No matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, whether you’re cooking up your first or your fifth, you’re going to want to make a few tweaks to your everyday lifestyle to best support you and your baby. But, between midwife appointments and scrolling Dr Google for advice, you may find it hard to gauge the non-negotiable changes from the “it’s totally up to you” changes. We’ve rounded up the common Do’s and Don’ts during pregnancy, to help guide you to make decisions that feel right for you and your growing family.
Your body is changing at such a rapid pace, quite literally creating new organs overnight, so you need to give your body the right fuel.
Opting for a healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy is the way to go and try to tune out the ‘you’re eating for two’ myth passed down from generations because it’s reported that a pregnant woman only really needs an additional 300 calories a day and some claim that’s not until you’re well into the second trimester.
Listen to your body, your cravings and your aversions, but if you’re ever unsure whether you can or can’t eat something then give it a quick check against the NHS England guidelines. Some foods breed a bacteria called listeria which can be harmful to your baby, so avoid things like mould-ripened cheeses (eg. brie, camembert), unpasteurised milk and soft blue cheeses (eg. gorgonzola). Also stay away from undercooked meat, all types of pâté, raw or partially cooked eggs that don’t have the red lion stamp and swordfish among other foods that have to be eaten in limited quantities (eg. tuna).
If you’re ever not sure if it’s safe to eat, particularly if you’re eating out at a restaurant, then it’s best to avoid it.
Supplementing Your Diet
Like in your pre-bump life, more often than not you can give your body all the nutrients and vitamins it needs through diet. But, if you want to ensure you’re hitting all the daily requirements for things like iron and Vitamin D then a pregnancy-safe multivitamin can be your shortcut to peace of mind.
A multivitamin is not an absolute must but is often advised by experts like midwives and doctors. Always have a chat with them to make sure it’s one that’s right for you.
The one thing that is ALWAYS recommended is taking a folic acid supplement. NHS England recommends: “400 micrograms of folic acid every day – from before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks pregnant” as this reduces the risk in the baby’s development in those all-important early weeks. It’s also widely recommended to take a daily Vitamin D supplement.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing though and some vitamins are NOT safe during pregnancy. For example, it’s recommended to stop taking cod liver oil as well as anything containing Vitamin A (including Retinol, so push pause on your retinol skincare regime!). If you’re ever unsure, check with your doctor and always check the labels and pay attention to the small print.
There’s a lot of confusion around caffeine consumption during pregnancy. Some pregnant women avoid it altogether, sticking to caffeine-free herbal teas and switching to decaf. Others limit their daily coffee habit.
The experts – aka the NHS – say you CAN have caffeine but only up to 200mg a day. Which is handy to know but be aware that the levels of caffeine can vary from drink-to-drink eg. a cup of instant coffee is 100mg, a can of cola is 40mg and a chocolate bar can range between 10mg-50mg. It’s also hard to be certain how much caffeine goes into drinks that are made in your favourite local coffee shop, so be mindful and try to avoid it if you can’t know for sure if the levels will keep you in the safe zone.
If You Smoke, It’s Time To Stop
This rule is pretty clear-cut, there’s no grey area here. Smoking and second-hand smoking can have a devastating impact on your body and once you’re pregnant those effects could be felt by your baby too. Smoking restricts the essential oxygen supply to your baby, and it’s been linked to all sorts of risks including miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and low birth weight – to name a few.
There can be a lot of guilt attached to smoking during pregnancy. But, know that quitting will reduce the risks wherever you are in your pregnancy, but the sooner you stop the better. If you’re struggling to quit, you don’t have to go cold turkey. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about options as you can use NCT (nicotine replacement therapy) such as patches, gum and sprays when pregnant but always seek advice first.
Same Goes For Drinking Alcohol
There is a lot of noise around drinking alcohol during pregnancy and unfortunately, not all of it is helpful. So, if you want the facts then seek advice from a trusted reliable source – not a friend of a friend who used to have a glass of wine on occasion and felt ‘fine’.
NHS England says: “experts are still unsure exactly how much – if any – alcohol is completely safe for you to have while you’re pregnant, so the safest approach is not to drink at all while you’re expecting”.
You don’t have to completely stop working up a sweat in your favourite class, in the gym or on lengthy walks when you’re pregnant. Exercise is not harmful or dangerous to your baby, but you may need to adapt your usual regime so that it’s pregnancy-friendly.
The rule of thumb is never to exhaust yourself when working out, don’t suddenly take up a new sport if you hadn’t tried it pre-pregnancy, always stay hydrated, no contact sports or scuba diving, don’t lie flat on your back for long stretches of time, and always tell the pros (eg. your instructor) that you’re expecting as they will tailor their advice so that it’s safe for you and your baby.
If your pregnancy symptoms are sending you through a loop, then talk to your doctor, midwife or pharmacist about what medications and natural remedies are safe to use. You may find that common symptoms like heartburn can be relieved using your usual go-to, but always check with a professional and check the labels.
Pregnancy is tiring – fact. All your energy goes straight to the baby, draining it from your reserves. Do not fight the fatigue, embrace it. Bring your bedtime routine forward, indulge in an afternoon siesta and be empowered to say no to any plans that feel too tasking.