Pregnancy is an ideal time to get healthier and it’s often when people start really thinking about their lifestyle and living habits – such as what to eat, what to avoid and getting more active. After all, what better reason to get healthier than your baby and growing family.
However, we here at Now Baby know that it’s not that easy – as soon as you are pregnant you will face lots of people telling you conflicting information, from friends and family to co-workers and strangers in the street – and more often than not it’s about something you should or should not be doing for a healthier pregnancy. It can all be so confusing and overwhelming – which is why we’ve created our evidence based, expert advice on tips for a healthy pregnancy.
Exercising in pregnancy is beneficial for you and your baby. Research highlights that for most women and birthing people, the fitter and more active you are in pregnancy, the better you and your body will adapt to the changes that pregnancy brings – both physical, such as your changing shape and emotional, such as adapting to these changes.
There are a range of exercises that anyone can do – but also some that should be avoided. We’ve covered this topic in more detail on our exercise in pregnancy page here.
2. Healthy dieting & eating
We know that all expecting parents worry about making sure they are eating the right food to support their baby’s development and keep healthy. What that means can however be hard to work out as there are so many myths surrounding healthy eating in pregnancy.
Similarly, it can be hard to try eating well if you are struggling with early pregnancy sickness and tiredness, or even later symptoms such as heartburn. Try not to worry too much if this is the case and do your best to eat a range of healthy foods every day if you can.
The key to eating well during pregnancy is having a good variety of foods from all the different food groups every day. You don’t need to eat a special pregnancy diet – there are loads of delicious, healthy foods to choose from which we discuss in more detail here:
3. Vitamins & Supplements
Whilst a healthy, varied diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is essential in staying healthy in pregnancy and will provide you with most of the vitamins and minerals you need, all pregnant women/people are also advised to take some supplements too.
These supplements – Folic acid and vitamin D, are important in the development of your baby and in keeping you healthy in pregnancy. How much and how often you need to take the supplements can vary, so head over to our blog on taking supplements in pregnancy to find out what you should be taking:
- NowBaby Blog: What vitamins should I take whilst pregnant?
4. Gaining healthy weight
It’s expected that your shape and weight will change in pregnancy – and rightly so given that you are growing a baby. However, it is important to be aware that the amount of weight you gain in pregnancy can vary greatly depending on many different factors. Most pregnant women/people gain within the region of 10kg and 12kg in pregnancy, although most of this tends to happen in the second and third trimester.
However, it is important to remember that putting on too much or not enough weight can lead to health problems for you or your unborn baby.
5. Education around pregnancy
Another important factor in staying healthy and becoming healthier in pregnancy is to learn and find out all you can about being pregnant and having a baby.
Your midwife is a great source of advice and support and will share with you advice from the very first booking appointment. If you need any additional support, your midwife can signpost towards these services too.
Antenatal classes such as our live, interactive online antenatal courses are also an ideal way of finding out what makes a healthy pregnancy. Our classes cover a range of topics such as what to eat and what to avoid, exercise in pregnancy and staying active, as well as support with creating a birth plan and preparing for labour and birth.
6. Appointment schedules
Antenatal care and appointments are carefully scheduled to help keep you and your baby safe and well during pregnancy. During each appointment your midwife or doctor will check the health of you and your baby, ensure all is well, monitor baby’s growth and development and refer you for further care if needed.
By attending all of your appointments, you can ensure that any changes are noted and if you need any further care, you are seen early – keeping you and your growing baby healthy and well. Have a read of what to expect during your antenatal appointments here:
- NowBaby Blog: Antenatal appointment schedule
7. Understanding your mental health
Whilst there is a lot of focus on your physical health, another key component of a healthy pregnancy is your emotional and mental wellbeing. Pregnancy can have an impact on your emotional health – either before birth in the antenatal period, or after the birth of your baby such as postnatal depression.
Pregnancy can be a worrying time for many – there are so many changes happening and impacting your life, as well as the questions you have about is your baby ok, how do you know all is well, what should you be worrying about for example. Whilst it’s understandable to worry and look for signs of a healthy pregnancy or when things don’t feel right, if you find that your emotional health is being affected more than occasionally it is important to let your midwife know who can support you in accessing the right support and care.
Signs of healthy pregnancy are not just how physically well you feel, it’s about how you emotionally feel too.
8. Vaccinations during pregnancy
In the UK all pregnant women and people will be offered a range of vaccines (immunisations) during pregnancy to help protect you from certain infections or to help keep your baby safe from infection during the first few weeks of their life until your baby has had their own vaccinations.
In pregnancy your immune system is weaker than when you are not pregnant, which means that you are more likely to pick up certain infections that may be harmful to either you or your baby.
This is why certain vaccinations are offered to all pregnant women in the UK – such as the seasonal flu vaccine, the whooping cough vaccine and more recently the Covid-19 vaccination. Head over to our ‘Vaccinations in pregnancy’ page for more detail on each of the vaccinations offered and why they are important in staying healthy in pregnancy.
9. Things to avoid in pregnancy to stay healthy
Alcohol consumption in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby. It is important to note that whilst the more you drink, the greater the risk, there isn’t a safe level for drinking alcohol in pregnancy, regardless of what others may suggest. The expert advice is therefore that it is best to not to drink any alcohol at all in pregnancy.
Caffeine is often overlooked when people think of what to avoid or cut back on in pregnancy. However, research highlights that high levels of caffeine in your diet can be linked to pregnancy complications. It is therefore best to cut back on how much caffeine you drink or eat to less that 200mg a day – about 2 cups of instant coffee.
Caffeine can also be hidden in drinks and foods such as dark chocolate and fizzy caffeinated drinks – so it can be hard to find out how much your intake is. If you are unsure, try using the Tommy’s caffeine calculator which can help you work out where you can cut back if needed.
Smoking in general is harmful for your health and the people around you, but during pregnancy smoking has a serious impact on your health and your baby’s. Smoking in pregnancy results in the increased risk of serious pregnancy complications such as the growth of your baby, miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.
We know that giving up smoking can be hard but getting support early can help you stop. Speak to your midwife about being referred for help in quitting smoking.
To get help with stopping smoking contact the NHS free service: http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree
Stress or feeling stressed is not uncommon and to be expected during times of significant change such as pregnancy. Whilst you may be happy to be pregnant, it’s understandable to feel at times a little anxious or worried about what pregnancy means or the changes ahead.
However, research highlights that long term increased levels of stress can cause pregnancy related health issues such as high blood pressure, as well as increasing the risk of premature birth or an impact on the growth of your baby.
Whilst some stress is unavoidable, if you are feeling increasingly pressured and stressed out, get help from your midwife – talk to them, let them know how you are feeling and they can arrange the right care and support for you.
10. Tools to help you stay healthy in pregnancy
The NHS have provided some great tools to help you stay healthy during pregnancy, including the following tools that we at NowBaby recommend: