Early life nutrition refers to nutritional exposures prior to conception and during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. These exposures have an important influence on quality of life and health into adulthood.

Recommendations for nutrient intakes and the need for supplementation before and during pregnancy continue to be a source of confusion for parents. In recent years there has been growing interest in the nutritional requirements during these critical periods of development.It is best for women to source their vitamins and minerals from food. However there are a number of supplements that are recommended prior to conception, during pregnancy and for women who breastfeed. The current recommendations for supplementation are as follows:

Folic Acid
Folic Acid (B vitamin)  is recommended to all women pre-conceptually and until the 12th weeks of pregnancy. The recommended dose is  0.4mg (400 micrograms daily). Taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of a baby being born with a neural tube defect (NTD) such as spina bifida.

In addition to folic acid supplements foods that are high in folic acid are important, such as green leafy vegetables and breads and cereals.Some women have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, and are advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid each day until they are 12 weeks pregnant. A pharmacist can advise if a higher dose is required.

Vitamin D
It is recommended that women take 5-10 micrograms of vitamin D each day throughout your pregnancy, and continue to take the supplement throughout breastfeeding.

It is also recommended that all infants whether breastfed or bottle fed are given a daily supplement of 5 micrograms (5μg) once a day from birth to 12 months. The supplement should contain vitamin D only. A pharmacist can advise on the best supplement

There is a significant increase in iron requirements in pregnancy, resulting from an increased need from both the mother and fetus. Good sources of iron are lean meat, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits, many breakfast cereals have added iron. An iron supplement should only be taken if recommended by a doctor or midwife


Oily fish (Omega 3)
There’s no official recommendation that pregnant women should take a fish oil supplement. For women who eat 2 portions of oily fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines) every week, there is no need for a supplement, however for women who don’t eat oily fish a health food a pharmacist can advise on options for supplementation. Supplementation with omega 3 may also be a consideration for breastfeeding Mums, depending on how much they have in their diet.
Overall in pregnancy women should be eating a varied and healthy diet before and during pregnancy, and there is no need to eat for 2! Typically women don’t need any additional calories in the first trimester, with 300-350 additional calories (1 slide wholemeal bread) per day in the second trimester and an additional 500 calories (1 slice wholemeal bread and banana) required in the third trimester.