A Healthy Pregnancy
Healthy eating and drinking
It is important to make sure you eat a variety of foods to get the right balance of nutrients for yourself and your growing baby. You should eat a healthy balanced diet which is low in fat and sugar. Your midwife will give you information on healthy eating in pregnancy. As you probably know, being underweight or overweight can have a negative impact on your general health and this is the same in pregnancy. Cooking and food preparation is also important to prevent food poisoning. Take care - some foods need to be cooked well, such as ready meals, meat, poultry and eggs. Pate, mould-ripened soft cheeses, liver, liver products, unpasteurised milk, marline, swordfish and shark should be avoided.
For further advice talk to your midwife or visit the NHS website www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/healthy-pregnancy-diet
If you are on any regular medications please discuss this with your GP/midwife.
If you are taking thyroxine you will need a review of medication as early as possible. Please see your GP.
Folic acid has been shown to help prevent abnormalities in babies, e.g. spina bifida. The recommended dose is 0.4 mg per day for at least eight weeks before pregnancy (pre-conception), and for up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. If you have diabetes, or have a family history of fetal abnormalities, the recommended dose is 5mg per day.
Other vitamin supplements should only be taken after checking with your midwife or GP.
Vitamin A should NOT be taken in pregnancy.
We get a small amount of Vitamin D from our diet, but the best source of Vitamin D is from exposure to sunlight. Your midwife or GP will give you information on getting enough Vitamin D in your pregnancy.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can be found in tea, coffee and cola drinks. Too much caffeine should be avoided as it is passed through the placenta and may affect your baby.
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should avoid drinking alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy if possible because it may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. If you choose to drink alcohol during your pregnancy you should drink no more than one to two UK units once or twice a week (one unit equals half a pint of ordinary strength lager or beer, or one shot (25ml) of spirits. One small glass of wine is equal to 1.5 UK units). There remains uncertainty regarding a safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy, but at this low level there is no evidence of harm to the unborn baby. If you get drunk or binge drink (more than five standard drinks or 7.5 UK units on a single occasion) this may be harmful to your unborn baby and may lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/healthy-pregnancy-diet
Recreational drugs should not be taken during pregnancy as they may seriously harm you and your baby. Over the counter medicines should also be avoided, but you can discuss these with your pharmacist.
Cannabis smoking can have similar effects on the lungs as smoking tobacco and may also be harmful to your baby.
When you smoke tobacco, carbon monoxide, nicotine and other toxic chemicals cross the placenta directly into your baby’s blood stream - so your baby smokes with you! This will reduce your baby's oxygen and nourishment and put your baby at risk of low birth weight, premature birth and other problems. The sooner you stop smoking the better, to give your baby a better healthy start in life.
North Bristol NHS Trust has a no smoking policy within our premises and grounds. Your midwife can refer you to your local stop smoking service or call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline for advice and support on 0800 1690169.
National guidance is that all women who smoke are referred to local support to stop smoking.
When you travel by car you should always wear a three-point seatbelt with the diagonal strap across your body between your breasts and the lap belt over your upper thighs. The strap then lies above and below your ‘bump’, not over it. Also, make sure all baby/child seats are fitted correctly according to British Safety Standards. If you are planning to travel abroad, you should discuss flying, vaccinations and travel insurance with your midwife or doctor. Travel by air and any long distance travel when pregnant can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. You may be able to reduce the risk by wearing correctly fitted compression stockings.
Some women find pregnancy to be a time of increased stress and physical discomfort. It can greatly affect your emotional state, your body image and relationship with others. If you feel anxious or worried about anything, or if you have in the last month felt down, depressed or hopeless, or been bothered about having little interest or pleasure in doing things, discuss this in confidence with your midwife or GP.
There is no evidence that sexual activity is harmful while you are pregnant, unless you are advised otherwise.
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. Don’t exhaust yourself and remember that you may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if advised to do so by your midwife or GP. Some vigorous activities such as contact sports, racquet games and scuba diving should be avoided.
Pelvic floor exercises
Doing pelvic floor exercises through pregnancy, especially if it is your first pregnancy, can help reduce the likelihood of you leaking urine after you have had your baby. You can get more information from your midwife, physiotherapist or visit www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/exercise-pregnancy/pelvic-floor-exercises.
One in four women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and many cases start during pregnancy. It can take many forms, including physical, sexual, mental or emotional abuse. Where abuse already exists, it has been shown that it may worsen during pregnancy and after the birth. Domestic abuse can lead to serious complications which affect you and your baby. You can speak in confidence to your healthcare team who can offer help and support. You may prefer to contact a support agency such as Women’s Aid telephone 0808 2000 247.
Work and benefits
Contact your local DSS office for a booklet on the government’s latest provision on maternity rights and benefits and discuss your options with your personnel officer or employer early in pregnancy; ensure everything is in writing prior to commencing your maternity leave. Your midwife will supply you with a maternity certificate after 21 weeks of pregnancy (Mat B1) to allow you to claim your entitlement. This will need to be photocopied if needed for other agencies. An FW8 certificate will be issued in early pregnancy entitling you to free prescriptions and dental treatment. Please speak to your midwife regarding other benefits you may be entitled to.
For more information visit www.gov.uk/employers-maternity-pay-leave
On advice from the Department of Health we and your GP recommend all pregnant women to have the seasonal influenza vaccination. The reason for this advice is that we know that when pregnant women catch influenza they are more likely to develop severe symptoms and complications and more frequently require admission to hospital than women who are not pregnant.
It is safe to give seasonal flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. Having the vaccination whilst you are pregnant will also protect your baby for the first four to six months of their life, as the protective antibodies you produce will also be transferred to your baby.
Vaccination for pregnant women is available through GP surgeries from the beginning of October to the end of January. Please be aware that you need to contact your GP practice to make an appointment.
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu-jab/Pages/Introduction
You can help protect your baby by getting vaccinated against Whooping Cough – ideally from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks pregnant. For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/whooping-cough-vaccination-pregnant
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