Having a healthy pregnancy

Healthy Eating

Make sure you eat a variety of different foods to get the right balance of nutrients for your growing baby and for your body to deal with the changes taking place. You may feel hungrier than usual, but you don’t need to ‘eat for two’. It is recommended that you should only increase your calorie intake by 200 calories per day during the last three months of pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications for pregnancy, labour and birth.

Dieting during pregnancy is not recommended as it may harm the health of your baby. It is important to prepare and cook your food carefully to prevent food poisoning. Foods such as ready meals, meat, poultry, shellfish and eggs needs to be thoroughly cooked. Avoid pate and mould-ripened soft-cheeses; liver and liver products and unpasteurised milk. You can safely eat peanuts during pregnancy or food containing peanuts (e.g. peanut butter), unless you are allergic to peanuts or your health professional advises you not to. Have no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week and avoid marlin, swordfish and shark.

Vitamins and supplements

It is recommended that you take supplements of folic acid, which helps to prevent abnormalities in the baby, e.g. spina bifida. The recommended dose is 0.4mg per day while you are planning to get pregnant and up to 13 weeks of pregnancy. If you have diabetes, BM1>30, are taking anti-epileptic drugs or have a family history of fetal abnormalities, the recommended dose is 5mg per day. This is available on prescription from your GP.

Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscle development. To protect you and your baby from any problems caused by low levels, a 10mcgs Vitamin D supplement is recommended (this is contained in the ‘healthy start’ vitamins). Check with your Midwife/GP/Pharmacist if you are taking any other over the counter vitamins/supplements.

Vitamin A can cause harm to your baby if you take too much, so don’t take any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol). If you have any questions about the food you eat, discuss with your midwife who can refer you to a dietitian if needed.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a guide to a healthy weight for your height and is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. During pregnancy, there are increased risks if your BMI is less than 18 or more than 30.

Caffeine, alcohol and drugs

Caffeine is a stimulant that is contained in tea, coffee, chocolate, energy and cola drinks. During pregnancy, its recommended that you limit your daily caffeine intake to 200mgs per day. Try decaffeinated versions of tea/coffee or cola drinks.

Alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal growth restriction, premature labour and may lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women avoid drinking alcohol during their pregnancy. Alcohol crosses the placenta into the blood stream of your baby and could affect how your baby grows and develops. Your Midwife will ask you at your first appointment how many units of alcohol you drink. if you are finding it hard to stop drinking alcohol, ask for help from your Midwife/GP. They can help you and refer you for specialist support.

Drugs – taking street drugs including cannabis and psychoactive substances (e.g. spice, meow meow (MCAT)) during pregnancy is not recommended, it may seriously harm you and your baby. If you take any presecription medication, you must discuss this with your GP to ensure they are safe to continue. Check with your Pharmacist about taking over the counter medicines especially pain killers containing codeine which can become addictive.


When you smoke, carbon monoxide, nicotine and other toxic chemicals cross the placenta directly into the baby’s blood stream so the baby smokes with you. This will reduce its oxygen and nourishment and put your baby at risk of low birth weight, stillbirth, premature birth and other problems. The sooner you stop smoking the better, to five your baby a healthy start in life. Your Midwife can refer you to a local stop smoking service for expert and friendly support to help you stop. If you need help to manage nicotine cravings, the safest products to use are nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum. If using an e-cigarette helps you to quit smoking and stay smoke free, it is considered far safer for you and your baby that continuing to smoke. However, the potential risks to your baby from exposure to e-cigarettes are not fully understood. It is illegal to smoke in a car or any other vehicle with people who are under the age of 18. This is to protect babies, children and young adults from second hand smoke.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Co is a poisonous gas produced when tobacco products are burnt. It is found in inhaled, exhaled and passive smoke. The CO replaces some of the oxygen in your bloodstream which means that both you and your baby have lower levels of oxygen overall. As part of routine antenatal care your Midwife will test your CO levels. Environment factors such as exhaust fumes or leaky gas appliances may also cause a high reading.

Physical activity

Being active during pregnancy means you’re more likely to maintain a healthier weight and can cope better with the physical demands of pregnancy and labour. Physical activity during pregnancy is known to improve fitness, reduce blood pressure and prevent diabetes in pregnancy. Walking for 150 minutes each week can keep you and your baby healthy. It can also give you more energy, help you sleep better and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Every activity counts in bouts of at least 10 minutes. If you are already active, keep going, if you are not active, start gradually. Activity can include walking, dancing, yoga, swimming and walking up the stairs.

It is recommended that you do pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy to help strengthen this group of muscles.


When you are pregnant your immune system changes and you are more prone to infections. It is important that you try to reduce the risk of infections with good hygiene: washing your hands before and after preparing food, using the toilet or sneezing/blowing your nose. Always wear gloves when gardening or handling cat litter as toxoplasmosis can be found in cat faeces. If you are unwell, have a sore throat or respiratory infection, contact your Midwife or GP immediately, you may need treatment.


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 relationships. Discuss any problems or concerns you have with your Midwife or GP.

Domestic abuse – 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and this can start during pregnancy. There are different kinds of abuse including physical, sexual, financial control, 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, contact information can be found here.


It is important that you are registered with a dentist and have regular check-ups. Changes in your hormone levels and diet may make your mouth more prone to disease which can lead to tooth decay. It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes.

Seasonal flu

Pregnant women are more at risk from serious complications of seasonal flu such as bronchitis, chest infection and pneumonia.

Flu in pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage, prematurity, fetal growth restriction and stillbirth. It is recommended that you have the seasonal flu vaccine. It is safe to have at any stage in pregnancy and will pass on protection to your baby which will last for the first few months of their lives. The vaccine is available from September until January/February and is free to pregnant women.

Ask your GP/Pharmacist/Midwife where you can get vaccinated. If you develop flu like symptoms, you must seek medical advice immediately. There is treatment to reduce complications.

Whooping cough

This is a serious disease that can lead to pneumonia and permanent brain damage and in some cases there is a risk of dying. If you have the whooping cough vaccination during pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from getting the disease in their first weeks of life. Babies are at an increased risk until they are vaccinated. If you have been vaccinated before, or have had whooping cough yourself, the vaccine is still recommended. You should be offered the vaccine from 16 weeks of your pregnancy. If you have not been offered the vaccine, please ask your Midwife or GP where you can get it done. It can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine.

Additional information

To protect you and your unborn baby, always wear a seatbelt with a diagonal strap across your body between your breasts and the lap belt over your upper thighs. The straps then lie above and below your bump not over it.

Home fire safety checks are available free of charge by your local fire service. All homes should have a working smoke alarm.

If you are planning to travel abroad, you should discuss flying, vaccinations and travel insurance with your Midwife or GP.

If you are working, your employer has a responsibility to assess any health and safety risks to you. For further information, contact your occupational health department or visit www.hse.gov.uk.