There is a clear link between a mother’s health before pregnancy, the risks she is exposed to or exposes herself to, and her baby’s health. We know that healthy women have fewer complications in pregnancy are more likely to have healthy babies who grow into healthy children. Partners also have a role to play by staying healthy.
#ReadyforPregnancy is here to support you if you are thinking about a pregnancy and looking for information about how to prepare and be in the best shape possible for your health and your baby’s health.
For more personalised information before getting pregnant speak to your GP or practice nurse. Once pregnant you can use your personalised care plan, My Choices for Pregnancy Birth and Beyond, to help you track things as you go along. Ask your midwife for a copy at your booking appointment or download it from the right hand side of this page.
If you’re not used to exercising, or haven’t done any for a while, now is a good time to start. Try starting off with 10 minutes of daily activity. You can then build up to 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is especially important if you’re planning a pregnancy. Your baby relies on you to provide the right balance of nutrients to help them grow and develop properly (even after they’re born). By aiming for a healthy weight, you increase your chances of conceiving naturally and having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
If you’re not quite ready to have a baby, it’s important to plan your contraception. There are a range of different contraceptive options currently available in the UK. The type that works best for you will depend on your health and circumstances. There are several factors to consider when deciding which method of contraception is right for you.
Quitting smoking is the most important thing you and your partner can do to give your baby the best start in life. Men who smoke can suffer from reduced quality sperm and erection difficulties. If you are planning a pregnancy or already expecting talk to your GP practice, midwife or local stop smoking service about the support available to quit.
It’s recommended that all women who could get pregnant should take a daily supplement of folic acid. You should take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid every day before you get pregnant, and every day afterwards, up until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you should also consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement. Speak to your local pharmacist or GP for the best time to start.
It’s common for women to experience mental ill health for the first time in pregnancy. Women may feel more vulnerable and anxious, and some may develop depression.
If you’ve got a mental health condition and are planning to have a baby, discuss your plans with your GP or psychiatrist. Your doctor can discuss with you:
This is called pre-pregnancy or pre-conception counselling and can help you and your doctor plan for the healthiest start for you and your baby.
Many women ask how much is safe to drink during pregnancy. The safest approach is not to drink at all. If you do drink you should avoid getting drunk and try to limit alcohol to the occasional drink and not more than one or two units once or twice a week. Alcohol can damage sperm production, so men should cut down on drinking too.
By aiming for a healthy weight, you increase your chances of conceiving naturally and reduce the chance of problems associated with being overweight in pregnancy. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of impotence and infertility in men: men who smoke can suffer from reduced quality sperm and erection difficulties
Some infections, such as rubella (German measles), can harm your baby if you catch them during pregnancy. The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) will protect you and your baby. If you have not been vaccinated or are unsure whether you have been vaccinated, call your GP to see whether they have a record. If you have no record, of receiving them, make an appointment to get vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccine offers pregnant women the best protection against COVID-19 which can be serious in later pregnancy for some women. There is no need to avoid getting pregnant after COVID-19 vaccination. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines have any effect on fertility or your chances of becoming pregnant. Find out more about having the COVID-19 vaccine when pregnant or breastfeeding.
All pregnant women should have the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their babies. The flu vaccine can be given safely at any stage of pregnancy, from conception onwards.
Apart from the fact that breast milk is tailor-made for your baby, free, and always available, it offers protection from infection, vitamins and nutrition for your baby and improves your baby’s long-term health.
There are lots of antenatal classes and online resources where you can learn more about pregnancy, birth and parenting. Find out more about what is available in your area for when you become pregnant.
Talk with your GP about your plans to make sure you’re as healthy as you can be before starting your pregnancy.
Booklets have been produced with pregnancy advice and tips in 10 commonly spoke languages, click on your chosen language below to download the booklet:
There’s more support on how to be #ReadyforPregnancy from:
The NHS website, including: