It is recommended that pregnant people take folic acid and vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy (and post-natally if breastfeeding), as it is difficult to consume the required levels through diet alone. Folic acid is important to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida in the baby, while vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in the developing child as well as bone pain and tenderness in adults. Vitamin D deficiency is a risk in all pregnant and breastfeeding people, with the highest risk in younger mothers and those of non-White ethnicities. 4 Vitamin D and folic acid are both contained in Healthy Start vitamins, alongside vitamins A and C. Other vitamins are also recommended for specific groups (for instance, iron and B12 supplements for vegetarians or vegans).

There is strong evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding for infant health as summarised in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Reductions in negative childhood health outcomes associated with breastfeeding

People who breastfeed for 3 months are 27% less likely to have childhood asthma
Figure 4: Reductions in negative childhood health outcomes associated with breastfeeding

Source: Adapted from ‘Reducing infant mortality in London’, 2015 5

Breastfeeding also presents health benefits for the mother, with a reduction in the risk of future breast or ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and obesity. 6

 

References

  1. “Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy,” NHS Choices, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant.aspx. [Accessed Nov 2018].
  2. “Reducing infant mortality in London: An evidence-based resource,” Public Health England, 2015. [Online] Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-infant-mortality-in-london [Accessed Nov 2018]
  3. “Benefits of breastfeeding,” NHS Choices, January 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/benefits-breastfeeding.aspx. [Accessed Nov 2018].
  4. “Vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy,” NHS Choices, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant.aspx. [Accessed Nov 2018].
  5. “Reducing infant mortality in London: An evidence-based resource,” Public Health England, 2015. [Online] Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-infant-mortality-in-london [Accessed Nov 2018]
  6. “Benefits of breastfeeding,” NHS Choices, January 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/benefits-breastfeeding.aspx. [Accessed Nov 2018].