Keeping yourself fit and healthy during your pregnancy is important for both you and your baby.
On this page, you can find lots of advice, guidance and information from our expert teams – as well as details of the support available from other agencies – both during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
When you have your first appointment with your midwife, they will measure your height and weight and use these figures to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). This will help us to determine the best type of care for you and your baby.
|Classification||BMI (kg/ M2)|
|Obesity 3||40 or more|
It’s important that we do this, as higher BMI levels may increase the risk of pregnancy complications, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes in pregnancy
- Shoulder dystocia (baby’s shoulder becoming stuck at delivery)
- Failed epidural or spinal anaesthesia
- Thrombosis (blood clots)
- An inefficient labour – which could increase the risk of needing a Caesarian section and excessive bleeding after baby is born
- Wound infection
For your baby, the risk factors include:
- High birth weight
- Poor health at birth, due to difficulties during pregnancy or the birth
- Long-term weight problems
It’s important that you don’t try and diet and set out to lose weight while you’re pregnant, there are some very useful changes you can make to your everyday routine and what you eat, that can help your baby’s growth to follow a healthy pattern. This also means you don’t gain excessive weight, which may be hard to lose after your baby is born.
You may decide to access additional support from a Weight Management programme and you can discuss this with your midwife or GP, who will be happy to give you advice on what is best for you.
If your BMI is 40 or above, you will be referred to an anaesthetist who will talk to you about some of the difficulties associated with being overweight while pregnant, which could be a factor in an emergency situation.
We understand that it can be difficult to talk to someone about your weight but we want you to know that we are here to support you, to offer clear advice and help you to feel your best at this very special time in your life. We will always be sensitive and discreet.
Unless you have been advised by your doctor not to exercise for a particular reason, there’s no reason not to exercise during your pregnancy. In fact, it’s great for you and your baby!
It also means that your body can be better prepared for physical demands of labour, birth, and the early days of being a mother.
Ask your midwife for more information about exercise sessions in your area that are suitable for pregnant women.
Healthy Start entitles you to free weekly help to buy milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins.
To qualify, you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant and/ or have a child under the age of four. You or your family must also receive either:
- Income Support
- Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit (not Working Tax Credit) and have a family income of £16,190 or less
You are also entitled to claim if you are under the age of 18 and pregnant, even if you are not receiving any of the above benefits or tax credits.
Vitamins and supplements
It’s recommended that all women take a supplement of folic acid until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy.
To ensure that you have sufficient supply of Vitamin D for you and your baby, it is recommended that you take a multivitamin supplement suitable for pregnant women throughout the whole of your pregnancy.
You will find this in your Healthy Start vitamins that are issued to you by the Midwife at your initial appointment for further supplies of these discuss access to them with your Midwife.
Protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life. It’s never too late to stop smoking.
When you see the midwife at your antenatal appointments you will be asked to undertake a carbon monoxide reading test at each appointment regardless of whether you smoke or not. If you do smoke you will be referred to the to the local Stop Smoking Services and even if you have not smoked within the last year a referral is still made so support can still be offered and the Stop Smoking Service will contact you and discuss your options.
There are a variety of ways to help you stop smoking including 1:1appointments, home visits, telephone support and information by post.
Other family members can also be supported to stop at the same time and this support continues after the baby is born.
We have a strict Non-Smoking Policy at our hospitals and smoking is not allowed anywhere within the grounds.
Alcohol and drugs
This section is not meant to judge you or upset you. It gives accurate, evidence-based information to help you stop your drug or alcohol use during pregnancy. We are here to help you, please speak to your midwife for support.
As well as causing problems with your baby’s health, street drugs like heroin and cocaine can be mixed with many things such as talcum powder, brick dust or chalk. These can damage your liver and kidneys. It is better if you only use prescribed drugs when you are pregnant.
Many other things can affect your pregnancy, it is important that you:
- Eat well and regularly
- Take care of yourself
- Attend for your antenatal care appointments and scans
- Commence a drug treatment programme
- Stop all other street drugs (such as cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, crack and solvents)
- Stop alcohol use – however if you feel this would be difficult for you, we strongly advise that you seek medical support through your midwife
There is also no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.
The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend that if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.
Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby; with the more you drink, the greater the risk.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a rare condition caused by drinking in pregnancy. It can affect your baby’s growth and brain development, which can cause learning and behavioural problems in children which continue throughout life.
If you are pregnant and still drinking it is important to try to reduce your intake. If you need alcohol and cannot reduce your drinking please talk to your midwife so that you can be given help to stop.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol when pregnant can cause many abnormalities and brain damage in the unborn baby.
Find out more about the effects of using drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, and the support available.
Sexual health is an important part of your health and your baby’s health. As part of your antenatal care you will be offered routine tests for your health. These will include tests to detect Hepatitis B, Syphilis and HIV. Chlamydia screening will also be offered on a routine urine sample.
However there are other sexually transmitted infections (STI) that are not normally tested for but that can affect you and your baby’s health and may cause you discharge or pain and discomfort. Therefore it’s important to discuss with your midwife if you are concerned re any symptoms you may have so a confidential sexual health check- up can be arranged.
Dental care and free prescriptions
All pregnant women get free prescriptions and Free NHS dental care only during pregnancy and for one year afterwards.Your midwife will complete a medical exemption form for you so you are entitled to this.
It is important to see a Dentist if you are not already registered with one.
Date of Issue: February 2022
Review Period: February 2025