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1. See your doctor or midwife as soon as possible
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, get in touch with your GP or a midwife to organise your antenatal care. Organising your care early means you’ll get good advice for a healthy pregnancy right from the start. You’ll also have plenty of time to organise any ultrasound scans and tests that you may need.
2. Eat well
Aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet whenever you can. Try to have:
At least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
Plenty of carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and rice, as the basis of your meals. Choose wholegrain carbohydrates rather than white, so you get plenty of fibre.
Daily servings of protein, such as fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts or pulses, and some milk and dairy foods.
Two portions of fish a week, at least one of which should be oily. Fish is packed with protein, vitamin D, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development of your baby’s nervous system.
You don’t need to eat for two when you’re pregnant. You don’t need extra calories for the first six months of pregnancy. In the last three months you’ll need about an extra 200 calories a day. You can keep up your energy levels with healthy snacks.
See our pregnancy meal planners for each trimester.
3. Take a supplement
Pregnancy vitamin supplements aren’t a substitute for a balanced diet. But they can help if you’re worried you’re not eating well, or you’re too sick to eat much.
Make sure your supplement contains 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid. You need this while you’re trying for a baby and for the first three months of pregnancy. Taking folic acid reduces the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.
Also, check that your supplement contains 10mcg of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for your baby’s future bone health.
Talk to your GP or a pharmacist before taking an antenatal supplement. If you don’t take a multivitamin for pregnant women, you can buy folic acid and vitamin D supplements separately.
If you’re on a low income, you might be able to get pregnancy vitamin supplements free of charge under the government’s healthy start scheme. Go to www.healthystart.nhs.uk for more information.
If you don’t eat fish, fish oil supplements may be helpful. Choose a supplement made from the body of the fish, not the liver. This is because fish liver oils (such as cod liver oil) may contain the retinol form of vitamin A, which isn’t recommended in pregnancy.
4. Be careful about food hygiene
There are some foods it’s safest not to eat in pregnancy. This is because they can carry a health risk for your baby.
Listeriosis is an infection caused by listeria bacteria. It’s rare and doesn’t usually pose a threat to your health. However, it can cause pregnancy or birth complications. Listeriosis can even lead to miscarriage.
The following foods may harbour listeria and so are best avoided:
pate of any type
undercooked ready meals
soft, mould-ripened cheeses, such as brie
blue-veined cheeses, such as roquefort
As listeria bacteria are destroyed by heat, make sure you heat ready meals thoroughly.
Salmonella can cause food poisoning. You can catch it from eating:
Is it safe to eat soft-boiled or raw eggs during pregnancy?
Cook eggs until the white and yolk are solid. Thoroughly wash utensils, boards and your hands after handling raw poultry. Food hygiene is especially important now you’re pregnant. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. It’s also rare, but it can affect your unborn baby. You can cut down your risk of catching it by:
cooking meat and ready meals thoroughly
washing fruit and vegetables well to remove soil or dirt
wearing gloves when handling cat litter and garden soil
5. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise has many benefits for mums-to-be. It can:
Build your strength and endurance. This may help you to cope better with the extra weight of pregnancy and the hard work of labour.
Make it easier for you to get back into shape after your baby is born.
Boost your spirits and even help to ward off depression.
Good exercise choices for pregnancy include:
If you play sport, you can continue as long as it feels comfortable for you. However, if your particular sport carries a risk of falls or knocks, or extra stress on your joints, it’s best to stop. Talk to your GP if you’re unsure.