Key points

  • Sufficient nutrient intake and a good nutritional status of the mother are important for optimal development of the fetus. A healthy varied diet is important both before conception and during pregnancy.
  • In the UK the recommendation (dietary reference value) for energy intake during pregnancy is an extra 200 kcal/day during the third trimester only.
  • Excessive weight gain should be avoided.
  • Pregnant women are advised to take folic acid supplements before conception and during pregnancy to lower the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus. Vitamin D supplements are recommended during pregnancy to allow optimal bone development of the unborn child and to help avoid rickets during childhood.
  • To help avoid iron deficiency during pregnancy, a healthy, varied diet containing iron rich foods such as meat, eggs, beans, nuts, dark green vegetables and fortified foods (such as some breakfast cereals), should be consumed. 
  • During pregnancy, supplements containing vitamin A, liver and liver products should be avoided.
  • Women who are pregnant are advised to stop drinking alcohol altogether. If women choose to drink, no more than one to two units, once or twice per week should be consumed.
  • Caffeine intake during pregnancy should be limited to 200 mg/day, which equates to about two mugs of instant coffee a day or around 3 mugs of tea per day.