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Planning a healthy pregnancy

If you are thinking of becoming pregnant it is important to ensure that you are well prepared.

  • Both you and your partner should try to stop smoking as it affects sperm production and harms the developing baby. Giving up will also improve the health of your child after birth.

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of miscarriage and affect the brain of the developing baby. Try to cut down.

  • Obesity affects your chances of getting pregnant and leads to complications during pregnancy. If you know that you are overweight you can get advice on how to lose weight from our practice nurses.

  • Eat healthily. Aim to include meat, fish, pulses, dairy products, high fibre foods (e.g. bread and cereals), fruits and veg in your diet.

  • Folic acid is a nutritional supplement that helps to reduce the risk of neurological problems in the developing baby. Ideally you should aim to take 0.4 milligrams daily before conception and for 3 months into the pregnancy. If you take medication for epilepsy, or there is a history of spina bifida in your or your partner’s family, you may need to take a higher dose and for longer. Talk to your doctor who will be able to advise you. Folic acid is available in most chemists.

  • If you have an ongoing medical problem or you regularly take medication, it may be advisable to talk to a doctor before you try to conceive. Some illnesses and medications can affect your pregnancy. If there is a history of inherited medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia in your family, you should talk to a doctor before trying to conceive.

  • If you are taking the contraceptive pill it is helpful to swap onto a barrier method (eg condoms) three months before you start trying for a baby. This lets your periods settle into a regular rhythm and will help the doctor calculate the date on which your baby will be born.

  • Check you’ve been vaccinated for rubella (German measles). If you are in any doubt, ask your doctor for a blood test.

Looking after yourself during pregnancy

If you are pregnant there are a few things you can do to ensure that you and your baby are as healthy as possible.

  • Start taking Folic acid if you are not taking it already. This is a nutritional supplement that helps prevent neurological problems in the developing baby. A dose of 0.4mg daily is adequate for most women and should be continued until the end of the third month of pregnancy.

  • Eat healthily. You should aim to include meat, fish, pulses, high fibre foods (e.g. bread and cereals), fruit and vegetables in your diet.

  • Avoid certain foods which can contain harmful bacteria, these include…
    - unpasteurised cheeses such as Brie and Stilton
    - Pâté
    - Raw or soft boiled eggs
    - Raw or lightly cooked meats
    - Liver or foods made from liver
    - Cod liver oil
    Wash raw foods well and ensure meat is well cooked. Eating peanuts in pregnancy may increase the chances of your child suffering from peanut allergies, particularly if you suffer allergies.

  • Avoid touching cat litter as it can be a source of infection, use gloves if you are working in the garden

  • Stop smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption. If you use other ‘recreational’ drugs you should s these too.

  • Check with your doctor if you have any serious health problems or regularly take medication. Some medicines and illnesses can harm the baby, many medical problems can be affected by pregnancy.

  • If you have had problems with a previous pregnancy it is adviseable to book with a midwife early on.

  • It is important to keep active during pregnancy. Strenuous exercise is best avoided, but yoga, walking, swimming and cycling will help to keep you fit, promote better sleep and make delivery easier. Pelvic floor exercises can also help to avoid bladder problems—ask your midwife for advice.

  • If you are over 30yrs old you may wish to have an extra scan at 11-13 weeks to check for Down’s syndrome. This is not available through the NHS but you can arrange it privately at a cost of around £125. Both the Berkshire Independent hospital and the BUPA Dunedin have facilities for this, the numbers can be found under ‘useful contacts’.

  • Back pain is almost inevitable during pregnancy, it is usually felt as a general discomfort in your lower back, sometimes with pains across your bottom and down your legs. It can be relieved with massage, heat, rest and a Paracetamol. If your back pain is really severe, consult your doctor who may refer you to a physiotherapist.

  • Constipation can occur at any time during your pregnancy. Unfortunately, this can cause haemorrhoids and piles. To help prevent constipation you should ensure that you drink plenty of fluids - at least eight glasses of water every day. High fibre foods can also be helpful, such as bran and baked beans.

  • Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest and is sometimes accompanied by the bringing up of stomach acid into the mouth. It tends to occur most commonly, when you are lying down, coughing, straining when going to the toilet and if you are lifting anything heavy. In early pregnancy the muscular valve at the entrance to the stomach relaxes under the influence of progesterone. This allows stomach acid to flow up into the oesophagus, causing the burning sensation. In later pregnancy the baby can press up on the stomach, forcing the contents back into the oesophagus. To try and avoid heartburn, you should keep your meals small to prevent the stomach from becoming too full. Your doctor may prescribe you an antacid.

  • The main cause of morning sickness is low blood sugar, but pregnancy hormones also irritate the stomach directly. It can occur at any time of the day. It is a good idea to keep some plain biscuits and a glass of water beside the bed for the morning, but during the day try to eat little and often as food seems to provide some relief. Avoid fried foods and coffee as they can trigger nausea. Morning sickness usually disappears by the second trimester, however, in very severe cases it may be necessary to spend a few days in hospital to replace any lost fluids.

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