Pregnancy & Lifestyle Advice
Posted January 18, 2018
Smoking in pregnancy is harmful to mother and baby. Smoking increases the risk of low birth weight and premature labour. There is an increased risk of complications both in pregnancy and in labour.
Smoking after the baby is born increases the risk of sudden infant death, respiratory infections and asthma.
For help with stopping smoking please speak to your GP or Practice Nurse.
Excess alcohol has an adverse effect on the foetus. Women that drink excessively will cause damage to their baby in the womb; the extreme result is something called foetal alcohol syndrome which causes birth defects and learning disability.
It is recommended to drink as little alcohol as possible, or better still, no alcohol at all.
Folic acid (400 micrograms) should be taken until at least week 12 since this has been proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects/spina bifida (closing of the base of the spinal cord) and disability. This can be derived from a general pregnancy health multivitamin from a pharmacy such as elevit. Some women such as those on anti-epileptic medications, require a higher dose, so best to ask your GP.
Vitamin A supplementation (retinoids) could harm your baby and therefore should be avoided.
Prescribed or Over-the-counter Medications
Most common medications have little or no effect on the pregnancy or developing baby. Always say to a Doctor or pharmacist that you are pregnant just in case you are about to be given something that would be harmful to you or your baby.
It is worth asking your GP, ideally prior to conceiving, if a prescribed medicine is safe to take in pregnancy. Sometimes there may be some conceivable risks of a medication to the pregnancy but given the importance of the drug to the mother’s health it may be necessary to continue this.
Medicines that have considerable risk and ideally should be avoided include:
- Antibiotics such as tetracyclines (doxycycline), trimethoprim
- Anti-epileptic medications
- Anti-depressant medications – SSRI, eg zoloft, lexapro etc
Medications to be avoided/stopped:
- Acne medication – Retinoids, eg roaccutane/isotretinoin
- Anti-coagulants, eg warfarin/coumadin
- Anti-hypertensive medication – ACE Inhibitor tablets, eg ramipril
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, eg nurofen/ibuprofen, voltaren, naproxen.
Diet in Pregnancy
There is no reason why you should not continue to enjoy your food when you are pregnant, but remember not to “eat for two”. In pregnancy your daily intake should only be 2,500 calories. It is important to eat a varied diet including protein, fruit, vegetables and plenty of roughage to prevent constipation, which is common in pregnancy. Try and eat foods rich in folic acid e.g. bread, cereals and green vegetables. Avoid:
- Soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and blue veined cheeses. Any cheese made from unpasteurised milk.
- Any types of pate.
- Cooked, chilled meals and ready to eat poultry unless thoroughly reheated until piping hot.
- Raw meat, always cook meat thoroughly and be careful when preparing salads on the same board as raw meat.
- Eggs should always be hard boiled. Avoid mayonnaise (raw eggs)
- Liver and liver products should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Alcohol in large quantities has been known to cause fetal abnormalities.
- Excess mercury-containing fish such as tuna and flake can be harmful.
Exercise in pregnancy
Physical activity and exercise should be positively encouraged during pregnancy as it gives a number of health benefits such as reduced hypertension and emotional wellbeing. Simple forms of exercise such swimming, jogging or walking are safe for most of the pregnancy.
Care should be taken later on in the pregnancy with regards to avoiding high temperatures, excessively high pulse rates and too high intensity workouts as well as risks of trauma from falling, eg cycling, horseriding, skiing etc. Contact and high impact sports as well as scuba diving should be avoided as well.
It would be best to ask your GP and/or a personal trainer for advice. Click here for more guidance on sporting activities to avoid.
Consult your doctor if you are travelling.
Women can travel in pregnancy up until 36 weeks but airlines may need a letter to prove their dates to avoid being excluded from a flight.
Long-haul air travel in pregnancy is associated with a slightly increased risk of venous clots (DVT) so ideally wear supportive anti DVT stockings, drinking plenty of fluids, do calf muscle exercises and move around in the cabin as much as possible.