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Looking after me

Healthy eating

A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow.

Fruit and vegetables - healthy diet

If you are in receipt of certain benefits or on a low income, you may be able to claim Healthy Start vouchers that can be used to buy milk, fresh and frozen vegetables and vitamins. 

A daily tablet of folic acid is recommended for all women they trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's spine is developing. If you didn't take folic acid supplements before getting pregnant, you should start taking them as soon as you find out you're pregnant. You can get folic acid tablets from pharmacies, large supermarkets, health food stores, or on prescription from your GP.

Gentle exercise and keeping active in pregnancy is good for you and your baby; ideally 30 minutes a day of gentle walking, swimming, whatever exercise you enjoy. This needs to be balanced with rest. Growing a baby can make you feel tired at times. Many pregnant women find it a challenge to sleep at night.Tiredness can make you feel run down and can make some women feel low in mood. If you get the opportunity to doze/sleep during the day then don’t be afraid to take it.

Alcohol when pregnant

Avoiding alcohol completely when trying to conceive and during pregnancy is considered the safest option. Babies in the womb are most at risk from the harm caused by alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises that pregnant women who choose to drink alcohol should not drink more than one to two units - equivalent to a small to medium glass of wine - once or twice a week. If you are struggling to cut your alcohol intake and need help, please speak to your GP or Health Visitor.

Emotional wellbeing

Becoming parents can be a very exciting time. But it can also be a worrying time and some parents can feel low or anxious. If you find that you are feeling sad more than feeling happy, don’t struggle alone. It's not a sign that you're a bad parent or are unable to cope.

Depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after your baby has been born can be extremely distressing. Dads and close partners can get depressed too. Depression for either one or both parent/s can lead to problems for babies as they grow up.

Discussing how you are feeling with your partner, close friend or close family member can be helpful. Your midwife, health visitor or GP can also offer support. Health visitors have been trained to recognise symptoms of antenatal and postnatal depression and have techniques that can help. If they can't help, they'll know someone who can. If you don’t feel up to making an appointment, ask someone to do it for you.

Feeling sad more than you are feeling happy? Watch this Talk to someone short film.

Immunisations

All pregnant women are recommended to have the flu jab and the whooping cough vaccine.

The flu jab will protect both you and your baby. There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy. If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could mean your baby is born prematurely or has a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death in the first week of life.

The flu jab is normally available from September until around January or February each year. It is free for pregnant women and can be given at any point in pregnancy; try to have the vaccine as soon as possible so that you’ll be protected. 

The whooping cough vaccine is recommended to be given between 28 – 32 weeks of pregnancy. If a woman has the vaccine at this point, it means the baby has some protection against catching whooping cough in the first weeks of life, before they are able to have their own immunisations.

Further information regarding vaccines in pregnancy is available from your midwife, GP or via the NHS choices website.

Smoking

Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It's never too late to stop smoking. Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to your baby, so their heart has to beat harder every time you smoke. More than 80 per cent of second hand smoke is invisible and odourless, so no matter how careful you think you're being, your family still breathes in the harmful poisons. This puts them at risk of meningitis, cancer, bronchitis and pneumonia. Opening windows and doors or smoking in another room in the house will not make it safe for those around you.

We know that it can be difficult to stop smoking but smoking is much more harmful to your baby than any stress quitting may bring. We also know that you want to give your baby the best possible start in life. You are much more likely to be successful at quitting smoking if you get specialist advice and you can be sure that you are doing the best for your baby and best for you. For more information, call the NHS pregnancy stop smoking advice line on 0300 123 1044 or the Quit4Life Hampshire smoking cessation service.

Remember, all prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy are free in pregnancy and for 12 months after the baby's birth. Apply for a maternity exemption certificate from your midwife or GP.