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Thinking of having a baby: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


What should I be eating?

A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but particularly when you're planning a pregnancy.

It's important to try to eat a variety of foods including:

  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or a glass of juice) - aim for at least five portions a day
  • Plenty of starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
  • Sources of protein, such as lean meat and chicken, fish (aim for 2 servings of fish a week, including one of oily fish), egg and pulses (such as beans and lentils). These are also good sources of iron
  • Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium.

Do I need extra iron?

Pregnant women can become deficient in iron, so when you're trying to get pregnant it's a good idea to choose plenty of iron-rich foods to build up your iron stores. Try to have some food or drink containing vitamin C, such as a glass of fruit juice, at the same time as an iron-rich meal because this will help your body to absorb the iron.

Good sources of iron

  • Red meat
  • Pulses
  • Bread
  • Green vegetables
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Although liver also contains lot of iron, you should avoid eating it while you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Is there any food I should avoid?

Make sure you don't have too much vitamin A. This means you should avoid taking high-dose multivitamin supplements and avoid eating liver and liver products such as pate. You need some vitamin A but if you have too much, levels could build up and be too high during pregnancy. Ask your GP or midwife if you would like more information.

You should also avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin. These types of fish have been shown to contain relatively high levels of methylmercury, which might affect the nervous systems of unborn babies.

It's a good idea to cut down on foods containing fat and sugar, such as cakes and biscuits. This can help you keep your weight under control.

Some healthier light meals and snacks

  • Sandwiches or pitta bread filled with chicken or cottage cheese
  • Low fat yoghurts
  • Fruit juices
  • Vegetable and bean soups
  • Ready-to-eat dried fruits, such as apricots

Do I need to take any vitamin supplements?

When you're trying to get pregnant you should take a 400 microgram (mcg) folic acid supplement each day. Aim to take these supplements from the time you stop using contraception until at least the 12th week of pregnancy.

You should also try to eat foods containing folic acid, such as green vegetables and brown rice, as well as fortified bread and breakfast cereals.

Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Some supplements for pregnant women, or women trying for a baby, contain 400 mcg folic acid but don't try to get your folic acid from multivitamin tablets because you could overdose on the other vitamins they contain.

If you have already had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect consult your GP for advice.

Do I need to cut out alcohol?

You should drink no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week. A unit is half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider, a small glass of wine or a single 25 ml measure of spirits.

Where can I get more information?

If you would like more information on planning a pregnancy speak to your GP or health visitor, or contact your local health promotion unit.

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