also need to increase your calorie intake. Some health professionals recommend nursing mothers continue to take their prenatal supplements, speak to your GP to make sure you meet the requirements suitable to you.

Vitamin C – An adequate supply of Vitamin C will help heal your body after giving birth.

Iron – Again an iron rich diet is recommended and make sure any supplements you take includes iron.

Vitamin B – B6, B12 and folate can affect chemicals produced in the brain. A Vitamin B rich diet or supplement recommended by a GP can reduce the risk of depression.

Be cautious of your supplement intake. If you are unsure in any way speak to your GP. Be careful with Vitamin A. Although it is a crucial part of the development of baby’s heart, kidneys, eyes and bones, too much Vitamin A can lead to birth defects & liver toxicity. Pregnancy-specific supplements are the safest option.


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