Woohoo! and huge Congratulations! You have just found out you’re pregnant. It’s an amazing, exciting, daunting journey ahead and once you are over the shock and celebration you are probably wondering ‘what should I do now?’
Worry not! – we are with you to make sense of all of the new terminology you are going to come across, the new people you’ll meet and the wonderful changes ahead. We have blogs on it all too if you want to delve deeper, but for the time being let’s cover what you need to do to get your pregnancy off to the best start
Find out your due date
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks (or 38 weeks from conception), so typically the best way to estimate your estimated due date is to count 40 weeks, or 280 days, from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP).
This means you need to subtract three months from the first day of your last period and add seven days. So if your last period started on August 11, you’d count back three months to May 11 and then add seven days, which means your due date would be around May 18.
You can adjust the cycle length on the calculators if you have longer/shorter cycles, so that you get a more accurate estimated due date.
As part of your pregnancy (antenatal) care, your midwife will offer you an early pregnancy scan that may give you a more accurate date for the birth of your baby.
Book an appointment with your GP or a midwife
As soon as you can, get in touch with your local maternity unit or doctor’s surgery to register your pregnancy and begin to receive free antenatal care from the NHS.
Many hospitals have a self-referral form online that you can use instead of going via your GP.
Make sure to include as much information as possible, your LMP, if you have been pregnant before and any medical conditions you may have.
The first appointment you have with a midwife will be the booking appointment between weeks 8-12.
Start taking your pregnancy vitamins
Folic acid is a vitamin (B9). It is found in certain foods and it can also be taken as tablets.
It is important that you take folic acid tablets for two to three months before you conceive. This allows it to build up in your body to a level that gives the most protection to your future baby against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. But try not to worry if you haven’t started taking the supplements yet and start taking it now.
It’s important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day before you’re pregnant and until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. If you have a higher chance of your pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects, you will be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid (5 milligrams).
It is also recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement.
Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) when you’re pregnant. Too much vitamin A could harm your baby. Always check the label of any supplements you are taking.
Have a read of our blog post on vitamins in pregnancy for more details
Find out what foods to avoid
Whether your pregnancy cravings have kicked in early, or you are finding it hard to stomach the thought of eating much of anything, it’s a good idea to recognise the foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, as they carry a risk of infection or illness for you and your baby.
Avoid undercooked meat, especially poultry, pork, sausages, and burgers. Any meat you eat should be cooked thoroughly, should not be pink or have any blood coming out of it.
Avoid liver and liver products, such as liver pâté and liver sausage. Liver products have lots of vitamin A in them. This can be harmful to an unborn baby. It is also important to avoid any foods that have vitamin A added (they may say ‘fortified with vitamin A’).
Avoid all types of pâtés, including vegetable pâté. This is because they may contain listeria. These are bacteria that can cause an infection called listeriosis. Listeriosis can harm a baby during pregnancy or cause severe illness in a new-born.
You should avoid unpasteurised (raw) milk and products made from it, which are sold in some farm and health food shops. These products can include cream, yoghurt, goat’s and sheep’s milk or dairy products. If you only have access to unpasteurised milk, boil it before using.
You should avoid certain types of cheese because they can cause an infection called listeriosis, which can be harmful to your baby. It is best to avoid:
- mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as brie, camembert and chevre (unless cooked until steaming hot) – these cheeses have more moisture, which can make it easier for bacteria to grow
- soft blue cheeses such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and Roquefort (unless cooked until steaming hot)
- soft goats’ cheese (unless cooked until steaming hot).
The safest eggs to eat are British Lion eggs (eggs with a lion stamp on them), these can be eaten raw or runny. This is because they are less likely to have salmonella in them, which can cause food poisoning. If you eat eggs that are not British Lion, or that are not hens’ eggs, make sure they are cooked thoroughly.
Using eggs in cooked recipes is safe. Try to avoid foods that have raw egg in them, such as homemade mayonnaise or mousse, unless you have made them with British Lion eggs.
If fish is part of your diet, you should aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week. You should also aim to eat one portion of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring. Oily fish helps your baby’s nervous system to develop. However, you should not eat more than 2 portions of oily fish a week as they may contain pollutants that can harm your baby.
You should also limit how much tuna you eat, because it has more mercury in it than other fish. If you eat too much mercury, it can be harmful to your unborn baby. You should eat no more than 2 tuna steaks (about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or 4 medium-size cans of tuna (about 140g when drained) per week.
There are some other types of fish you should limit. Don’t eat more than 2 portions a week of:
- dogfish (rock salmon)
- sea bass
- sea bream
Avoid shark, swordfish and marlin as they have high levels of mercury, which could affect your baby’s nervous system.
Focus on making change for a healthy pregnancy
If you smoke, now’s the time to quit. We know it can be tough, but you are not alone – your midwife and GP can advise and support you.
Drinking alcohol can harm your baby’s development and avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy is the only way to be sure baby is safe.
Caffeine is found in more than just tea and coffee, such as chocolate or soft drinks. The advice is to reduce it as much as possible and not to have more than 200mg caffeine a day – find out what that looks like.
Knowledge is power – Find out your options and what to expect
There is a lot of information, options and choices coming your way. It can all feel very daunting and overwhelming knowing what to do and where to go for advice.
Whilst there is no shortage of information available, it can be hard to make sense of it all and be prepared also for often conflicting advice from family, friends, work colleagues, even strangers in the street!
Use websites that contain evidence-based information such as the NHS, RCOG, Tommy’s, Healthy Start etc. Discuss with your midwife any questions you may have and where to get information locally.
And sign up to our antenatal course – from the comfort of your own home, you can join in with our live and interactive antenatal classes that covers all things pregnancy, birth and beyond and are led by our midwives who are experts in antenatal education.
All live classes are recorded and available for you to access at any-time and accompanied by further reading and links after the class. Our support continues after the course too – our midwives love hearing from you and are always happy to advise and provide support when needed.