There are a number of things you can do to stay healthy while you are pregnant.
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You can take moderate exercise before or during pregnancy. Some vigorous activities such as contact sports or vigorous racquet games may carry extra risks such as falling or putting too much strain on your joints. You should avoid scuba diving as this can cause problems in your developing baby.
There is no evidence that drinking 1 or 2 units per weeks (i.e. a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer, larger or cider or a single measure of spirits) harms your baby. We do not know what a safe level of alcohol in pregnancy is but we know that large amounts of alcohol (even occasionally) can harm your baby. If you consume more than 5 standard drinks or 7.5 UK units on a single occasion, this may be harmful to your unborn baby. A doctor/midwife will be able to offer you a referral to Action for Change (Community Alcohol Team) for help and support.
Smoking increases the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth and your baby being underweight or born too early (in both these cases your baby’s health may be affected). You will reduce these risks if you give up smoking, or at least smoke less, while you are pregnant. You and your baby will benefit if you can give up no matter how late in your pregnancy. Your midwife/doctor will offer you a referral to Smoking Cessation Services.
If you use cannabis (especially if you smoke it) it may be harmful to your baby. Other “recreational” drugs may also be harmful to your baby so your midwife/doctor may offer you a referral to Substance Misuse Services if you do use drugs.
There is no evidence that sexual activity is harmful while you are pregnant.
For most women it is safe to continue to work while you are pregnant but there are hazards in some jobs that could put you at risk. Talk to your midwife or doctor about this. Further information can be obtained from 08701 545 500 or www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/index.htm
When you travel by car you should always wear a three point seat belt, above and below your bump (not over it). If you are planning to travel abroad your midwife or doctor will talk to you about flying, vaccinations and travel insurance. The risk of getting a blood clot in your leg when flying is higher when you are pregnant which could seriously affect your health. Your midwife or doctor will talk to you about reducing the risk by wearing compression stockings.
Only a few prescriptions and over the counter medicines have been shown to be safe and effective while you are pregnant. Try to avoid over the counter medicines if possible. While you are pregnant your doctor will only prescribe medicines where the benefits are greater than the risks.
Few complementary therapies are known to be safe and effective during pregnancy. You should check with your midwife, doctor or pharmacist before using them.
Taking folic acid (400 micrograms day) when you are trying to get pregnant or during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect such as spina bifida (which causes damage to the baby’s nervous system).
High levels of vitamin A could cause abnormalities in your baby. Avoid taking vitamin A supplements and eating liver (or anything made from liver) while you are pregnant.
In order to maintain adequate vitamin D stores to improve your own and your baby’s wellbeing while being pregnant and breast feeding. It is recommended that if women choose to they can take 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, as found in a healthy start multivitamins supplement. All women should be informed at the booking appointment about the importance for their own and their baby’s health of maintaining adequate vitamin D stores during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. In order to achieve this, women may choose to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, as found in the Healthy Start multivitamin supplement. Particular care should be taken to enquire as to whether women at greatest risk are following advice to take this daily supplement. These include:
- Women of South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern family origin
- Women who have limited exposure to sunlight, such as women who are predominantly housebound, or usually remain covered when outdoors
- Women who eat a diet particularly low in vitamin D, such as women who consume no oily fish, eggs, meat, vitamin D -fortified margarine or breakfast cereal
- Women with a pre-pregnancy body mass index above 30 kg/m2
You do not need to take any iron supplements as a matter of routine when you are pregnant. They do not improve your health and can give unpleasant side-effects.
Both these bacterial infections can be picked up from food and can harm your baby. In order to reduce the risks it is better if while you are pregnant you:
- Avoid eating mould ripened soft cheese such as camembert or Brie or blue veined cheeses (there is no risk with hard cheese such as Cheddar, or with cottage cheese or processed cheese)
- Avoid unpasteurised milk
- Avoid eating paté (even vegetable paté)
- Avoid eating uncooked or undercooked ready/prepared meals
- Avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs (or food containing them such as mayonnaise)
- Avoid raw or partially cooked meat especially poultry
Very occasionally toxoplasmosis can cause problems for your baby while you are pregnant. To help avoid this infection while you are pregnant:
- Wash your hands before you handle food
- Wash all fruit and vegetables including ready/prepared salads, before you eat them
- Make sure you thoroughly cook raw meats and ready/prepared chilled meats
- Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil
- Avoid contact with cat faeces (in cat litter or in soil).