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 or planning a pregnancy are advised to stop drinking alcohol altogether. 
  • 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.