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All pregnant women in Scotland to get free vitamins

Roll out to start next spring in bid to give all children best start in life, says government

Caroline White

Thursday, 02 June 2016

All pregnant women in Scotland are to get free vitamins from spring next year, in a bid to give all children the best start in life, the Scottish government has announced.

Currently some pregnant women already receive free vitamins, and the move to provide universal access is intended to boost parent and children’s health and is widely backed by healthcare professionals.

Announcing the move today, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that helping women enjoy a healthy pregnancy is a key part of the Scottish government’s increased support for parents and children, which includes giving every newborn a ‘baby box’ of essential items, recruiting an extra 500 health visitors, and extending the Family Nurse Partnership to support every new teenage mother.

The plans also include doubling childcare to 30 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds.

“Every child deserves a fair and equal chance, and offering all pregnant women vitamins sends a strong signal that, right from the very start of life, we are doing all we can to help,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“There is strong evidence that taking vitamins in pregnancy improves both the mother and baby’s health and providing free vitamins, to all pregnant women, has the widespread support of healthcare professionals,” she added.

“Within a year, every child born in Scotland will receive a baby box of essential items and I’m excited to be introducing it in Scotland. The baby box has a proven record in tackling deprivation, improving health and supporting parents and we’ll shortly begin a dialogue with parents to gather their views on shaping its contents and the best way to deliver it,” she continued.

“To further improve child health and wellbeing, we’ll recruit 500 more health visitors, and we’ll transform the life chances of all of our children by doubling childcare entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable two-year-olds, thereby helping more parents, particularly mothers, into work.”

She also said the Scottish government would also consider using new social security powers to introduce a maternity and early years allowance to tackle inequality and give financial support to low income parents.

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Catherine Calderwood, commented: “As an obstetrician I am delighted at this announcement. We understand the long-term positive effects that good nutrition can have for pregnant women and offering these essential vitamins will help to improve the health of mothers, babies and children in Scotland.”

Jackie Tolland, Parents Network Scotland added: “Anything that we can do to give children the best start in life can only reap benefits in the years to come. Most parents do eat healthily and do look after themselves, but as we know being pregnant can drain energy and vitamins from mum.”

Welcoming the initiative, Royal College of Midwives Scotland national officer Emma Currer said: “As it is widely known, the lives of healthy children start from conception and this initiative, along with the other steps will support this.”

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