Wednesday, 30 March 2016

How to have a Happy, Healthy pregnancy

For many women, health and fitness seems to unravel once kids arrive on the scene. Sleepless nights, lack of time, fussy eaters and the juggling act that is parenting can really see the strongest of resolves crumble. So it’s a snatched bite to eat here and an extra biscuit at playgroup instead of breakfast there – followed by an early evening collapse onto the sofa with a glass of wine once your little cherubs are finally tucked up in bed. But the reality of the situation is that in the UK nearly 50 per cent of pregnant women attending their first maternity appointment are already overweight or obese.

And a recent poll undertaken by The Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) found that there is a lot of unhelpful and conflicting information out there, with almost half of mums-to-be thinking that it’s OK to ‘eat for two'. The research also revealed that one-third of respondents felt they did not receive enough information to help them make good decisions about their diet when expecting. In fact 46 per cent said their midwife/GP didn’t weigh them in pregnancy and 68 per cent did not receive any advice on weight gain from their midwife or GP. Not surprisingly, the poll also found that 39 per cent of pregnant women aren’t taking any supplements and just under half made no changes to their diet after finding out they were pregnant
Which is why the ITF have produced a simple guide with the right advice – rather than just all the ‘don’ts’ so often bandied about. The resource is available online, and outlines the ten steps all women can incorporate into their day-to-day life, before and during pregnancy. 

After all... becoming a parent is the perfect time to reassess and improve your eating habits and your level of exercise – and so set up a healthy lifestyle for both you and your growing child.

Follow the ITF’s Ten Steps For a Healthy Pregnancy...

1. Take a daily supplement
healthy pregnancy, pregnant
Photo credit: nenetus at
The ITF recommends a supplement of 10µ vitamin D throughout pregnancy, and a supplement of 400ug folic acid up until at least the 12th week of pregnancy. Some women will be prescribed 5mg folic acid per day instead of 400µ.

2. Keep physically active
Stay active throughout your pregnancy, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on five or more days of the week.

3. A healthy weight gain
How much weight you should put on during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight and height. Expect to gain only one to four pounds (0.5-2kg) in the first trimester and the rest over the second and third trimesters (see the ITF factsheet here for more details.

4. Choose nutritious foods,  not extra foods
You might be surprised to learn that extra energy (e.g. half a sandwich each day) is only needed during the last trimester and NOT all the way through your pregnancy! So there's absolutely no need to start eating for two the minute you discover you are pregnant!

5. Balance your diet
Check what you are eating and ase each meal on wholegrain starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or breakfast cereals and include:
  • Three servings of milk, hard cheese or yogurt each day for calcium and iodine
  • At least 1 vegetable and 1 fruit in both main meals and include fruit (fresh, canned or dried rather than juice) with breakfast
  • Meat, fish, eggs, nuts or pulses at two to three meals each day for iron.

6. Eat fish twice a week
healthy pregnancy, pregnant
Photo credit: khunaspix from
This should include one or two servings of oily fish for omega 3 fats – if you don’t eat fish take a daily supplement of 200mg DHA but avoid fish liver oil supplements.

7. Choose nutritious snacks
This means opting for fruit, nuts, yogurt, a sandwich or toast rather than food or drink high in sugar or fat.

8. Have about six to eight drinks
For good hydration you need about one and half to two litres of liquid per day– and water is best. Limit caffeine to 200mg per day (about one shot of espresso or two mugs of instant coffee or two and half mugs of tea).

9. Food safety
Thoroughly cook meat, fish and eggs; wash all soil from vegetables and fruit and avoid vitamin A supplements, liver, liver pate, unpasteurised dairy products, soft and blue cheeses, swordfish, marlin and shark; limit tinned tuna to four small servings per week.

10. Seek support
This is the time to get serious about stopping smoking or misusing drugs or medication by seeking expert help. Also avoid alcohol.

As well as following the ten steps the ITF has suggested, you can also join up and find support with other families online. Head over to @InfTodForum on Twitter  and look for the hashtag #10StepsHealthyPregnancy.

This post was created in collaboration with the ITF.


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