Healthy pregnancy

Looking after yourself can be hard enough but when a baby comes into the equation staying healthy will be important for both of you.

pregnant woman holding an apple.

"No push-ups for me! But I will eat an apple."

Contrary to the cliche of eating for two, it is not how much you eat (you only need on average 300 more calories a day) but what you eat that matters. Focus your diet on fruit and vegetables. Raw green vegetables like spinach and lettuces become particularly valuable because they contain folic acid and iron, but remember to wash them well.


There are a few critical nutrients that play particularly important roles in foetal development. Those important nutrients are:

  • Calories: Proper weight gain on your part is needed to make sure your newborn is delivered at a healthy weight. Add 200 to 300 calories per day for the last two thirds of pregnancy.
  • Protein: Protein provides materials for the growing tissues, including the placenta, the mother’s blood and the baby. Get three good servings a day from beans, chicken, fish, or eggs.
  • Calcium: This mineral is needed for proper bone formation in the baby and to help preserve the mother’s bone strength. Drink a glass of milk a day to keep levels topped up.
  • Iron: An iron supplement is recommended during pregnancy since it is so difficult to get enough in your diet. You will need this extra iron to replenish red blood supply.
  • Folic Acid: This is a B vitamin needed for proper cell division. Folic acid taken while trying to conceive and in early pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine. Studies show a reduced risk of spina bifida by about 50 percent. This is important from the very beginning of your pregnancy, try to include foods like orange juice and spinach in your diet.
  • Fluids: You need extra fluid to feed your increased blood volume and for amniotic fluid. Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day.

Things to avoid:

  • Alcohol: As no one really knows how much vino is safe to drink when pregnant it is best to avoid it. Alcohol can cause birth defects in the baby. It can also, in larger quantities, cause miscarriage.
  • Unsupervised use of vitamins: If you are thinking of taking any food supplements it’s best to read-up or ask a professional about which ones can benefit you in your pregnancy. Large doses of vitamin A are particularly harmful to a developing foetus, which is why you should also avoid liver.
  • Food you are allergic to: If you are sensitive or allergic to certain foods it is best to avoid them in pregnancy because your baby may also be sensitive or affected by your reaction to those foods. Also avoid unpasteurised soft cheeses and pates, they may be carrying the listeria bacterium which is a danger to the baby.
  • Smoking: Babies born to smokers may be smaller than other babies, premature or more prone to infections. Cigarette smoke has been recognised as one of the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also called Cot Death). Asthma, throat and ear infections are common amongst children whose parents smoke. If you would like help to stop smoking you can contact Quitline on 0800 00 22 00.
  • Medicine: Avoid all medicines that are not essential. Consult your doctor to check the drugs you may be taking are safe during pregnancy.
  • X-rays: Avoid X-rays including dental X-rays.
  • Important checks: Are you immune to German Measles (Rubella)? See your doctor about this.
  • Some STIs can affect your fertility or be passed on to your baby.
    If you or your partner think that you might be at risk from an STI (including HIV) go to your local sexual health clinic.

Go green

Eating healthily may seem like the obvious thing to do when you’re eating for two, but looking out for hidden dangers in certain foods is also important. Why not try eating organic food? On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals, such as calcium and iron, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. You can also be sure of avoiding any potentially harmful pesticide residues.

Although some organic food is a bit more expensive, it can often be much tastier and the added nutrients will have benefits for both you and your baby. Research has shown that children and foetuses are in a higher risk group if they are exposed to chemicals found in pesticides. These chemicals are now thought to be linked to cancer, so eating organic can reduce these risks and give you peace of mind.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015