Every pregnant woman in Scotland will be offered free vitamins under plans announced by Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister revealed the entitlement to free vitamins, already in place for some pregnant woman, will be extended to all by next spring.
She said the move is widely backed by health professionals and universal access will improve the health of parents and children.
Speaking as she met new and expectant parents at Townhead Village Hall in Glasgow, she said: “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.
“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.
“This move is part of a concerted effort to give every child the best start in life.”
She added: “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 three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds.”
Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s chief medical officer, said: “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.”
The move was also welcomed by Jackie Tolland, from Parents Network Scotland, who said it is part of a “winning formula” when taken alongside a raft of other policies aimed at supporting new parents and children.
These include giving every newborn a “baby box” of essential items, recruiting 500 more health visitors, extending the Family Nurse Partnership, and doubling childcare to 30 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds.
Ms Tolland said: “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. The whole range of support being put forward is a commitment to our future families, and also alongside the emotional support we provide to mums and dads, I’m sure we are now onto a winning formula.”
The Scottish Government is also considering using new social security powers to introduce a maternity and early years allowance for low income parents.