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Conception Vitamins and Food Supplements

Why take conception vitamins and supplements?

A healthy diet and lifestyle can improve your fertility. To maximise your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy, couples should be in the best possible health for at least 6 months prior to conception. 

Folic Acid

Taking folic acid, a type of B vitamin (vitamin B9), when trying to conceive is recommended by the UK Department of Health. There is evidence to show that having the right level of folic acid in your bloodstream at the time of conception will support the healthy development of a baby’s brain and spinal cord, and also reduce the risk of your baby having a Neural Tube Defect (NTD) such as spina bifida, which occurs in the first 28 days of pregnancy.

The Department of Health recommends that women take 400mcg folic acid supplement once a day, whilst they are trying to conceive and for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. If your pregnancy is unexpected, you should start taking folic acid as soon as possible. Some women have an increased risk of having a baby with NTD and will require a higher dose of folic acid, which is only available on a prescription. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, a family history of NTD, or are very overweight, it is important to talk to your Doctor about the dose of folic acid that you should take.

Foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, chickpeas, broccoli, peas, asparagus and Brussel sprouts are rich in folic acid, but diet alone won’t provide you with enough folic acid to protect your developing baby. Food Supplements are intended to supplement the diet and should not be substituted for a varied diet or healthy lifestyle.

For more information on folic acid visit www.gofolic.co.uk

A folic acid supplement can be taken as either:

• A single 400mcg folic acid supplement once a day
• Or, in the form of a multivitamin formula, which can also include vitamin D and other important vitamins and supplements to help support conception and pregnancy

Vitamin D

The UK Department of Health also recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium in your body, this helps to keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy. This also provides your baby with enough vitamin D in their first few months.

Vitamin D is naturally found in only a few foods and most of our vitamin D is made in our skin when we’re out in the sunshine. 

All pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly young women, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. But your risk is higher if:

•You don’t get much sun, for example, you cover up your skin, are housebound, or spend a lot of time in doors

•You are of African, South Asian or Caribbean descent, or have darker skin this is because your body does not make as much vitamin D in response to sunlight

 Dr Fertility offers a range of multivitamins that contain 10mcg vitamin D as recommended by the Department of Health.

Are free vitamin D supplements available?

Women and children from families who are eligible for the Government’s Healthy Start scheme can get free vitamin supplements which include vitamin D, in the form of tablets for women and drops for children.

Further information can be found at

www.healthystart.nhs.uk

Vitamin A

Warning: Pregnant women should avoid supplements and multivitamins containing vitamin A also known as retinol. This is because too much vitamin A can harm your baby’s development. You should also avoid liver and liver products (including fish liver oil), as they are high in vitamin A.

If you need any more information regarding vitamins and supplements for conception or during your pregnancy, your GP, midwife or Pharmacist can also advise you.

 

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Fertility, Assessment and treatment for people with fertility problems, February 2013, NICE clinical guideline 156, guidance.nice.org.uk

Healthy Start is a UK-wide statutory scheme providing a means-tested nutritional safety net to pregnant women and families with children under four years old in very low income and disadvantaged families. It provides vouchers for basic healthy foods and coupons for Healthy Start vitamin supplements to women and children in around 460,000 UK families.