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Before Getting Pregnant

If you are trying to have a baby or are just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Trying to make sure you live as healthy a lifestyle as possible before getting pregnant can increase the chances of having a healthy baby. Some babies may not be planned and you may not have been living as healthy a lifestyle as you could have been. Don't worry. Its not too late to start making some healthy changes which will will help your baby. 

  • Do I need extra vitamins?

    Eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables will make sure you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However there are some recommended supplements for those planning a pregnancy / already pregnant, as well as trying to include in your diet.

    Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects (a problem at birth with the baby’s brain, spine or spinal cord).

    • Take folic acid from when you start to try for a baby until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Take 400 micrograms a day.
    • Eat foods such as green vegetables and cereals/bread with extra folic acid added.

    If you have diabetes, take drugs for epilepsy, or have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, you need to take a higher dose of folic acid - see your GP for further advice.

    Vitamin D helps you and your baby develop strong bones and teeth. Not getting enough vitamin D can affect your energy levels and your mood. You get some from diet and being in the sunlight but it is difficult to get enough.

    • Take 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily during pregnancy. It is advised that most people in the UK continue to take a supplement - *click here* to read more..

    You may choose to take a pregnancy multi-vitamin. If you do please talk to your local pharmacist for advice on suitable ones before you begin. You may be eligible for free ‘Healthy Start Vitamins’ - *click here* to find out more.

  • One of the best things you can do for the health of your growing family and yourself is to be ‘smoke free’. It is important that partners, family and friends understand that it is not just when the pregnant person smokes there is a risk to the unborn baby. All second hand smoke is dangerous.

    Some of the serious risks to babies exposed to smoking in the womb are that they;

    • May not get enough oxygen in the womb.
    • Could be born early, and smaller than they should be.
    • Are at a higher risk from miscarriage, still birth and sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

    Stopping smoking is the best way to keep your baby healthy. *Click Here* to read more about the ways babies are harmed. 

    Ideally you should quit smoking once you are planning a baby, or as soon you find out a baby is on the way to minimise the risk. If you haven’t already quit then stopping as soon as you can will still be the best decision for the health of your baby and for you!

    If you are pregnant speak up for your baby to keep them safe and smoke free. Ask others not to smoke around you or in places where you spend time. This is especially important during the coronavirus outbreak when we are all being asked to stay home more.

    *Click here* to find smoking support services in your area.

  • No one really knows if there is a safe level of alcohol in pregnancy. Importantly we do know it can cause long term health and development problems for babies and children if they are exposed to too much. Because of this when planning a pregnancy and during pregnancy it is safest to drink NO alcohol.

    If you worry that it might be hard for you to stop drinking alcohol talk to your GP, or midwife, as soon as possible - there are services to help you.

    *Click here* to find alcohol support services in your area.

  • Being a healthy weight during pregnancy reduces the risk of complications.

    If you are able to get to a healthy weight before becoming pregnant this is best for you and your baby.

    You should not feel embarrassed or judged about your weight. Health professionals support women of all shapes and sizes. Attending all of your antenatal appointments is very important to make sure any problems are spotted early and you get the right care for you.

    If you are overweight or underweight at your first appointment with your midwife they will be able to give you support and advice about how best to keep you and your baby well in pregnancy.

    You may also be referred for specialist support from the hospital maternity team. Healthy weight is assessed using BMI (body mass index) Find out more *here*. A healthy BMI is between 18.5–25.  

    Weight gained in pregnancy is not ‘just baby’ it is also made up of;

    • Placenta
    • Fluid around the baby
    • Extra blood volume
    • Breast size increase.

    In the UK there is no fixed advice on how much weight you ‘should’ put on in pregnancy. Advice about weight gain can be discussed with your midwife taking into account your individual needs.   

  • If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes it is very important that you manage your diabetes well before and during your pregnancy. 

    You will need to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels. This is because once you are pregnant, your unborn baby will have a higher risk of problems such as heart or breathing problems. There is also a slightly higher chance of your baby being born with birth defects or even being born stillborn.

    All pregnant people with Type 1 diabetes will now be offered Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) which is a small device that is worn on the skin, that continuously monitors your blood sugar levels. The device will send your blood sugar readings to either your phone or sensor and your readings can be accessed by your healthcare team online. It will alert you if your blood sugars are rising or falling which can help you to improve your blood sugar control.

    The best way to make sure you and your baby are both healthy is to make sure your diabetes is well controlled before you become pregnant.

    You can do this before you start trying for a baby, speak to your GP or diabetes specialist for advice. You should be referred to a diabetic pre-conception clinic for support. *Click here* to find a diabetes support service near you.

  • All pregnant people with diabetes will be offered close observation and regular blood glucose monitoring when in labour or before birth to ensure that their blood sugar levels do not become too high. This is to reduce the risk of baby’s blood sugar levels becoming unstable after birth. If your blood sugar levels do start to rise, intravenous insulin will be offered to manage this. This will be managed by your midwife or doctor.

    If you have type 1 diabetes and use an insulin pump, you can continue to use this in labour to manage your blood sugar and you will be supported in how to do this by your diabetes team.

  • After your baby is born, their blood sugars will be measured, which is often happens before the 2nd and 3rd feed. Your baby will also be closely observed for a minimum of 24 hours after birth.

    Those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes will be advised during pregnancy on what dose of insulin or medication to give after baby is born. The amount of insulin needed usually reduces after birth. Breastfeeding can increase the risk of low blood sugar, so always have a snack handy whilst feeding.


Who can Help?

If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

See, Hear, Respond - Best Beginnings and Barnado's are providing free support to pregnant families and new parents struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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