Updated: Aug 10
A baby’s growth is the most rapid in the first weeks of life – often before you are aware you are pregnant. For your body to be able to fully support these developments, higher levels of two key nutrients, folic acid and iodine, are essential. Because these nutrients cannot be obtained from your diet alone, the Australian health guidelines recommend taking a pregnancy supplement containing these two nutrients each day in addition to a healthy well-balanced diet. For why these nutrients are important, refer to our downloadable Preparing for Pregnancy guide. Many standard multivitamin supplements are available in Australia, but they don’t contain adequate amounts of folic acid and iodine required for healthy development. Because of this you’ll need to select a special pregnancy supplement that has been formulated for women who are planning to conceive or are pregnant. In saying that, always check the ingredients to see it contains at least 500 micrograms of folic acid and at least 150 micrograms of iodine. Not all formulations contain iodine and the amounts also vary. Below, we’ve listed suitable pregnancy supplements that meet the recommended national health pregnancy requirements. You’ll find these available on the shelf (or over the counter in some states) at your local pharmacy.
Note: Always read the individual pack label and directions for use. While it may seem like “more is better” with supplements, this is not correct. Many of the other vitamins and minerals in a pregnancy multivitamin supplement are water soluble and end up in your urine if you don’t need them. There are higher requirements of other vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy, but these can be achieved through the food you eat. Your doctor will indicate if another supplementation is needed. For some women, a blood test may indicate that a separate supplement containing iron or Vitamin D may be required. When should I start and finish taking pregnancy supplements? Ideally, folic acid and iodine should be taken from the point of planning pregnancy, but at least one month before. In this way, your body is ready to support your baby’s health at conception. If the pregnancy is not planned, start taking the pregnancy supplement as soon as possible after finding out you are pregnant. Folate is recommended to be continued for the first three months of pregnancy and iodine should be continued for the full duration of the pregnancy. Since the majority of pregnancy supplements contain both active ingredients, it’s recommended to take them from the point of planning pregnancy and continue daily for the full duration of the pregnancy. TIP: If you experience symptoms of morning sickness such as nausea and vomiting, take the supplement at midday or in the evening. Even women who aren’t planning to have a baby should increase their folate and iodine intake if they are sexually active, because around half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. If you have a family history of neural tube defects you may require more folic acid and you should ask your doctor or health care provider for advice about your individual needs. Women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should consult their doctor before taking iodine supplements. Remember that a pregnancy supplement shouldn’t be a replacement for a healthy diet; rather it supports a healthy diet. If unsure your doctor, midwife, pharmacist or a dietitian can help you to choose the best supplement for your needs. References
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Eat for Health – Infant Feeding Guidelines Information for Health Workers. Available from: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/infant-feeding-guidelines-information-health-workers
Food Standards Australia New Zealand. (2016). Folic acid/folate and pregnancy. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/pregnancy/folic/Pages/default.aspx
National Health and Medical Research Council (2010). Iodine Supplementation. Available from: https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/generalissues/pregnancy/folic/Pages/default.aspx
“Article original appeared on What vitamins to take during pregnancy | Bellamy's Organic” Shae Rickards is the Mama You've Got This Dietitian Expert and presents at Mama You've Got This Ready for Pregnancy, Pregnancy, Infant Essentials and Toddler Masterclasses - book your tickets today here. Photo: Bec Walton Photography