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Health in pregnancy

A new patient information leaflet, Better beginnings, combines recent evidence to the benefits of health improvement on pregnancy and future child development.

Giving up smoking during pregnancy

Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for you and your baby’s health. 

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, and arsenic. All those chemicals are passed on to your baby every time you smoke.

If you live in Southampton, your named midwife will support you to quit smoking during pregnancy. Please let us know as soon as possible that you smoke and would like to give up.

If you live in Hampshire, please see the Smokefree Hampshire website for free and confidential advice and support.

You can also find out more at NHS smoke free.

Diet

Where possible plan your day to ensure a varied diet and base your meals around foods high in nutrients such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrain and pulses. Avoid foods high in fat and high in sugar. Eating well will help you get the right balance of vitamins and minerals required for growing a healthy baby – it will also control appropriate weight gain during pregnancy.

You are more likely to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy by:

  • basing meals on starchy foods such as; potatoes, bread, rice and pasta (choosing the wholegrain option where possible)
  • eating fibre-rich foods such as; oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables
  • eating a variety of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day
  • eating a low-fat, low-calorie diet
  • avoid fried food, cakes, pastries, fizzy drinks, confectionary and other foods high in fat and sugar such as some take-away and fast foods
  • eating a healthy breakfast every day
  • watching the portion size of your meals
  • keeping an eye on how often you are snacking between meals and making sure the snacks are healthy options.

Foods to avoid

Avoid eating:

  • raw and undercooked meats
  • liver and liver products – including pate
  • mould ripened cheeses
  • shark, swordfish and marlin.

Whilst omega 3 from fish oil is beneficial to you and your baby, we recommend you eat no more than two portions of oily fish per week. This is due to potentially high levels of mercury found in these foods. 

Caffeine consumption should be limited to 200mg a day – that’s approximately two to three cups of tea and coffee.

Remember to always wash fruit, vegetables and salads before eating.

You can find out more about the foods to avoid in pregnancy on the NHS website.

Vitamin supplements

We recommend you take a vitamin supplement of folic acid for at least the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy (400mcg standard or 5mg for increased risk) to help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. You may wish to take a pregnancy multivitamin throughout pregnancy and iron supplements can be prescribed if a health professional feels appropriate.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps us to absorb the right amount of calcium and phosphate, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

We get vitamin D from sunlight and it is also found in some foods. Most of us don’t get enough vitamin D from our diet and we rely on the summer sunlight on our skin to make enough vitamin D for the winter months.

Vitamin D is especially important in pregnancy as it helps your baby’s bones, teeth, kidneys, heart and nervous system to develop. All pregnant women are advised to take a 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D each day to give your baby enough vitamin D for the first few months of life.

Without it, there is a risk that your child will have soft bones, which can lead to rickets (a disease that affects bone development in children).

Some women are more likely to need vitamin D than others. You may have an even higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:

  • always cover your skin
  • use high-factor sun block
  • have dark skin
  • spend very little time outside
  • have a BMI above 30.

Vitamin A

During pregnancy, do not take vitamin A supplements or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), as too much could harm your baby.

 

Exercise

It’s important to stay physically active during your pregnancy - aim to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. This can include walking, cycling, swimming, light aerobics and gardening. Try to build activity in to your daily routine – use the stairs instead of the lift, take a walk at lunchtime and minimise sitting for long periods. Exercise can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes as well as excessive weight gain. 

Your sense of balance will alter when you are heavily pregnant, so remember to adapt your exercise routine to help you cope with this. If you have not previously exercised build up you levels of activity gradually.

Diet and activity diaries can be used to highlight the changes required to help improve your lifestyle. There is also a useful self-evaluation tool on diet and lifestyle.

Remember, you can discuss any part of your health in pregnancy with your midwife - they are there to support you throughout.

Weight management in pregnancy

If your BMI is greater than 25 at booking, there are additional free support services available to you.

If you live within Southampton city, this service is provided by a specialist midwife. We can offer motivational telephone support, one to one meetings and a health in pregnancy class, as well as regular support and guidance during your pregnancy. For further information or to refer yourself, please email healthinpregnancymidwife@uhs.nhs.uk.

If you live within Hampshire the service is delivered by Oviva and Weight Watchers. Support is in the form of an interactive app with an allocated dietician. Following your pregnancy, you can attend 12 free Weight Watchers sessions. The self referral form is available here.

Please contact your midwife if you would like any further information.

Download our factsheet for more information on raised BMI in pregnancy, labour and birth