Trusted guidence for good health



Published on Dec 06 2016 // women health


Becoming a mother is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. This section of will help you learn what you can do before, during, and after pregnancy to give your baby a healthy start to life.

Starting your pregnancy care

If you’ve just found out or think that you’re pregnant, see your GP to start your pregnancy care. Your GP will:

  • organise some routine tests, including a blood test
  • check your health
  • talk with you about pregnancy care options
  • refer you to the health professionals you want to care for you or the place where you want to give birth.

Mums can be happier with their birth experience when they have the same person, or group of people, looking after them through pregnancy, labour and birth. This is called ‘continuity of care’. It’s a good idea to talk with your GP about how this might work for you.

You can compare care options in our Birth Choices guide.

Going to your antenatal appointments right from the start means that your doctor or midwife can check how you and your baby are going. This includes following your baby’s growth and watching you both for any health problems or risks.

Antenatal appointments are also a chance to make decisions about things like tests in pregnancy. Some of these appointments and tests need to happen at particular times.

Staying healthy in pregnancy

Physical activity in pregnancy
Being physically active while you’re pregnant is good for you and your baby. It can help you be at a healthy weight, keep strong for the birth and lift your mood.

If you’re healthy with an uncomplicated pregnancy, you can probably start or keep going with light to moderate exercise during pregnancy – but check with your midwife or doctor first. Walking or swimming are good options. Aim for around 30 minutes a few times a week.

Keeping your pelvic floor muscles in good shape with pelvic floor exercises will help to prevent urinary problems like incontinence later in pregnancy or after the birth. Pelvic floor exercises can also help with labour and your recovery after birth.

Healthy eating in pregnancy
Healthy eating helps you feel good and gives your baby the nutrients he needs to grow.


  • plenty of vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain breads and cereals for a wide range of vitamins, minerals  and fibre
  • low-fat dairy food (or alternatives such as soy, rice or oat milk products) for calcium, protein and iodine
  • lean red meat for iron and protein, and oily fish such as sardines for omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Try to choose small, healthy snacks that are low in sugar and fat.

You might like to read more about healthy pregnancy for overweight women.

Foods to avoid in pregnancy
For your health and your baby’s health, it’s best to avoid ready-to-eat chilled foods (like coleslaw and other deli salads), soft cheeses and raw fish. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking too much coffee, tea and other drinks with caffeine in them.

Smoking, alcohol and other drugs in pregnancy
If you’re taking prescribed drugs, check with your doctor that these are safe to take during pregnancy.

Your doctor will advise you against smoking, non-prescribed drugs and alcohol. Try to stay away from people who are smoking.

Your body in pregnancy

Your body will go through some big changes in pregnancy.

Your baby bump is likely to ‘pop out’ any time from around 14 weeks. By 19 weeks, you’ll almost certainly be looking pregnant.

You might experience other changes such as:

  • bigger breasts
  • small skin tags underneath your breasts
  • thicker hair and faster growing nails
  • a ‘pregnancy glow’ – or more pimples than before
  • chloasma – brown patches on your face or neck
  • linea nigra – a brown line that shows up on the skin of your belly
  • stretch marks
  • swollen feet.

Morning sickness and other pregnancy health problems

In the first 6-12 weeks of being pregnant, your body makes lots of extra hormones. These hormones can cause nausea and vomiting, often called morning sickness.

Morning sickness is usually at its worst early in the day, but it can happen at any point during the day or night. It usually stops after the first 3-4 months.

If you get morning sickness, it can help to eat small amounts, often. Carbohydrate-rich snacks like crackers, toast, cereal or fruit are ideal.

Being pregnant can bring some other uncomfortable physical symptoms – for example, constipation, headaches and the need to urinate more often. Pregnancy health problems are usually mild, but it’s always a good idea to talk about them with your doctor or midwife.

There are some pregnancy health problems, such as pre-eclampsia, that need more urgent medical attention.

Emotions in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when emotions can change.

Pregnancy hormones can cause some emotional changes, and some ups and downs are normal as you adjust to a major change in your life. You might also be dealing with morning sickness and other uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms. Often mothers-to-be feel more vulnerable and tired than usual and might need extra support.

Being open and honest about your feelings with people you know and trust can avoid hurt and misunderstanding.

Some emotional changes can be more serious. Emotional changes – like feeling sad and not enjoying life the way you used to – that last longer than two weeks and get in the way of daily life could be depression or another problem. Talk with your midwife or doctor about changes like these.

Antenatal classes

Birth, antenatal or prenatal classes – these terms all mean the same thing. They’re classes to help you and your partner get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.

Even if you’ve done a lot of research online or talked to other expectant parents, at birth classes you can ask questions, clear up conflicting advice, and get specific information about the place where your baby will be born.

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