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Pregnancy

      Vitamin C during pregnancy

      Read time: 3 minutes

      Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, one of the fibres that builds your baby’s body. So, it’s no surprise that your need increases during pregnancy. Fortunately, it’s easy to get an adequate supply from a diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables.

      Learn about the benefits of vitamin C in pregnancy, how it can help iron absorption and which foods are the best sources.

      Why is vitamin C so important during pregnancy?

      Not only does it boost your immune system and reduce your risk of suffering from iron-deficiency anaemia in pregnancy, Vitamin C is key to your baby's physical development too.

      Vitamin C:

      • Aids in the production of collagen, which supports normal growth, healthy tissue and wound healing1
      • Supports your baby's immune system2
      • Helps your baby to absorb iron and build up stores for later use2

      How much vitamin C do you need when you’re pregnant?

      The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) of vitamin C during pregnancy – the amount considered to be enough to meet most people’s needs – is 50mg per day, which is 25% more than you would normally need3. A 100g portion of strawberries contain 57mg. If you decide to breastfeed your baby, you shouldn’t need to make any dietary changes but it’s a good idea to eat healthily. You can always talk to your midwife or healthcare professional if you’d like more advice. Read more about a healthy breastfeeding diet.

      Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it isn’t stored by your body, which means a daily intake during pregnancy is essential. Fortunately, you can get all the vitamin C you need to support you and your baby by eating a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables4.

      Which foods contain Vitamin C?

      Foods rich in vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.

      Peppers contain over twice as much vitamin C as oranges. Peppers contain around 126mg per 100g whereas oranges only contain 52mg of vitamin C per 100g5.

      The graph below shows the amount of vitamin C you get from different foods6:

      Food Portion Average nutrient quantity (mcg)
      Red peppers 100g 126
      Broccoli (best raw or steamed) 100g 79
      Strawberries 100g 57
      Cabbage (green or white raw) 100g 45
      Citrus fruit (oranges are the best) 100g 42-52
      Orange juice 100g 40
      Tomatoes (best cooked) 100g 30
      Spinach 100g 30

      Steam and grill to boost your vitamin C intake

      As with other water-soluble vitamins, the way you prepare and cook foods can affect the vitamin C content5.

      Boiling can destroy some of the vitamin C within the foods you’re preparing. To retain as much nutrient quality as possible, it’s best to steam or grill your vegetables5. Or better still, eat them raw in salads.

      Vitamin C boosts your iron absorption

      Vitamin C helps the body absorb non-haem iron, the type found in plant sources such as spinach and chickpeas. Eating good sources of vitamin C with plant sources of iron during pregnancy can increase your daily intake considerably7. To get the most out of your diet, include fruit and iron sources within the same meal, whether it’s adding chopped fruit to a salad or having a whole fruit for dessert7.

      An adequate intake of iron is essential to support your increased blood volume and reduce the risk of iron-deficiency anaemia, and to help build up your baby’s iron stores to support their learning and growth for the first 6 months of life2. Read more about the importance of iron in your pregnancy diet.

      Try increasing your intake with these vitamin C-rich snacks and meals:

      Free 'Eating for 2' recipe e-book

      Healthy, tasty recipes by chef Lorraine Pascale and our team of nutritionists

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      1. Maggini S et al. Essential Role of Vitamin C and Zinc in Child Immunity and Health. J Int Med Res 2010; 38: 386 - 414
      2. NHS. Vitamins for children [Online] 2015 Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/vitamins-for-children.aspx [Accessed October 2017].
      3. NHS UK. Iron-deficiency anaemia – complications [Online]. 2014. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anaemia-iron-deficiency-/Pages/Complications.aspx [Accessed June 2014]
      4. Rumbold A, Crowther CA. Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2, 2005.
      5. Royal Surrey County Hospital (NHS). Check your iron intake pdf [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.royalsurrey.nhs.uk/Patients/Information-Leaflets/DownloadPDF?DocID=1233%2c1139%2c5%2c1%2cDocuments&MediaID=d863305d-d3d2-409b-abbb-841da008bcf2&Filename=PIN543_Check_your_iron_intake_w.pdf[Accessed June 2014]
      6. Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom. Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41, 1991.
      7. Department of Health. Nutrient analysis of fruit and vegetables [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/167942/Nutrient_analysis_of_fruit_and_vegetables_-_Summary_Report.pdf [Accessed June 2014]
      8. Gov.UK. Nutrient Analysis of Fruit and Vegetables [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/nutrient-analysis-of-fruit-and-vegetables [Accessed August 2014]
      9. NHS UK. Vitamins and minerals [Online]. 2012. Available at: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/vitamins-minerals.aspx [Accessed June 2014]

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      Questions about feeding and nutrition?

      Our midwives, nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch.