Key points

  • Sufficient energy and 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.
  • A weight gain of 10-14 kg is associated with an optimal birth weight outcome. 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 avoid rickets during childhood.
  • To avoid iron deficiency during pregnancy, the iron stores should be built up before conception. This can be achieved by eating a healthy varied diet and iron rich foods such as meat, eggs, beans, nuts, dark green vegetables and fortified foods (such as some breakfast cereals).
  • During pregnancy supplements containing vitamin A,and liver products should be avoided.
  • Women who are pregnant or are trying for a baby are advised to stop drinking alcohol altogether. If women choose to drink, no more than one to two units 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.


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