10 ways to keep baby safe

Simple steps you can take TODAY to safeguard your pregnancy.

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  • 1. Go to the dentist

    Dental check-ups are free with an NHS dentist when you're pregnant.

    Research shows that mums-to-be suffering chronic gum disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that's born too early. The likely culprit is a labour-inducing chenical found in mouth bacteria.

    Symptoms can include bad breath and swollen, red or bleeding gums. 

  • 2. Avoid painkillers

    Taking painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen during pregnancy has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage.

    Paracetamol is the safest painkiller for mums-to-be. But don't overdo it.

    'If you're taking paracetamol longer than a few days, see your GP to talk about your problem and discuss alternatives,' advises Amanda Mansfield, consultant midwife at the Royal Free Hospital in London. 

  • 3. Pop the right pills

    Taking folic acid reduces the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.

    Research also shows that if you take folic acid before conception, it could reduce the risk of having a baby with Down's syndrome and may also cut the chances of a cleft lip and palate.

    Take 400mcg a day from the time you start trying for a baby until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy.

    Vitamin D is also important in pregnancy, along with calcium, to help your baby's bones and teeth develop.

    'You can take a pregnancy multivitamin too,' says Amanda. 'But the key is to work on getting a balanced diet.' 

  • 4. Cut the caffeine

    Too much caffeine in pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, miscarriage, stillbirth and cot death.

    But you don't need to give up coffee completely, as research indicates that up to 300mg a day is safe.

    300mg = three mugs/four cups of instant coffee OR three cups of brewed coffee OR six cups of tea OR eight cans of cola.

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  • 5. Eat fish

    Eating fish when pregnant will make your child brighter with more advanced communication skills, research reveals.

    It is thought that omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish such as salmon, trout and sardines are particularly important. 

    Pregnant women should not, however, eat more than two portions of oily fish a week because of concerns about mercury levels.

    Eating fish a couple of times a week may also help guard your child against eczema. 

  • 6. Cut down on alcohol

    The department of Health advises mums-to-be to drink no more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week.

    A single measure of spirits or hald a pint of lager is equivalent to two units.

    Getting drunk regularly during pregnancy can lead to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

    What if you had more than the recommended amount before you knew you were pregnant?

    Well, lots of babies are conceived after a few drinks and turn out fine, so try not to worry unduly. 

  • 7. Quit smoking

    Smoking when pregnant deprives your baby of oxygen, increasing your risk of having a premature or low-birth weight baby. It also means your child is more likely to have underdeveloped lungs, and can up the risk of autism by 40%.

    If you need help to quit smoking, call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9169. 

  • 8. Eat your veg

    Regularly eating fruit and veg could almost halve your risk of having a miscarriage in the first three months, according to a recent UK study.

    Remember a glass of fruit juice with breakfast counts towards your five-a-day target. A handful of dried fruit as snacks during the day will also help up your intake.

    It appears that eating four or more apples a week can help protect your child against asthma too.

    Leafy, green veg containing iron and folate are both great when you're expecting. 

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  • 9. Watch your weight

    It's best to be a healthy weight before you conceive - underweight women are 72% more likely to miscarry in the first three months of pregnancy, while obese women are more likely to develop pregnancy diabetes and have a premature baby.

    Try the Prima Baby diet club if you are trying to lose weight pre-conception. remember, pregnant or breastfeeding women should not be dieting. 

  • 10. Be happy

    Stress hormones can affect your baby, so having a calm pregnancy is best for you and your baby.

    One study found that stressed women gave birth to smaller babies, and another found that anxious mums-to-be were twice as likely to give birth to a hperactive child.

    Try to make your day less stressful by taking regular breaks or adjusting your working hours to avoid peak commuting times. 

Last updated on 21 May 2007