Information about healthy eating and lifestyle whether you're trying to get pregnant or you're already pregnant.
Pregnant women are advised to avoid foods that have a higher risk of causing food poisoning as these could harm you or your baby.
For information on foods to avoid check NHS Choices.
You can find out more information about healthy eating before and during pregnancy by talking to your doctor, nurse or midwife (see How to get help with your sexual health)or from Tommy’s (midwife-run helpline: 0800 014 7800; www.tommys.org).
Drinks that contain caffeine – coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks – and chocolate should only be taken in moderation.
For more detailed guidance on caffeine limits see NHS Choices.
It's important to wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly. This includes pre-packed salad, fruit and vegetables.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite that can live in soil, raw meat and cat faeces (poo).
Infection with toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or damage to the baby’s eyes, ears or brain.
To reduce the risk of infection, avoid changing cat litter (if you have to do it, wear rubber gloves and wash your hands afterwards), wear gloves when gardening and wash all soil off fruit and vegetables.
You should also wash your hands thoroughly after handling uncooked meat, and keep uncooked and cooked meat separate.
The baby charity Tommys has more information on toxoplasmosis during pregnancy.
You shouldn't have an x-ray while you're pregnant unless it's essential for your health. Tell your doctor and dentist if you're pregnant or trying for a baby.
The more active and fit you are, the easier it will be for you to cope comfortably with pregnancy.
Regular exercise will improve your health and help reduce stress, but if you're not used to exercise, start off slowly. Don't suddenly take up strenuous exercise.
Walking and swimming are good ways to start getting fit, and a yoga or Pilates class can help with relaxation and muscle tone. Whatever exercise you do, talk to your doctor or exercise instructor if you become pregnant, as you may need to adapt the exercise you do.
Avoid exercise or sports where there's a risk of being hit in the abdomen, such as martial arts. You should take extra care during activities where there's a risk of falling or losing your balance, such as cycling and horse riding.
You can find out more information and advice about pre-pregnancy exercise, and exercise during pregnancy, from:
What you eat and how much you exercise affects your weight. Being overweight or underweight can disrupt your periods and reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
All adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, need 10 micrograms (10mcg) of vitamin D a day.
When you're pregnant you'll be advised to take a vitamin D supplement every day to make sure you get enough. Ask for advice from your doctor or midwife.
See NHS Choices for more about vitamin D and other vitamins during pregnancy.
If you're on a low income or under 18 you may be able to get free vitamin supplements through the Healthy Start scheme.
Try to stop smoking. If you or your partner smoke it can reduce your fertility. Stopping smoking may be the most important thing you can do for your health and the health of your baby.
Women who smoke during pregnancy have a greater risk of:
- giving birth too early (premature birth)
- complications during and after pregnancy and labour
- having low birth weight babies.
Babies who have low birth weight or are born prematurely are more likely to have health problems and are at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, or cot death).
Try not to start smoking again after you’ve had your baby. Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from coughs and chest infections, and are at higher risk of SIDS.
If you or your partner needs help, support or practical advice on giving up smoking, you can:
- go to your general practice – talk to your doctor, practice nurse or midwife
- ask your pharmacist
- visit the NHS Smokefree website or call the helpline on 0300 123 1044.
Many women ask how much is safe to drink during pregnancy or when trying for a baby. The safest approach is not to drink at all. This is because there's no known safe level for drinking during pregnancy.
Alcohol can damage sperm production, so men should cut down on drinking too.
If you do choose to drink, then it's recommended you avoid alcohol completely in the first three months of pregnancy. After this, try to limit alcohol to the occasional drink and not more than one or two units once or twice a week.
If you drink heavily and frequently in pregnancy, or you regularly binge drink, this can harm the baby’s development and health.
Heavy drinking can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These describe a range of symptoms that can be caused by drinking alcohol in pregnancy, including damage to the facial features, brain, heart and kidneys, and learning difficulties and behavioural problems in later life.
What if I drank before I knew I was pregnant?
Many pregnancies are unplanned. You may have had a one-off binge and then later discover that you conceived at or around this time.
Many women worry that this might have caused harm to the baby. It's thought that the risk of harm from a single episode of binge drinking is likely to be low. If you're worried, talk to your GP or midwife.
Help with alcohol
If you or your partner find it difficult to cut down on alcohol, you can get help and support from:
- Your general practice – talk to your doctor, nurse or midwife.
- Drinkline, the national alcohol helpline (0300 123 1110).
- www.drinkaware.co.uk, a website that can help you count your units, and offers information on drinking in pregnancy and advice on cutting down.
Some occupations expose you to substances or surroundings that may be harmful if you become pregnant. If you're concerned, speak to your manager or health and safety officer to find out more about any risks there might be.
You can find out more information from the Health and Safety Executive website at www.hse.gov.uk.
This website can only give you general information. Our information about planning a pregnancy is based on evidence-guided research from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Contact your doctor, practice nurse or a contraception clinic if you're worried or unsure about anything.