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.
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 foetus’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 a 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.
Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems including premature birth, low birthweight, cot death (also known as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS), miscarriage and breathing problems/wheezing in the first six months of life.
You can find useful information on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, and advice on how to stop, on the Go Smokefree website.
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 noon to 9pm 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.
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 Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises women who are pregnant to avoid alcohol in the first three months in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage.
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 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 healthy diet and getting moderate exercise are advised in pregnancy, and it’s important not to gain too much weight.
You can keep to a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet and getting exercise.
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 againstrubella.
The MMR vaccination is not suitable for women who are already pregnant or who become pregnant soon after (within one month) vaccination.
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.
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.
Vitamins and supplements that you should take or avoid, such as taking folic acid and vitamin D, and avoiding vitamin A.
You can also get information and advice from: – Your Doctor – A Community Contraceptive (family planning) Clinic – A Pharmacist – FPA – Brook (under-25s only) – Your local Young People’s Services (Call 0800 567123)