Getting Started With Pregnancy
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If you've just found out you're pregnant, congratulations! You'll need to make looking after yourself a priority now you're pregnant to ensure you and your baby stay as healthy as possible. If you're a first time mum-to-be, or it's been a while since your last pregnancy, here's a guide on what you should do in early pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy:
See your doctor
As soon as you find out you are pregnant, visit your doctor so you can have your pregnancy dated and start your antenatal care. Once you have told your doctor you are pregnant, they can organise your routine pregnancy check-ups and appointments, which are given throughout your pregnancy to ensure you and your baby are healthy. Your doctor can also give you advice on diet and exercise, and lifestyle choices while you are pregnant. During your first visit to the doctor, which is called your booking visit, your doctor will give you information on screening tests for abnormalities. See our section on antenatal care for more information on what to expect from your healthcare provider.
Take a folic acid supplement
Women are advised to take a daily supplement of folic acid as soon as they start trying for a baby, as folic acid helps protect unborn babies against serious birth defects, such as spina bifida. Birth defects can happen when your baby's neural tube doesn't close properly. If you haven't been taking folic acid before you got pregnant, don't worry; start taking a daily supplement every day until you are twelve weeks pregnant. The first twelve weeks are when your baby's brain and nervous system are forming, and this is when defects can happen. After 12 weeks, there's no need to take folic acid anymore. Choose a folic acid supplement which contains at least 400 micrograms.
Make sure you have a safe work environment
Legally, pregnant women have to tell their employer they are pregnant 15 weeks before their baby's due date, but if your job is risky, for example, you have to stand for long periods or do heavy lifting, work excessive hours, are exposed to harmful substances, excessive noise or heavy vibrations, you should tell your employer as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Once you've told your employer you're pregnant, they must carry out a workplace risk assessment. Employers aren't allowed to discriminate you in any way because of your pregnancy, and are required by law to allow you time off for antenatal appointments without loss of pay.
Get yourself healthy
Keeping yourself healthy is important for keeping your baby healthy too. Smoking can seriously harm your baby, as women who smoke have a higher chance of having a baby with a low birth weight, and increases the risk of cot death. Your doctor or midwife can give you help on how to quit smoking, and you can call the free and confidential NHS smoking in pregnancy helpline on 0800 169 9169.
Pregnant women who are very overweight are more likely to suffer complications during birth and pregnancy. Obesity raises the risk of high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, blood clots, gestational diabetes, as well as premature birth and birth defects. If your BMI is over 30, contact your doctor for how to lose weight.
Now isn't the time to start a strenuous exercise regime if you're not already used to it, but gentle exercise during pregnancy is a great way to stay healthy and keep your baby healthy too. Walking, swimming, cycling, and antenatal yoga are all great ways to keep fit during pregnancy. See our section on diet, fitness and exercise for more advice on healthy living while pregnant.
Alcohol can seriously harm your baby, so now you're pregnant you should stop drinking, or cut down. Although there's no conclusive evidence on how much alcohol you can drink before you harm your baby, many expectant mums prefer not to drink at all. If you do decide to drink, stick to one or two units, once or twice a week.
Illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and heroin, can be very damaging to an unborn baby's health, causing placental abruption and withdrawal symptoms in babies if the mother took them regularly during pregnancy. If you took drugs as a one-off before you knew you were pregnant however, it's unlikely to have damaged your baby.
Announcing the pregnancy or keeping it quiet?
It can be hard resisting the temptation to tell everyone you know (and even strangers) that you are pregnant, but it's recommended that you keep your pregnancy news under wraps for the first 12 weeks. This is because the risk of miscarriage is highest during this period. However, the decision of whether to tell people or keep it quiet is a very personal one. Many parents to be want to share their excitement straight away and feel they would want the support of friends and family should anything happen, but others prefer to keep things private until they have the all-important 12 week scan.