Essential Vitamins & Minerals During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can put extra demands on your body’s supply of vitamins and minerals. For a healthy pregnancy, a balanced diet including a variety of foods from the main food groups is essential to meet those demands and give your baby the best start.

We look at some of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs during pregnancy.


Also known as folic acid, folate is a B-group vitamin that is found naturally in many foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruit, orange juice, legumes, nuts, liver, and yeast. It can also be found in some fortified products, such as breakfast cereals, fruit juice and bread and can also be taken in supplement form (tablet or capsule).

By taking a folate supplement in the months leading up to conception, as well as in the first trimester of your pregnancy, the incidence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele, can be significantly reduced.


Although your body’s natural menstruation-related iron loss is less during pregnancy, the demands of your developing baby does increase your need for extra iron in your diet. As your baby grows, it draws enough iron from you to last it safely through its first five or six months after birth.

To ensure that your own iron levels keep you at optimum health, revamp your meal plans to regularly include foods that are good sources of iron, such as red meat, legumes, and dark leafy green vegetables.

Having foods that are good sources of vitamin C, such as oranges and capsicums, at the same meal will increase your body’s ability to absorb the iron.

If you have your iron levels tested and your stores are low, you may need to take an iron supplement.

Vitamin A

During pregnancy, your body’s need for this vitamin will increase but be aware that vitamin A supplements are rarely recommended for pregnant women. This is because excessive doses of vitamin A may cause birth deformities.

The safest way to manage your vitamin A intake is through a sensibly balanced diet, including milk, some fish, cooked eggs, and small amounts of margarine.


Although there is a large shift of calcium to your baby during the third trimester of pregnancy as your baby starts to develop and strengthen its bones, your increased capacity to absorb existing dietary calcium can make up for some of this loss.

The recommended dietary intake for pregnant or breastfeeding women is four serves of calcium-rich foods per day. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, and calcium-fortified soymilk are excellent dietary sources of calcium.

Multivitamins are not recommended during pregnancy due to the risks associated with excessive amounts of some vitamins (such as vitamin A) which could be harmful to your developing baby. Always consult your medical practitioner before taking a dietary supplement.

For more information, visit Health Navigator New Zealand.

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