Take folic acid daily
Months before you even try to get pregnant you can take action to have a healthy baby. How? Start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, ideally for three months before conceiving, and continue for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some women may need a higher daily 5mg folic acid supplement – ask your GP if this applies to you. Folic acid helps prevent serious birth defects that can happen before you even know you're pregnant.
Tune up with a check-up
See your doctor a few months before you start trying to get pregnant. Ask about:
- Vaccines, scans or tests you need
- Taking folic acid and vitamin D
- How to control any health conditions you may have
- What medicines you can and can’t take during pregnancy -- prescription and over the counter.
Make a date with your dentist
Did you know your dentist can help you have a healthy pregnancy? NHS dental treatment is free during pregnancy and for 12 months after your baby is born. Make sure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible even before you get pregnant. That's a good thing for your baby as well as your smile! Pregnancy increases your risk of gum disease and gum disease may increase the risk of premature labour. Solution? Brush and floss regularly.
Work towards a healthy weight
Being under or overweight can make it harder to get pregnant. Being overweight also puts you at risk of health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and it can make labour last longer. The good news is that regular, moderate exercise can help you feel your best as you try to get pregnant.
Make exercise a habit
Getting in shape can make your pregnancy and delivery easier. Walking, cycling and swimming are all great ways to get a workout. Consider pelvic floor muscle exercises and back strengthening exercises to help prepare for pregnancy.
Eat a better balance for baby
One of the best things you can do is to eat healthily, before and whilst you're pregnant. Ask your partner to do likewise. You'll need plenty of protein, iron, calcium and folic acid, so stock up on fruits, nuts, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Cut back on crisps, biscuits and cakes, fizzy drinks and other junk foods that have empty calories.
Create a baby budget
You'll want the best for your little one, so start planning now. Consider feeding equipment, baby food, nappies, maternity clothes, car seats, child care and baby clothes - fun and functional. Think about ways to stretch a pound: secondhand baby clothes, family babysitting help, anything that will ease the financial impact.
Watch the caffeine
Can't get going without that cup of coffee? It's alright but you may want to cut back. The NHS recommends a maximum limit of 200mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy. That's around two mugs of instant coffee. Decaf or even warm, spiced milk can be a soothing substitute.
If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Smoking can make it harder for you to get pregnant and smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and even miscarriage. It also puts your baby at risk of cot death (sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS).
You may want to ask your partner to quit, too. Breathing in second-hand smoke is also dangerous. If you need help to kick the habit talk to your GP or pharmacist.
The UK's chief medical officers say there is no safe amount of alcohol that women can drink during pregnancy. It's also well known that drinking during the early weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects and learning problems. Seek medical advice if you have concerns about alcohol and pregnancy.
Learn about maternity and paternity leave
When you're pregnant you are entitled to up to a year of maternity leave, regardless of how long you have worked for your employer. This includes 26 weeks of ordinary leave and 26 weeks of additional leave. You'll want enough time to give your newborn baby a great start. You can also request flexible arrangements if you return to work. The father-to-be may also have the right to paternity leave.