Preparing for Pregnancy
If you are thinking about having a baby, making sure you are as
fit and healthy as possible before the pregnancy can both improve
the chances of getting pregnant and also reduce the chances of
complications of pregnancy developing. Particular steps you can
Aim to have a healthy weight
Women who are overweight (BMI, body mass index over 30) are more
likely to have difficulty conceiving and are also more likely to
develop complications during pregnancy. Complications such as
miscarriage, high blood pressure and diabetes are all more likely,
as are difficulties during labour and delivery. If you are
undergoing fertility treatment, this is less likely to be
successful if you are overweight. It is therefore recommended that
you maintain a healthy weight and pre-pregnancy you can use the BMI
healthy weight calculator to work out what your ideal weight should
be. If you are already pregnant, you should discuss this with your
midwife or doctor.
Smoking is bad for everyone's health, and can be particularly
bad for women and their babies during pregnancy. Smoking increases
the risks of complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage,
poor growth of the baby and stillbirth. The best thing you can do
for your own and your baby's health is to stop smoking completely.
For support, ask your GP, midwife or call one of the numbers
below. The sooner you stop smoking, the quicker the risks are
reduced. Smoke from other peoples cigarettes is also harmful, so
all babies and children need their home to be kept completely smoke
For more information and support for you and your family to live
If you are trying to conceive or are pregnant, you should avoid
alcohol. Alcohol consumption in both you and your partner can
reduce the chances of pregnancy. Whilst you are pregnant, alcohol
you drink passes across to the baby and too much exposure can cause
miscarriage and affect the baby's development. If you choose to
drink, protect your baby by only drinking one or two units of
alcohol no more than twice a week and don't get drunk. The National
Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises women
who are pregnant to avoid alcohol in the first 12 weeks due to the
risk of miscarriage.
Folic acid supplements
Folic acid is a vitamin and studies have shown that taking
supplements reduces the risk of your baby having Spina Bifida. This
is an abnormality where the brain and spine don't form properly.
Therefore you should take 400micrograms 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.
Current NICE guidelines suggest that you consider taking a
vitamin D supplement of 400IU or 10mcg vitamin D 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 may suggest a higher dose.
Preventing infections and vaccinations
There are some infections that can harm your baby if you get
them when you are pregnant. One of these is Rubella (German
Measles). This infection can be prevented by having a vaccination
more than 1 month before you are pregnant (not in pregnancy
itself). Most women in the UK have already had this vaccination,
known as 'MMR' and are immune. If you think that you may not be
immune, you should discuss this with your GP who can check and
arrange vaccination if necessary.
If you have a long term medical condition
If you have a long term medical condition, for example, epilepsy
or diabetes, this can affect pregnancy and therefore some of the
choices you make. It is important to make sure long term conditions
are as well controlled as possible before attempting a pregnancy.
We therefore provide pre-conception counselling to women through
our specialist clinics.
You should discuss your plans for pregnancy with your GP or
hospital specialist. Your GP can refer you to our specialist
clinics. If you are taking medication for a long term
condition, do not stop it without discussing this with your doctor,
even if you find yourself pregnant unexpectedly.
The Pregnancy Book
Thinking of getting pregnant? Make sure you're protected against
German measles - Department of Health leaflet