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Planning your pregnancy

If you’re planning on getting pregnant, you can improve your chances of conceiving and having a successful pregnancy by following the steps on this page.

Folic acid

Take a 400 microgram (400mcg) supplement of folic acid every day while you're trying to get pregnant, and up until you're 12 weeks pregnant. This is advised due to the fact that folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. A neural tube defect is when the fetus's spinal cord (part of the body's nervous system) doesn't form normally. Women with epilepsy, diabetes and other medical conditions are recommended to take a 5 milligram (5mg) supplement.

You can get folic acid tablets at pharmacies, or talk to your GP about getting this on prescription. Don't worry if you get pregnant unexpectedly and weren't taking folic acid supplements. Start taking them as soon as you find out, until you're past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Find out more about healthy diet in pregnancy and foods to avoid when you're pregnant.

Stop smoking

Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems including premature birth, low birth weight, breathing problems/wheezing in the first six months of life, miscarriage and cot death (also known as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS).

Quitting can be hard, no matter how much you want to, but support is available. The NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9169 offers free help, support and advice on stopping smoking when you're pregnant. It’s open from 12:00 to 21:00 every day, and a specially trained person will talk to you. They can send you a free information pack and give you details of your local NHS stop-smoking service.

Smoke from other people's cigarettes can damage your baby, so ask your partner, friends and family not to smoke near you.

Find out more about smoking and pregnancy on the CAMQUIT website

Cut out alcohol

Don't drink alcohol if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Alcohol can be passed to your unborn baby, and too much exposure to alcohol can affect your baby’s development.

If you choose to drink, protect your baby by not drinking more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week, and don't get drunk. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises women who are pregnant to avoid alcohol in the first three months in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage. 

Find out more about alcohol and pregnancy, alcohol units and tips for cutting down.

Keep to a healthy weight

If you’re overweight you may have problems getting pregnant, and if you’re having fertility treatment it’s less likely to work. Being overweight or obese (having a BMI of over 30) also raises the risk of some pregnancy problems, such as high blood pressure, blood clots, miscarriage and gestational diabetes. Before you get pregnant you can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI. But once you're pregnant this may not be accurate, so consult your midwife or doctor instead.

Having a balanced diet and exercising moderately are advised in pregnancy to maintain a healthy weight, and it’s important not to gain too much weight. 

Infections

Some infections, such as rubella (German measles), can harm your baby if you catch them in pregnancy. Most people in the UK are immune to rubella. If you are thinking about having a baby and don’t know whether you are immune, you can ask your GP to check. They can offer you the MMR vaccine to protect you against rubella. The MMR vaccination is not suitable for women who are already pregnant or who become pregnant soon after (within one month) vaccination. You can find out more about infections during pregnancy that can harm your baby.

If you have a long-term condition

If you have a long-term or chronic condition, such as epilepsy or diabetes, it could affect the decisions you make about your pregnancy, for example where you might want to give birth.

While there is usually no reason why you shouldn’t have a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby, some health conditions do need careful management to minimise risks to both you and your baby. Therefore it's best to have a pre-conception discussion with your specialist or GP.  If you’re taking medication for a condition, don’t stop taking it without consulting your doctor.

Information syndicated from the NHS Choices website

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