Dietary supplements in pregnancy


*Corresponding author
School of Sport Studies, leisure and Nutrition, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom


It is well documented that good nutrition during pregnancy is essential for the health of both the fetus and the pregnant woman. Various barriers may prevent pregnant women from consuming all the vital nutrients recommended; this can include poverty, access to food, nausea and vomiting. However, many women may unwittingly elude important nutrients by following restrictive diets, such as vegetarian or vegan diets, often believing that this is a healthy option. Fortification of food and supplementation of key micronutrients, particularly folic acid, vitamin D and iron can help to ensure optimal nutritional status in pregnant women, particularly where diets may be lacking. Globally, Governments and health organisations have issued recommendations and/or started schemes that aim to optimise micronutrient intake in pregnancy, mainly via targeted supplementation.


A nourishing diet during pregnancy is essential for the healthy growth and development of the fetus (1). Contrary to popular belief, there is no need for pregnant women to ‘eat for two’ as only a slight increase in certain nutrients is recommended (2). However, pregnant women with poor or overly restrictive diets may reduce fetal access to essential micronutrients during the early stages of pregnancy. Severe or prolonged vomiting during the first trimester is of particular concern for the fetus, as nutritional intake may be significantly compromised (1).



The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies globally, with 30% of women in developed countries having insufficient iron stores; the prevalence in developing countries is even higher (3, 4). Women with poor iron stores may suffer from anaemia during pregnancy, and therefore screening and supplementation is recommended. However, most UK women following a balanced diet will not require supplementation during pregnancy. Iron-rich foods include lean meat – especially red ...