Wednesday, 9 January 2013


Prepare your body
Some of the most important development for your baby is done in the very earliest weeks after conception and throughout the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy) so your body needs to be ready to provide all the nutrients necessary for cells to divide and grow into a foetus. Prenatal multivitamins are available, designed to provide everything you need for the early stages, but the most important supplement to take is folic acid. This is vital to prevent defects of the neural tubes, which can cause the debilitating condition spina bifida. 

The NHS recommends you take a 400microgram tablet of folic acid each day from when you start trying for a baby until 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you got pregnant without realising it, start taking the supplement as soon as possible. It’s recommended that potential mums are a healthy weight when they get pregnant. If you’re overweight and planning a baby, speak to your doctor before trying. Losing weight may increase your chance of conceiving and lowers your risk of weight-related complications during pregnancy and birth. Plenty of fruit and veg is important in your healthy pregnancy diet.

During pregnancy
Don’t get sucked into the trap of eating enough for two. You actually don’t need any extra calories until the final trimester (last three months) of your pregnancy, when you need to eat around 300 more calories a day. It’s recommended you eat little and often as pregnancy can make you extra hungry. Six to eight small meals a day may keep you more satisfied than three larger ones. And make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as this can help with fluid retention and swollen ankles, and also reduce the chances of you suffering common pregnancy ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoids and bladder infections.

Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg, plus protein and complex carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread and pasta. Modern Western diets are often deficient in nutrients that are important for a developing baby so you may want to take supplements that include vitamin D, iron, vitamin C and calcium. But be warned that high levels of vitamin A can harm your baby so avoid multivitamins that contain it and check any supplements you take in case they have added vitamin A. Some cheeses are off the menu during pregnancy.

Foods to avoid
Pregnancy means waving goodbye to some of your favourite foods, as they could put your baby at risk of food poisoning or development disruption. These include blue and mould-ripened cheese (such as Camembert, Brie and others that come in a similar rind), which may contain listeria, a bacteria that can cross to your baby’s system through the placenta. You also need to avoid raw or undercooked eggs. To be safe, both whites and yolks should be hard (say goodbye to soft boiled with soldiers) and don’t eat any homemade foods that use raw eggs, such as mayonnaise. Rare steak is also out the window as all meat needs to be cooked right through to avoid toxoplasmosis (a parasitic infection found in meat, soil and untreated water), though this condition is very rare.

Gone are the days when pregnancy meant putting your feet up for nine months. Now recommendations are that mums-to-be stay active up until birth if possible. Being fit will help you during labour, which is a huge physical effort, and exercising during your pregnancy will keep you healthy throughout and give you a better chance of losing your baby weight in the months after birth. Exercise videos designed for pregnancy, prenatal yoga and walking are all great ways to stay fit in pregnancy. Gentle exercise is ideal in pregnancy.

Big no-nos
As most mums-to-be know, smoking is terrible for the health of your unborn baby and it’s also recommended you cut out both alcohol and caffeine too. If you can't give up entirely, you should avoid drinking more than 200mg of caffeine a day, which is the equivalent of two cups of tea. Coffees from different outlets vary in strength, and remember that caffeine is also found in chocolates and some fizzy drinks so remember to include them in your total. Alcohol should be limited to an absolute maximum of one or two units a week and ideally avoided entirely in the first trimester. 

Recreational drugs are obviously dangerous to your unborn baby and remember to check with your doctor or pharmacist that any medicines you buy or are prescribed are safe in pregnancy. It’s easy to get paranoid about what you can and can’t do during pregnancy but use your common sense and remember to give yourself some time to relax and take it easy – you won’t get much of that when your little one arrives!