Preparing your body for pregnancy
Making the decision to try for a baby is a huge milestone in life. What you need consider is if your body ready for pregnancy? Below is a list of what you can do in the coming month to prepare yourself for conception.
- Take a folic acid supplement
- Stop smoking
- Keep to a healthy weight
- Know which medicines you can take
- Get the right vaccinations
It's recommended that all women who could get pregnant should take a daily supplement of folic acid.
You should take a 400 microgram supplement of folic acid every day before you get pregnant, and every day afterwards, up until you're 12 weeks pregnant.
A microgram is 1,000 times smaller than a milligram (mg). The word microgram is sometimes written with the Greek symbol μ followed by the letter g (μg).
Folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.
A neural tube defect is when the foetus's spinal cord (part of the body's nervous system) does not form normally.
Some women are advised to take a higher dose supplement of 5 milligram (5mg) every day.
You may need to take a 5mg supplement of folic acid if:
- you or the baby's biological father have a neural tube defect
- you previously had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect
- you or the baby's biological father have a family history of neural tube defects
- you have diabetes
- you take anti-epilepsy medicine
- Talk to a GP if you think you need a 5mg dose of folic acid, as they can prescribe a higher dose.
You can get folic acid tablets at pharmacies, or talk to a GP about getting a prescription.
Do not worry if you get pregnant unexpectedly and were not taking a folic acid supplement at the time. Start taking them as soon as you find out, until you're past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a variety of health problems, including:
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death
- breathing problems or wheezing in the first 6 months of life
You can find useful information on the dangers of smoking during pregnancy and advice on how to stop on the Smokefree website.
Quitting can be hard, no matter how much you want to, but support is available.
The NHS Smokefree helpline (0300 123 1044) is open 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am to 4pm at weekends.
It offers free help, support and advice on stopping smoking, including when you're pregnant, and can give you details of local support services.
Smoke from other people's cigarettes can damage your baby, so ask your partner, friends and family not to smoke near you.
If you're overweight, you may have problems getting pregnant and fertility treatment is less likely to work.
Being overweight (having a BMI over 25) or obese (having a BMI over 30) also raises the risk of some pregnancy problems, such as high blood pressure, blood clots, miscarriage and gestational diabetes.
Before you get pregnant you can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to find out your BMI. But this may not be accurate once you're pregnant, so consult your midwife or doctor.
Having a healthy diet and doing moderate exercise are advised in pregnancy, and it's important not to gain too much weight.
Not all medicines are safe to take when you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy, whether they're on prescription or medicines you can buy in a pharmacy or shop.
If you take prescribed medicine and you're planning to get pregnant, talk to your GP.
Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to a doctor.
Please contact your GP to arrange vaccinations for the following:
- Whooping cough
Advice for people with long term health conditions
As well as the above advice, if you have long term health conditions, take a look at our advice below.
If you are diabetic
Please see your GP to check your diabetic control to see if your insulin levels are optimal for pregnancy.
Keeping a healthy weight is important if you are diabetic and would like to have a baby.
More information can be found on the NHS website.
We run a specialist diabetes maternity service. Find out more about this service [link to “Specialist Clinic” page.
If you have epilepsy
If you have epilepsy you may be nervous about what it means for your pregnancy and baby.
Try not to worry, most women with epilepsy will have a healthy pregnancy and go on to have a healthy baby. But there is a slightly higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect or developmental problem, so it's important to get the right support.
More information can be found on the NHS website.
If your BMI is over 30
Women with a higher BMI are at increased risk of complications in their pregnancies. We offer a specialist clinic for women with a higher BMI. Your midwife will discuss this with your at your first appointment.
If you have sickle cell disease
If you have sickle cell disease then you may already be accessing care with the sickle cell service. Screening for sickle cell disease in pregnancy is offered to all pregnant women in North Middlesex University Hospital to check if there is a risk of a child being born with the condition. See more information about our specialist clinic.
If you have HIV
We offer a specialist clinic for women with HIV. Find out more information about it on our specialist clinics page.