Nutrition and supplements during early pregnancy
The importance of good maternal health during pregnancy is well accepted, however, it is equally important that nutritional
status prior to pregnancy is optimised.
Folate reduces the risk of neural tube defects, therefore it is recommended that women planning a
pregnancy should take a daily supplement of 800 mcg of folic acid.6 N.B. 400 mcg folic acid is adequate but
funded tablets are available in 800 mcg or 5 mg strengths. Folic acid is also available for over-the-counter purchase
at pharmacies. Higher doses (5 mg/day) are recommended for women with a previous neural tube defect affected pregnancy,
a family history of neural tube defects, women taking anticonvulsants, women with diabetes and
who are obese*. Folic acid is recommended for at least four weeks before conception and 12 weeks after.6 Supplementation
can be continued throughout the pregnancy.
Iodine is recommended throughout pregnancy due to changes in thyroid function, which may result in
cognitive impairment to the foetus. Unlike folic acid, it is not necessary to take iodine pre-conception. The Ministry
of Health recommends that pregnant women should take 150 mcg of potassium iodide per day.6 NeuroKare Iodine,
which contains 268 mcg potassium iodate (equivalent to 150 mcg potassium iodide) is available for prescription or over-the-counter
purchase at pharmacies.
Iron requirements during pregnancy increase substantially after the first trimester, but it is important
to have adequate pre-conception iron stores. This can be achieved through diet (e.g. lean beef and lamb) or if iron deficient,
Many women choose to take a multi-vitamin supplement for pre-conception and early pregnancy needs
(e.g. Elevit). Recommend that they choose a pre-natal/pregnancy specific supplement which contains adequate amounts of
folic acid (recommended daily intake [RDI] 400 mcg), iron (RDI 27 mg) and potassium iodide (RDI 220 mcg) and avoid excessive
vitamin A (RDI 800 mcg/2667 IU, do not exceed 10 000 IU per day).
For further information see: “Nutrition
and supplements during pregnancy”, BPJ 18, (Dec, 2008).