Breastfeeding: the first few days
In the first few days, you and your baby will be getting to know each other. It may take time for both of you to get the hang of breastfeeding.
This happens more quickly for some women than others. But nearly all women produce enough milk for their baby.
Preparing to breastfeed before the birth
It’s good to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before you have your baby. It will help you feel more confident when you start breastfeeding your baby.
Antenatal classes usually cover the most important aspects of breastfeeding, such as positioning and attachment,expressing, common breastfeeding problems and how to tackle them.
Find antenatal classes near you.
You can find out about breastfeeding from your midwife, from family and friends, and useful helplines and websites.
There are lots of groups and drop-ins, some specially designed for pregnant women who want to know more about breastfeeding. You can find out more by asking your midwife, health visitor, local peer supporter or GP. Or visit your local Children’s Centre.
Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth will help to keep them warm and calm, and steady their breathing.
Skin to skin means holding your baby naked or dressed only in a nappy against your skin, usually under your top or under a blanket.
Skin-to-skin time can be a bonding experience for you and your baby. It’s also a great time to have your first breastfeed.
If you need any help, your midwife will support you withpositioning and attachment.
Skin-to-skin contact is good at any time. It will help to comfort you and your baby over the first few days and weeks as you get to know
each other. It also helps your baby attach to your breast using their natural crawling and latching on reflexes.
If skin-to-skin contact is delayed for some reason – for example, if your baby needs to spend some time in special care – it doesn’t mean
you won’t be able to bond with or breastfeed your baby.
If necessary, your midwife will show you how to express your breast milk until your baby is ready to breastfeed. They will also help you have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as it’s possible.
Skin-to-skin after a caesarean
If your baby is born by caesarean, you should still be able to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth.
Colostrum: your first milk
The fluid your breasts produce in the first few days after birth is called colostrum. It’s usually a golden yellow colour. It’s a very concentrated food, so your baby will only need about a teaspoonful at each feed.
Your baby may want to feed quite often, perhaps every hour to begin with. They’ll begin to have fewer, longer feeds once your breasts start to produce more “mature” milk after a few days.
The more you breastfeed, the more your baby’s sucking will stimulate your supply and the more milk you’ll make.
Your let-down reflex
Your baby’s sucking causes milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down ducts towards your nipples. This is called the let-down reflex.
Some women get a tingling feeling, which can be quite strong. Others feel nothing at all.
You’ll see your baby respond when your milk lets down. Their quick sucks will change to deep rhythmic swallows as the milk begins to flow. Babies often pause after the initial quick sucks while they wait for more milk to be delivered.
Occasionally this let-down reflex can be so strong that your baby coughs and splutters. Your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter can help with this, or see some tips for when you have too much breast milk.
If your baby seems to be falling asleep before the deep swallowing stage of feeds, they may not be properly attached to the breast. Ask your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding supporter to check your baby’s positioning and attachment.
Sometimes you’ll notice your milk letting down in response to your baby crying or when you have a warm bath or shower.This is normal.
How often should I feed my baby?
How often babies feed varies. As a very rough guide, your baby should feed at least eight times or more every 24 hours during the first few weeks.
It’s fine to feed your baby whenever they are hungry, when your breasts feel full or if you just want to have a cuddle.
It’s not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby.
When your baby is hungry they may:
suck their fist or fingers
make murmuring sounds
turn their head and open their mouth (rooting)
It’s best to try and feed your baby during these early feeding cues as a crying baby is difficult to feed.
Building up your milk supply
Around two to four days after birth you may notice that your breasts become fuller and warmer. This is often referred to as your milk “coming in”.
Your milk will vary according to your baby’s needs. Each time your baby feeds, your body knows to make more milk for the next feed. The amount of milk you make will increase or decrease depending on how often your baby feeds.
In the early weeks, “topping up” with formula milk or giving your baby a dummy can lower your milk supply.
Feed your baby as often as they want and for as long as they want. This is called responsive feeding. In other words, responding to your baby’s needs. It’s also known as on-demand or baby-led feeding.
In the beginning, it can feel like you’re doing nothing but feeding. But gradually you and your baby will get into a pattern, and the amount of milk you produce will settle down.
It’s important to breastfeed at night because this is when you produce more hormones (prolactin) to build up your milk supply.
See how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
Dealing with leaking breasts
Sometimes, breast milk may leak unexpectedly from your nipples. Press the heel of your hand gently but firmly on your breast when this happens.
Wearing breast pads will stop your clothes becoming wet with breast milk. Remember to change them frequently to prevent any infection.
Expressing some milk may also help. Only express enough to feel comfortable as you don’t want to overstimulate your supply.
If your baby hasn’t fed recently you could offer them a feed as breastfeeding is also about you being comfortable.
Help and support for breastfeeding
For more information on how to get comfortable and make sure your baby is properly attached, see Positioning and attachment.
If you are having difficulties with breastfeeding, take a look at Breastfeeding problems.
Ask your midwife or health visitor for help. They can also tell you about other breastfeeding support available near you.
Search online for breastfeeding support in your area.
Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am-9.30pm daily).
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Foods to avoid with pregnancy
There are some foods to avoid or take care with when you’re pregnant as they might make you ill or harm your baby.
Make sure you know the important facts about which foods you should avoid or take precautions with when you’re pregnant.
Cheeses to avoid in pregnancy
Soft cheeses with white rinds
Don’t eat mould-ripened soft cheese (cheeses with a white rind) such as brie and camembert. This includes mould-ripened soft goats’ cheese, such as chèvre. These cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they’ve been cooked.
Soft blue cheeses
You should also avoid soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort. Soft blue cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they’ve been cooked.
It’s advised pregnant women avoid some soft cheeses because they’re less acidic than hard cheeses and contain more moisture, which means they can be an ideal environment for harmful bacteria, such as listeria, to grow in.
Although infection with listeria (listeriosis) is rare, it’s important to take special precautions in pregnancy – even a mild form of the illness in a pregnant woman can lead tomiscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a newborn baby.
Find out about the symptoms of listeria. If you’re pregnant and showing signs of listeria infection, seek medical help straight away.
Cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy
All hard cheeses are safe in pregnancy
You can eat hard cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan and stilton, even if they’re made with unpasteurised milk. Hard cheeses don’t contain as much water as soft cheeses, so bacteria are less likely to grow in them. It’s possible for hard cheese to contain listeria, but the risk is considered to be low.
Soft cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy
Other than mould-ripened soft cheeses, all other soft types of cheese are OK to eat, provided they’re made from pasteurised milk.
processed cheeses, such as cheese spreads
Cooked soft cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy
Thorough cooking should kill any bacteria in cheese, so it should be safe to eat cooked mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie, camembert and chèvre, and cooked soft blue cheese, such as roquefort or gorgonzola, or dishes that contain them.
It’s important to make sure the cheese is thoroughly cooked until it’s steaming hot all the way through.
Read more about cheese and pregnancy:
Are hard cheeses safe to eat in pregnancy?
Are cooked brie and blue cheeses safe to eat in pregnancy?
Is it safe to eat goats’ cheese in pregnancy?
Pâté in pregnancy
Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable pâtés, as they can contain listeria.
Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs if you’re pregnant
Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked until the whites and yolks are solid to prevent the risk of salmonella food poisoning. Salmonella food poisoning is unlikely to harm your baby, but it can give you a severe bout of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Avoid foods that contain raw and undercooked eggs, such as homemade mayonnaise. Consider using pasteurised liquid egg if you want to eat dishes that contain raw or partially cooked eggs.
Raw or undercooked meat is risky in pregnancy
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, including meat joints and steaks cooked rare, because of the potential risk of toxoplasmosis.
Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so it’s steaming hot and there’s no trace of pink or blood – especially with poultry, pork, sausages and minced meat, including burgers.
Wash all surfaces and utensils thoroughly after preparing raw meat to avoid the spread of harmful bugs. Wash and dry your hands after touching or handling raw meat.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in raw and undercooked meat, unpasteurised goats’ milk, soil, cat faeces, and untreated water.
If you’re pregnant, the infection can damage your baby, but it’s important to remember toxoplasmosis in pregnancy is very rare.
Toxoplasmosis often has no symptoms, but if you feel you may have been at risk, discuss it with your GP, midwife or obstetrician. If you’re infected while you’re pregnant, treatment for toxoplasmosis is available.
Read more about toxoplasmosis.
Be cautious with cold cured meats in pregnancy
Many cold meats, such as salami, Parma ham, chorizo and pepperoni, are not cooked, they’re just cured and fermented. This means there’s a risk they contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites.
It’s best to check the instructions on the pack to see whether the product is ready to eat or needs cooking first.
For ready-to-eat meats, you can reduce any risk from parasites by freezing cured or fermented meats for four days at home before you eat them. Freezing kills most parasites and makes the meat safer to eat.
If you’re planning to cook the meat – for instance, pepperoni on pizza – you don’t need to freeze it first.
If you’re eating out in a restaurant that sells cold cured or fermented meats, they may not have been frozen. If you’re concerned, ask the staff or avoid eating it.
Pre-packed meat is safe to eat if you’re pregnant
Pre-packed meats such as ham and corned beef are safe to eat in pregnancy. Some websites based in other countries may suggest that you avoid pre-packed meats when pregnant, but this is not the advice in the UK.
Liver can harm your unborn baby
Don’t eat liver or products containing liver, such as liver pâté, liver sausage or haggis, as they may contain a lot of vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can harm your baby.
It’s best to avoid eating game that has been shot with lead pellets while you’re pregnant, as it may contain higher levels of lead. Venison and other large game sold in supermarkets is usually farmed and contains no or very low levels of lead. If you’re not sure whether a product may contain lead shot, ask a retailer.
Vitamin and fish oil supplements
Don’t take high-dose multivitamin supplements, fish liver oil supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A.
Fish in pregnancy
You can eat most types of fish when you’re pregnant. Eating fish is good for your health and the development of your baby, but you should avoid some types of fish and limit the amount you eat of some others.
Fish to avoid:
When you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you shouldn’t eat shark, swordfish or marlin.
Fish to restrict:
You should also limit the amount of tuna you eat to:
no more than two tuna steaks a week (about 140g cooked or 170g raw each), or
four medium-sized cans of tuna a week (about 140g when drained)
This is because tuna contains more mercury than other types of fish. The amount of mercury we get from food isn’t harmful for most people, but could affect your baby’s developing nervous system if you take in high levels of mercury when you’re pregnant.
When you’re pregnant, you should also avoid having more than two portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring, as it can contain pollutants like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Remember, fresh tuna is an oily fish, so if you eat two fresh tuna steaks in one week, you shouldn’t eat any other oily fish that week.
Tinned tuna doesn’t count as oily fish, so you can eat this on top of the maximum amount of two portions of oily fish (as long as it’s not fresh tuna).
But remember not to eat more than four medium-sized cans of tinned tuna a week when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Fish that’s safe to eat:
There’s no need to limit the amount of white fish and cooked shellfish you eat when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Shellfish in pregnancy
Always eat cooked, rather than raw, shellfish – including mussels, lobster, crab, prawns, scallops and clams – when you’re pregnant, as they can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning. Cold pre-cooked prawns are fine.
Read more about eating shellfish in pregnancy.
Smoked fish in pregnancy is safe
Smoked fish, which includes smoked salmon and smoked trout, is considered safe to eat in pregnancy.
Sushi and pregnancy
It’s fine to eat raw or lightly cooked fish in dishes like sushi when you’re pregnant, as long as any raw wild fish used to make it has been frozen first.
This is because, occasionally, wild fish contains small parasitic worms that could make you ill. Freezing kills the worms and makes raw fish safe to eat. Cooking will also kill them.
Certain farmed fish destined to be eaten raw in dishes like sushi, such as farmed salmon, no longer need to be frozen beforehand.
This is because farmed fish are very unlikely to contain parasitic worms as a result of the rearing methods used. If you’re unsure, contact the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for advice.
Lots of the sushi sold in shops is not made at the shop. This type of sushi should be fine to eat – if a shop or restaurant buys in ready-made sushi, the raw fish used to make it will have been subject to an appropriate freezing treatment.
If you’re in any doubt, you might want to avoid eating the kinds of sushi that contain raw fish, such as tuna.
The safest way to enjoy sushi is to choose the fully cooked or vegetarian varieties, which can include:
cooked seafood – for example, fully cooked eel (unagi) or shrimp (ebi)
vegetables – for example, cucumber (kappa) maki
avocado – for example, California roll
fully cooked egg
If a shop or restaurant makes its own sushi on the premises, it must still be frozen first before being served. If you’re concerned, ask the staff.
If you make your own sushi at home, freeze the fish for at least four days before using it.
Peanuts are safe in pregnancy
You can eat peanuts or food containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, during pregnancy, unless you’re allergic to them or a health professional advises you not to.
You may have heard peanuts should be avoided during pregnancy. This is because the government previously advised women to avoid eating peanuts if there was a history of allergy – such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergy – in their child’s immediate family.
This advice has now changed because the latest research has shown no clear evidence that eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of your baby developing a peanut allergy.
Milk and yoghurt in pregnancy
Stick to pasteurised or ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk, which is sometimes called long-life milk.
If only raw (unpasteurised) milk is available, boil it first. Don’t drink unpasteurised goats’ or sheep’s milk, or eat foods made from them, such as soft goats’ cheese.
All types of yoghurt, including bio, live and low fat, are fine. Just check that any homemade yoghurt is made with pasteurised milk, and, if not, avoid it.
Ice cream in pregnancy
Soft ice creams should be fine to eat when you’re pregnant, as they are processed products made with pasteurised milk and eggs, so any risk of salmonella food poisoning has been eliminated.
For homemade ice cream, use a pasteurised egg substitute or follow an egg-free recipe.
Foods with soil on them
Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil and visible dirt.
Caffeine in pregnancy
High levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life. Too much caffeine can also cause miscarriage.
Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods, such as coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks and energy drinks.
Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. Talk to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist before taking these remedies.
You don’t need to cut out caffeine completely, but don’t have more than 200mg a day.
The approximate amount of caffeine found in food and drinks is:
one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
one mug of tea: 75mg
one can of cola: 40mg
one can of energy drink: 80mg
one 50g bar of plain (dark) chocolate: most UK brands contain less than 25mg
one 50g bar of milk chocolate: most UK brands contain less than 10mg
So, if you have one can of cola and one mug of filter coffee, for example, you have reached almost 200mg of caffeine. Don’t worry if you occasionally have more than this amount – the risks are small.
To cut down on caffeine, try decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice or mineral water instead of regular tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks.
Herbal and green teas in pregnancy
There’s little information on the safety of herbal and green teas in pregnancy, so it’s best to drink them in moderation.
The FSA recommends drinking no more than around four cups of herbal or green tea a day during pregnancy, and to seek advice from your GP or midwife if you’re unsure about which herbal products are safe to consume.
Bear in mind that green tea contains caffeine – see Caffeine to find out more.
You can have moderate amounts of liquorice sweets or liquorice teas in pregnancy – there’s no recommendation to avoid them. However, you should avoid the herbal remedy liquorice root.
Read more about how to avoid food poisoning in pregnancy.
Find out about healthy eating in pregnancy, including healthy snacks.
Benefits of breastfeeding
It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. But you don’t have to make up your mind until your baby is born.
In the UK, more than 73% of mothers start breastfeeding. These are some of the reasons why:
your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby
breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases
breastfeeding provides health benefits for you
breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it
breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby
Formula milk doesn’t provide the same protection from illness and doesn’t give you any health benefits.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood.
Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of:
infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
diarrhoea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
type 2 diabetes
cardiovascular disease in adulthood
Giving nothing but breast milk is recommended for about the first six months (26 weeks) of your baby’s life.
After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside family foods for as long as you and your baby want will help them grow and develop healthily.
Breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby’s changing needs.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for you
Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. The more you breastfeed, the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:
osteoporosis (weak bones)
Busting some breastfeeding myths
Myth: “It’s not that popular in this country.”
Fact: More than 73% of women in the UK start breastfeeding, and 17% of babies are still being exclusively breastfed at three months.
Myth: “Breastfeeding will make my breasts sag.”
Fact: Breastfeeding doesn’t cause your breasts to sag, but pregnancy hormones can stretch the ligaments that support your breasts. Wear a well-fitting bra while you’re pregnant.
Myth: “People don’t like to see women breastfeeding in public.”
Fact: Most people don’t mind. The more it’s seen, the more normal it will become. The law protects women from being asked to leave a public space while breastfeeding.
Myth: “Formula milk is basically the same as breast milk.”
Fact: Almost all formula milk is made from cows’ milk. It can contain bacteria, which is why it’s vital to make it up with water hot enough to kill any bacteria (70C). It doesn’t protect your baby from infections and diseases like breast milk does.
Myth: “Some women don’t produce enough breast milk.”
Fact: Almost all women are physically able to breastfeed. Early, frequent feeding and responding to your baby’s cues give you the best start to establishing your supply. See Is my baby getting enough milk?
Myth: “If I breastfeed I can’t have a sex life.”
Fact: There’s no reason why breastfeeding should stop you having sex with your partner. Your breasts may leak a little milk while you’re having sex, but you can try feeding your baby beforehand or wearing a bra with breast pads in. Your vagina may feel a little drier than usual because of your breastfeeding hormones. Using some lubricant and taking things slowly will help.
Myth: “Breastfeeding hurts.”
Fact: Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby and it shouldn’t hurt. If you experience pain in your breasts or nipples, it’s usually because your baby isn’t positioned or attached properly. Ask your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist to watch a whole feed to help spot the problem.
Myth: “My nipples are flat or even inverted, so I won’t be able to breastfeed.”
Fact: Nipples come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Holding your baby skin-to-skin after birth will help them find the best way to attach themselves. Your baby breastfeeds, not nipple feeds, so as long as they can get a good mouthful of breast they should be able to feed perfectly happily.
Myth: “Babies don’t need breast milk once they start solid foods at about six months.”
Fact: Breastfeeding still has lots of benefits for you and your baby after six months. It protects them from infections and there’s some evidence that it helps them to digest solid foods. It also continues to provide the balance of nutrients they need. The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to two years or longer.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant
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.
Is it safe to drink alcohol when pregnant?
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.
How does alcohol affect my unborn baby?
When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta and to your baby.
A baby’s liver is one of the last organs to develop and doesn’t mature until the later stages of pregnancy.
Your baby cannot process alcohol as well as you can, and too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect their development.
Drinking alcohol, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birth weight.
Drinking after the first three months of your pregnancy could affect your baby after they’re born.
The risks are greater the more you drink. The effects includelearning difficulties and behavioural problems.
Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Children with FAS have:
learning and behavioural problems
Drinking less heavily, and even drinking heavily on single occasions, may be associated with lesser forms of FAS. The risk is likely to be greater the more you drink.
How to avoid alcohol in pregnancy
It may not be as difficult as you think to avoid alcohol completely for nine months, as many women go off the taste of alcohol early in pregnancy.
Most women do give up alcohol once they know they’re pregnant or when they’re planning to become pregnant.
Women who find out they’re pregnant after already having drunk in early pregnancy should avoid further drinking.
However, they should not worry unnecessarily, as the risks of their baby being affected are likely to be low.
If you’re concerned, talk to your midwife or doctor.
What is a unit of alcohol?
If you do decide to drink when you’re pregnant, it’s important to know how many units you are consuming.
One UK unit is 10 millilitres (ml) – or eight grams – of pure alcohol. This is equal to:
half a pint of beer, lager or cider at 3.5% alcohol by volume (ABV: you can find this on the label)
a single measure (25ml) of spirit, such as whisky, gin, rum or vodka, at 40% ABV
half a standard (175ml) glass of wine at 11.5% ABV
You can find out how many units there are in different types and brands of drinks with the Drinkaware unit and calorie calculator.
If you have an Android smartphone, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you can download the free One You Drinks Tracker from Google Play or the iTunes App Store. It allows you to keep a drinks diary and get feedback on your drinking.
Read more about alcohol units.
Alcohol support services
If you have difficulty cutting down what you drink, talk to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist.
Confidential help and support is also available from local counselling services:
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, call this free helpline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm)
Addaction is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of alcohol and drug misuse.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its “12-step” programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.
Find your nearest alcohol support services.
Overweight and pregnant
Being overweight when you’re pregnant increases the risk of some complications such as gestational diabetes. Make sure you go to all your antenatal appointments so your pregnancy team can monitor the health of you and your baby.
our weight before you get pregnant
Before you get pregnant, you can use the BMI (body mass index)healthy weight calculator to work out if you are overweight. BMI is a measurement of your weight to height. However, once you’re pregnant, this measurement may not be accurate.
A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means you’re overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above means you’re very overweight, or obese.
If you are overweight, the best way to protect your health and your baby’s wellbeing is to lose weight before you become pregnant. By reaching a healthy weight, you increase your chances of conceiving naturally and reduce your risk of the problems associated with being overweight in pregnancy.
Contact your GP for advice on how to lose weight. Your doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist weight loss clinic. Find out about losing weight before you become pregnant.
If you get pregnant before losing weight, try not to worry – most women who are overweight have a straightforward pregnancy and birth, and have healthy babies. However, being overweight does increase the risk of complications for both you and your baby.
Your weight during pregnancy
If you are very overweight (usually defined as having a BMI of 30 or above) and pregnant, don’t try to lose weight during your pregnancy, as this may not be safe. There is no evidence that losing weight while you’re pregnant will reduce the risks.
The best way to protect your health and your baby’s health is to go to all your antenatal appointments so that the midwife, doctor and any other health professionals can keep an eye on you both. They can manage the risks that you might face due to your weight, and act to prevent – or deal with – any problems.
It’s also important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get some physical activity every day. You should be offered a referral to a dietitian or other health professional for personalised advice on healthy eating and how to be physically active during your pregnancy. Being physically active in pregnancy will not harm your baby.
Read about how to have a healthy diet while pregnant.
Eating and exercise
Eating healthily (including knowing what foods to avoid in pregnancy) and doing activities such as walking and swimming is good for all pregnant women.
If you weren’t active before pregnancy, it’s a good idea to consult your midwife or doctor before starting a new exercise regime when you’re pregnant.
If you start an aerobic exercise programme (such as swimming, walking, running or aerobics classes), tell the instructor that you’re pregnant. Begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times a week. Increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.
Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, you’re probably exercising too strenuously.
Find out more about exercising while pregnant.
Your care in pregnancy
If you become pregnant before losing weight, you’ll be tested for gestational diabetes.
You may also be referred to an anaesthetist to discuss issues such as pain relief in labour. You’re more likely to need anepidural, because very overweight women are more likely to have an instrumental delivery (ventouse or forceps orcaesarean), and it can be difficult for the epidural to be given.
If you’re overweight, discuss your birth options with your midwife or doctor. Ask if there are any particular safety concerns for you around giving birth at home or in a birthing pool.
Because overweight women are more likely to need forceps, ventouse or caesarean to give birth, it’s usually safer to opt for a hospital birth, where there’s faster access to medical care and pain relief options, if needed.
Find out more about your options on where to give birth.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines on weight management before, during and after pregnancy. It is not aimed at women who have a BMI over 30, but it has useful information on achieving, and maintaining, a healthy weight.
Risks to you of being overweight in pregnancy
Being overweight increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies. The higher a woman’s BMI, the higher the risks. The increasing risks are in relation to:
miscarriage – the overall risk of miscarriage under 12 weeks is one in five (20%); if you have a BMI over 30, the risk is one in four (25%)
gestational diabetes – if your BMI is 30 or above, you are three times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women whose BMI is below 30
high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia – if you have a BMI of 35 or above at the beginning of your pregnancy, your risk of pre-eclampsia is twice that of women who have a BMI under 25
blood clots – all pregnant women have a higher risk of blood clots compared to women who are not pregnant, and if your BMI is 30 or more the risk is additionally increased
the baby’s shoulder becoming “stuck” during labour (sometimes called shoulder dystocia)
post-partum haemorrhage (heavier bleeding than normal after the birth)
having a baby weighing more than 4kg (8lb 14oz) – the overall risk of this for women with a BMI between 20 and 30 is 7 in 100 (7%); if your BMI is over 30, your risk is doubled to 14 in 100 (14%)
You are also more likely to need an instrumental (ventouse or forceps) delivery, and an emergency caesarean section.
Risks to the baby if you’re overweight in pregnancy
Problems for your baby can include being born early (before 37 weeks), and an increased risk of stillbirth (from an overall risk of 1 in 200 in the UK to 1 in 100 if you have a BMI of 30 or more).
There is also a higher risk of foetal abnormality, such as neural tube defects like spina bifida. Overall, around 1 in 1,000 babies are born with neural tube defects in the UK. If your BMI is over 40, the risk is three times the risk of a woman with a BMI below 30.
These problems can also happen to any pregnant woman, whether she is overweight or not.
Bear in mind that although these risks are increased if your BMI is 30 or over, most women who are overweight will have a healthy baby.
You can find out more in a leaflet from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, called Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth.
Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy
Eating a healthy, varied diet in pregnancy will help you to get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.
But when you are pregnant you will need to take a folic acid supplement. It’s recommended that you take:
400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant
The Department of Health also advises you to consider taking a vitamin D supplement (see Vitamin D in pregnancy).
Do not take vitamin A supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol), as too much could harm your baby. Always check the label.
Where to get pregnancy supplements
You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets, or your GP may be able to prescribe them for you. If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin tablet, make sure that the tablet does not contain vitamin A (or retinol).
You may be eligible for free vitamins through the Healthy Start scheme. Read more about Healthy Start.
Folic acid before and during pregnancy
You should take a 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. If you didn’t take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.
You should also eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables. Some breakfast cereals and some fat spreads such as margarine may have folic acid added to them.
It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for pregnancy from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement.
Read more about healthy eating in pregnancy.
Higher dose folic acid
Some women have an increased risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, and are advised to take a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid each day until they are 12 weeks pregnant. Women have an increased risk if:
they or their partner have a neural tube defect
they have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
they or their partner have a family history of neural tube defects
they have diabetes
In addition, women who are taking anti-epileptic medication should consult their GP for advice, as they may also need to take a higher dose of folic acid. Find out about epilepsy, anti-epileptic medication and pregnancy.
If any of the above applies to you, talk to your GP as they can prescribe a higher dose of folic acid. Your GP or midwife may also recommend additional screening tests during your pregnancy.
Vitamin D in pregnancy
All adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, need 10 micrograms (10mcg) of vitamin D a day, and should consider taking a supplement containing this amount.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight (from late March/early April to the end of September). It’s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s needs, but if you are out in the sun take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you start to turn red or burn.
Vitamin D is also in some foods, including:
oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines)
Vitamin D is added to all infant formula milk, as well as some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives. The amounts added to these products can vary and might only be small.
As vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, whether naturally or added, it might be difficult to get enough from foods alone. So everyone over the age of five years, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D.
Most people aged five years and over in the UK will probably get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer, so you might choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
You can get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and qualify for theHealthy Start scheme.
If you have dark skin or always cover your skin
If you have dark skin (for example, if you are of African, African Caribbean or south Asian origin) or always cover your skin when outside, you may be at particular risk of not having enough vitamin D (vitamin D insufficiency). You may need to consider taking a daily supplement. Talk to your midwife or doctor if this applies to you.
Iron in pregnancy
If you are short of iron, you’ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anaemia. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts contain iron. If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods that contain peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can do so as part of a healthy balanced diet unless you’re allergic to them, or your health professional advises you not to.
Many breakfast cereals have iron added. If the iron level in your blood becomes low, your GP or midwife will advise you to take iron supplements.
Vitamin C in pregnancy
Vitamin C protects cells and helps to keep them healthy.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need. Good sources include:
oranges and orange juice
red and green peppers
Calcium in pregnancy
Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Sources of calcium include:
milk, cheese and yoghurt
green leafy vegetables such as rocket, watercress or curly kale
soya drinks with added calcium
bread and anything made with fortified flour
fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards
You also need to know which foods to avoid in pregnancy.
Vegetarian, vegan and special diets in pregnancy
A varied and balanced vegetarian diet should give enough nutrients for you and your baby during pregnancy. However, you might find it more difficult to get enough iron and vitamin B12. Talk to your midwife or doctor about how to make sure you are getting enough of these important nutrients.
If you are vegan, or you follow a restricted diet because of food intolerance (for example, a gluten-free diet for coeliac disease) or for religious reasons, talk to your midwife or GP.
Ask to be referred to a dietitian for advice on how to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for you and your baby.
Find out more about healthy eating for vegetarian and vegan pregnant women.
Healthy Start vitamins
You may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme, which provides vouchers to pregnant women and families who qualify. The vouchers can be used to buy milk and plain fresh and frozen vegetables at local shops. You can also get coupons that can be exchanged for free vitamins locally.
If you’re not on the Healthy Start scheme, some NHS organisations still offer the vitamins for free or sell them – ask your midwife about local arrangements.
Congratulations on your pregnancy!!
Usually the first signs of pregnancy are extreme fatigue, frequent urination, recurring morning sickness and in hormonal fluctuations. When you become pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant eating healthy foods is more important than ever before, during the first few weeks and the subsequent months, key nutrients are vital to your growing baby’s development, you will need more calories, more protein, more iron, more folic acid and calcium.
First off! As I mentioned you going to need some quality protein in your diet at least 75 – 100 g of good quality protein per day this is 2 to 3 servings of meat, or cooked fish and seafood, or you can choose from chicken, lean beef, lamb, pork, quinoa, nuts, tofu, split peas, red and white kidney beans, black beans, black eye peas, chickpeas ( plant based proteins ).
Your daily requirements of calcium is around 1000 milligrams during pregnancy, this is the same as 3 to 4 servings of dairy a day, this can be from milk, eggs, natural yoghurt, pasta, rice, cheese, white beans, almonds, salmon, turnip greens or cabbage.
A daily intake of 27 mg of iron is ideal, this is 2 to 3 servings of leafy green vegetables, you can choose from collard, turnip, spinach, lettuce, or 3 servings of whole grains, oatmeal, cereals, corn bread or 2 – 3 servings of iron rich proteins, seafood, beef, poultry. Folic acid or folate is very important during early pregnancy 600 to 800 µg 6 to 8 mg daily is required, this is the equivalent two servings of dark leafy green vegetables, 2 servings of fruit oranges, strawberries, mangoes he could also have whole grains oatmeal cereal wholemeal bread 2 to 3 servings of fruit tomatoes grapefruit lemon kiwi and melon incidentally watermelon is quite good for morning sickness along with gorgeous ginger. and you can choose to have two servings from the legumes family, split peas, red and kidney, white beans, black beans black eye peas and chick peas.
Vitamins C 6800 µg or 6 to 8 mg daily is required during pregnancy, you will find this in oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, lemons, potatoes, peppers, strawberry, tomatoes & kiwis. My top 10 power foods for pregnancy! Yogurt – Calcium,
Probiotics. Kale and spinach – Calcium, Fibre, Folic Acid & Vitamin A. Eggs – Vitamin A, Iron and Protein. Salmon – Omega 3’s, (healthy fats). Lamb – Vitamin B12, Iron and Zinc. Berries – Antioxidant & Fibre. Avocados – Potassium, folic acid, lutein, (healthy fats). Vegetarian Protein – Beans & Lentils, Fibre, Iron, Folate, Magnesium and Zinc. Nuts and Seeds – Fibre, Vitamin E & Magnesium Sweet Potatoes – Vitamin A and Vitamin E Drink a minimum of 10 glasses of water every day, during your pregnancy, juices and teas and coffees exclude or keep to the limited list!!!!
Exercise during pregnancy Exercise during pregnancy is perfectly safe, however, Pregnancy isn’t the time to start on a exercise purge or to start any new, vigorous or strenuous activity that your body just isn’t used to! Taking daily exercise won’t harm your baby it may even help prevent complications, it can also help you to have a shorter labour and increases your chances of giving birth vaginally. Keep it to low impact activities like walking or swimming.
Being active and exercising regularly will help you to:
* Keep pregnancy niggles, such as backache and pelvic girdle pain, constipation and fatigue, at bay.
* Feel better about the changes that are happening to your pregnant body. * Maintain a healthy weight.
* Get a better night’s sleep. * Help to reduce or prevent depression and improve your self-esteem. * Prepare your body and mind for the demands of labour and birth.
* Get back into shape after your baby is born.
Pregnancy is such a unique experience, your body changes, your growing a tiny human is an emotional roller coaster ride like no other, you will have good days and bad days.
The best rule to remember, is to eat a good balance of healthy foods every day, and you will gain a healthy and happy weight (steadily) as your baby grows. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your baby, embrace each emotion and enjoy the ride!
I suffered horrendous Morning sickness but it doesn’t have to be something you simply grin and bear! With a 10 yr gap between my kids, because of it, after the first pregnancy I learned a trick or two.
Try these morning sickness treatments. Tried-and-tested methods that worked for me. You may need to do some experimenting to find the right balance to keep you feeling good all day long.
These easily found, natural home remedies are easy for you to try on your own, many women find that a combo of these keeps them pretty nausea-free throughout the first trimester.
Ginger. This root is popular in Chinese medicine, and noted for its tummy-taming properties. You can drink it in homemade tonic or tea, or try ginger ice pops whenever you’re feeling queasy.
Mint. Eating or sniffing something containing this fresh flavor can help you feel less nauseated. I became obsessed with brushing my teeth! And chewing gum (Bonus: Mint can help with a not-so-fresh mouth after a round of morning sickness.) Sometimes it’s a matter of simply keeping your stomach from hitting empty.
“Eat small, frequent meals, and eat as soon as you wake up! Ritz biscuits or toast. Simple starches like crackers can help settle the queasiest tummy.
Exercise. You probably don’t exactly feel like running a half-marathon when your tummy is so queasy. But a gentle walk could do wonders for your body & mind. Even walking 20 minutes a day can help release endorphins to counteract the fatigue and nausea.