ALL pregnant women in Scotland will receive free vitamins on the NHS from tomorrow [Sat] as Scotland becomes the first nation in the UK to switch to universal provision.

The scheme means all expectant mothers will be prescribed the recommended dosages of vitamin C, D and folic acid regardless of their income.

Currently free vitamins are only available through the UK-wide Healthy Start voucher scheme to mothers under 18 or women and children up to the age of four who are on low income benefits.

However, in 2012 a review by researchers at the Division of Women’s Health in King’s College London said health authorities should consider moving to universal provision because "the benefits would outweigh the costs".

The programme is expected to cost NHS Scotland around £300,000 a year.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “We are committed to giving every child in Scotland the very best start in life and helping women to enjoy a healthy pregnancy is a key part of this.

“There is strong evidence that taking vitamins during pregnancy improves both the mother and baby’s health. By offering them to all pregnant women we can contribute towards giving every baby a fair and equal chance – a move that is widely supported by healthcare professionals.

“I’m also pleased that the Maternal and Infant Nutrition survey is now underway. Data will be gathered on nutrition, breastfeeding, formula feeding and weaning practices and help us strengthen the support we offer to new mothers. I would strongly encourage pregnant women and families with young infants who receive a survey pack to complete and return it.”

Folic acid is recommended when women are trying to conceive and in the first trimester to protect against neural tube defects.

Vitamin C has important roles in collagen synthesis, wound healing, prevention of anaemia and as an antioxidant.

Vitamin D supplements have been linked with reduced type I diabetes in children, and is strongly recommended for obese women in particular.

Ms Campbell will also launch the first Scotland-only Maternal and Infant Nutrition Survey today. It will gather data on nutrition, breastfeeding, formula feeding and weaning practices.