Babies need folate and iodine for the healthy development of their spine, brain, and nervous system.

Iodine and folate supplements are recommended for every woman. It can take time to build up these nutrients.

Folate (Folic acid)

Your baby needs folate for their brain, spine, and nerve development.

Get plenty of folate:

  • at least one month before you become pregnant, and
  • in the first three months of pregnancy.

It may help prevent serious health problems for your baby.

If you haven't taken extra folate before pregnancy, don't worry. Just make sure you're getting enough as soon as you know you are pregnant.

It is important to talk to your doctor or midwife, to find out how much folic acid you should be taking if:

  • you or one of your relatives has had a baby with a neural tube defect
  • you have epilepsy
  • you take anti-convulsant medication
  • you have a vitamin B12 deficiency
  • you have diabetes
  • you are above a healthy weight.


Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones. These hormones support your baby's bone and brain development. You need to make about 50% more thyroid hormones when you are pregnant, so you will need extra iodine.

Most foods have small amounts of iodine. This makes it hard for pregnant and breastfeeding women to get enough iodine from food alone.

If you haven't taken extra iodine before pregnancy, don't worry. Make sure you're getting enough as soon as you know you are pregnant and continue until you have finished breastfeeding.

How much do I need?

Iiodine and folate recommendations if you are planning a pregnancy, during your pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding.


Food sources

Eat folate-rich foods:

  • wholegrain bread and cereals
  • dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • dried beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • oranges, orange juice
  • bananas, strawberries, avocado
  • tofu
  • yeast spreads like Marmite or Vegemite.

A daily supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid is recommended one month before you are pregnant and for the first three months of your pregnancy.


Food sources

Eat iodine-rich foods:

  • bread
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • iodised salt
  • seaweed
  • seafood. Eat 2-3 serves of small fish per week. One serve is 150 grams. Some fish have high levels of mercury, such as: shark, billfish (broadbill, swordfish, marlin), catfish, deep sea perch.

A daily supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine is recommended when you are planning pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you have a thyroid condition, it is important to speak with your doctor or midwife before taking an iodine supplement.

Choosing a supplement

Take a supplement made for pregnancy and breastfeeding. It will be likely to have the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. You can buy these supplements at most pharmacies and supermarkets.

It's also a good idea to have your iron levels tested to see if you need iron supplements. Low iron levels can reduce your chances of becoming pregnant, can make you feel tired, weak, breathless or mentally exhausted. Healthy iron levels are also important to help your body during birth and afterwards.

Talk to your doctor or midwife if and have any questions about supplements.

Current as at: Wednesday 6 March 2024
Contact page owner: Maternity, Child and Family