If you are thinking about having a baby or just found out you are pregnant, making sure you are as fit and healthy as possible before and during the pregnancy can reduce the chances of complications of pregnancy developing.
Particular steps you can take include:
Aim to have a healthy weight
Food to avoid during pregnancy
Alcohol passes from your blood into the baby’s placenta. Your baby can’t process alcohol like you can, and too much can be extremely harmful to their development. If you carry on drinking, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight are increased.
Vitamins and supplements
It is best to start taking folic acid as soon as you start trying for a baby, or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Folic acid is very important for your pregnancy, as it can prevent birth defects known as ‘neural tube defects’, including spina bifida.
You should take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day for at least 3 months before conception and until at least the first 3 months of pregnancy. Don’t worry if you get pregnant unexpectedly. If this happens, just start taking the folic acid as soon as you find out. You can buy folic acid without a prescription from many supermarkets and pharmacies, or see your GP.
Some women with long standing medical problems are recommended to take a high dose of folic acid. This includes women with diabetes and epilepsy. These women need to take 5mg of folic acid daily via a prescription from their GP.
Vitamin D supplements
Everyone needs vitamin D – it helps us absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate in the body (to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy). You should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400IU or every day. This is because most vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure, which is sometimes limited in the UK, especially during the winter months. Your doctor or midwife may suggest a higher dose particularly if you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – or if you usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.
More information on vitamins and supplements can be found here:
Preventing infections and vaccinations
Further pregnancy advice including advice on exercise, mental health and advice for partners can be found here: