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RCOG release: What you need to know about healthy eating and vitamin supplementation before conception and during pregnancy

News 24 October 2014

How to eat healthily and what vitamin supplementation is recommended before conception and during pregnancy, is explored in new patient information published today, by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

The information, aimed at women who want to know more about how to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy, provides practical advice on weight and nutrition including foods and vitamins that are best before conception, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Healthcare professionals agree that women should always try to maintain a healthy balanced diet, but this is especially important before conception and throughout pregnancy to optimise a baby’s development. A balanced diet includes meals of starchy wholegrain foods (such as potatoes, bread and rice), fibre-rich foods (such as oats and lentils) and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Dairy is also recommended as an important part of a balanced diet, although pregnant women are advised to choose low-fat options and generally avoid foods higher in fat and calories.

In addition, the information provides tips on how to best avoid the risk of infection from possibly contaminated foods, which can also be harmful to an unborn baby.

The guidance also stresses the importance of portion control during pregnancy and not ‘eating for two’. While dieting is not recommended, most women do not require extra calories during the first six months of pregnancy and it is only in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy that they may need to eat more, which should only be an extra 200 calories per day.

The different vitamins and whether they are recommended in pregnancy are also detailed in the paper. Current guidelines recommend that women take folic acid, which helps reduce the risk of spinal cord, heart and limb defects in newborns, as soon as they realise they are pregnant and vitamin D, which improves growth and reduces the risk of developing rickets, while pregnant and during breastfeeding.

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said:

“Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy weight during pregnancy is very important for the development of an unborn baby. This paper provides practical advice for women to follow on what is best for them and their baby during this time.

“It outlines the recommended dosages of dietary and vitamin supplements that are beneficial to both mother and baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network, added:

“We hear from women about the many myths and conflicting advice around the consumption of certain foods and supplements, and planning a baby and being pregnant can be a very confusing and worrying time.

“This information is written in a clear and accessible way and covers many of the questions women will have, particularly about specific foods and supplements to stick to and to avoid. With this information women can make informed decisions about their diet and the future health of themselves and their baby.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


This information has been developed by the RCOG Patient Information Committee. It is based on information from the NHS Choices website and the RCOG scientific impact paper Nutrition in Pregnancy (September 2010), which contains a full list of the sources of evidence we have used.