A balanced, healthy diet is important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Although all vitamins and minerals are important to give a balanced diet, it is important to make sure you are getting enough iron and vitamins A, C and D. Your body needs time to build up iron throughout your pregnancy.
Pregnant women can have low levels of iron so it’s important to make sure you have plenty of iron-rich foods.
The best way for your body to absorb iron is from the foods you eat. Good sources of iron include:
- Red meat and some offal (kidney, heart and tongue)
- Pulses, such as peas, beans and lentils
- Wholegrain bread and cereals
- Dark green vegetables
- Blackstrap molasses
- Yeast extract, e.g. marmite and vegemite
- Dried fruit, especially prunes figs and apricots
- Tinned fish, e.g. tuna, salmon and sardines and pilchards
To help you absorb the iron from these foods, you also need to make sure you have some vitamin C with your meal from vegetables or citrus fruit.
Vitamin D is needed to keep bones and teeth healthy. It’s particularly important in preventing newborn babies from getting rickets. You should take supplements containing 10mcg of vitamin D every day.
Vitamin D is found in a few foods such as oily fish, eggs, margarine and fortified breakfast cereals, but we get most of it from being outdoors and in the sun. However, it is not possible to get enough vitamin D from food alone, and in Scotland there is not enough sunlight from November to April, so you should take vitamin D throughout your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding. If you have dark skin, or cover your skin, you are particularly susceptible to vitamin D deficiency and should speak to your midwife or GP to get a suitable supplement.
Make sure you don’t have too much vitamin A. Liver products and supplements containing vitamin ALiver and liver products such as pâté, haggis or liver sausage may contain high levels of vitamin A which can be harmful to your baby. You only need a small amount as Vitamin A is a vitamin which we store, meaning that an excess can build up in the body. High levels may harm your unborn baby. Ask your midwife or GP if you want more information.
Vitamin support - Healthy Start
If you or your family receive income support, income-based job seekers allowance, child tax credit, are on a low income, or are a teenager, you may be eligible for Healthy Start.
If you are eligible, you can get free vitamins containing folic acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin D, as well as Healthy Start Vouchers, visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk or ask a health professionals for more information