If you take just one supplement, make it a daily dose of folic acid in early pregnancy, key to good foetal development
Doctors recommend that if you're thinking about having a baby you should start taking a folic acid (vitamin B9) supplement of 400mcg per day – preferably for three months before you try to conceive. If you’ve become pregnant unexpectedly then you should take folic acid as soon as you realise you're pregnant as it's particularly important in the early months of pregnancy.
Folic acid is very important to the healthy development of a foetus.
Most importantly it can reduce the risk of defects to the brain and spinal cord known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Folic acid is also needed to help the early growth and development of the placenta and helps in the production of the extra blood cells women need when they're pregnant.
To be absolutely sure you’re getting at least the recommended amount of folic acid every day, it’s best to take a supplement.
You'll find folic acid supplements in chemists and health food shops, either as just folic acid or combined with other supplements for pregnancy. Make sure the supplement is specially formulated for pregnancy as there are some vitamins that you should take in moderation when you are expecting a baby.
If you’re a cereal eater then you can also look out for cereal fortified with 100% of the daily recommended intake of folic acid. But make sure you then eat the right portion of cereal!
All women who’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid for at least the first three months of pregnancy, as it reduces the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects by up to 70%.
Anne Richley, midwife
Folic acid is also naturally found in fruits and citrus juices, leafy green vegetables like kale and broccoli, beans, nuts, wholegrain breads and wholegrain cereals, many of which will also help you towards your calcium intake.
Remember that the fresher the source, the better, and that the more you cook food, the fewer nutrients end up on your plate.
"I started taking folic acid about six months before I ended up getting pregnant, so by the time I was expecting, I got a bit lazy about remembering to take it! I did keep it up and just avoided fretting about it on the days I forgot. One of the great things is that, unlike some supplements, folic acid doesn’t seem to make you feel queasy, which really helps in the first weeks!"
Greta, 29, mum to Howie, 13 months
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