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HealthInfo Canterbury

Supplements during pregnancy & breastfeeding

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While you're pregnant and breastfeeding, your body needs more nutrients than usual, because you're supporting yourself and your growing baby. It's important that you eat well. There are also some supplements you should take to give your baby the best chance of being healthy.

Doctors and midwives recommend that you take folic acid for at least a month before becoming pregnant and until you're 12 weeks pregnant. This reduces the risk of your baby having brain and spinal problems.

If you find out that you're pregnant and you haven't been taking folic acid, start taking it as soon as possible. Keep taking it until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

They also recommend that you take an iodine supplement while you're pregnant and breastfeeding, as your needs increase during this time. Your baby also needs iodine to grow and develop normally. This is because iodine helps make thyroid hormones which support metabolism, and support normal growth and development in children. Iodine is essential for normal brain development. The iodine content of New Zealand soils is low so locally produced foods are low in iodine.

Vitamin D

You need enough vitamin D to maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphorus in your body. These are the chemicals that help to build your baby's bones. If you don't get enough vitamin D when you're pregnant, your baby may be at risk of having serious bone problems.

Getting some time outdoors in sunlight is the main way to get vitamin D (but make sure you don't get sunburnt!) You can also get some vitamin D through food, but it's difficult to get enough from what you eat.

If you have dark skin or if you can't get enough vitamin D from sunshine and food, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement.

The Ministry of Health has some easy-to-read advice about vitamin D and sun exposure for when you're pregnant and after your baby is born.

This information is also available in Māori, Arabic, Cook Islands Māori, Hindi, Korean, Samoan, Simplified Chinese, Tagalog, Tongan and Traditional Chinese.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by midwife liaison, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2018.

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Page reference: 65585

Review key: HISPB-65585