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July 27, 2016

Your nutritional needs change when pregnant and it can be confusing to know what is best. Here are our dietician's tips on supplements. 

For most women, folic acid and iodine are the only supplements recommended during pregnancy in New Zealand and are available at a reduced cost with a prescription from your LMC. Having a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet incorporating a variety of foods from the different food groups will help to ensure you are getting all the other vitamins and minerals you and your baby needs.

Folic acid

- is needed to make new blood cells and tissues and with the whole little person you are growing, your need for folic acid is higher in pregnancy. Folic acid is also proven to reduce the risk of of your baby having neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. It’s best to start taking folic acid at least 4 weeks before you might become pregnant and up until week 12 of pregnancy. Most women need 0.8mg folic acid a day but women with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of a pregnancy affected by neural tube defect and need a higher dose. Speak to your LMC about which folic acid tablet is best for you. Choosing foods naturally high in folate (the natural form of folic acid found in foods) or fortified with folic acid (the supplemental form) can help too. These include:

  • well-washed, green leafy vegetables
  • raw fruit, particularly citrus fruit
  • wholegrain bread and cereal
  • cooked dried beans and peas
  • yeast extracts
  • folic acid- fortified breakfast cereal, bread or fruit juice


- is essential for supporting normal growth and development and your requirements are higher during pregnancy and breastfeeding making it difficult to get enough iodine from food alone. A daily iodine-only tablet containing 150 micrograms iodine is recommended right from when you first find out you are pregnant until you stop breastfeeding.

Vitamin D

- is an important nutrient in pregnancy and is needed for building strong bones. While some foods do contain vitamin D, it is difficult to get enough through diet alone and the main source of vitamin D in New Zealand is sunlight. Some women are at risk of vitamin D deficiency and supplementation might be needed in some cases. If you have darker skin, get little sun exposure or on certain medications (e.g. anticonvulsants) then you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Speak to your LMC, doctor or dietitian if this applies to you.

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