The dos and don'ts of early pregnancy

Pregnancy guru Zita West shares her tips for a smooth first trimester

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  • Zita West's dos and don'ts of early pregnancy

    Seeing that positive result on the test is a magical experience. But with it comes the anticipation of what's next. On top of feeling sick and tired, most people choose to keep the news to themselves for the first 12 weeks, and trying to carry on as normal while dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy can be draining. Some women find it is a time of great anxiety. Common concerns at this stage are often around lifestyle and the changes you need to make. Very often, it's the little things that lead to a healthier you and a healthier pregnancy...

  • DON'T... get too amorous in the early days

    'I get asked all the time about whether it's safe to have sex in early pregnancy,' says Zita. 'In general, I think it's better not to in the first 12 weeks, especially if there's a history of bleeding or miscarriage.'

  • DON'T... Keep having your coffee fix

    'Caffeine is best avoided during pregnancy,' says Zita. 'The Food Standards Agency advises pregnant women should drink no more than 200mg of caffeine a day - two mugs of instant coffee, or less if it is strong - but I'd give up tea and coffee altogether and limit other sources such as chocolate and soft drinks, which may contain it.'

  • DON'T... worry about things you can't change

    'It's not unusual to find out you're pregnant after a night out where you may have has a glass or two of alcohol - so many women do, especially in January after the excesses of Christmas,' says Zita. 'It's the same if you've eaten something that should be avoided. My advice is not to panic, just get on the right track as soon as you can.'

  • DON'T... Keep up the pace

    'We women are bad at nurturing ourselves,' says Zita. 'Pregnancy is the perfect excuse to put yourself first, as you care for your growing baby. Expect to need more sleep and to slow down overall.'

  • DON'T... cut out the carbs

    'Many women feel dismayed that their efforts to follow a good diet before falling pregnant are then wiped out by only being able to eat dry toast during the early days. Remember if you lose your appetite that it's not about any one day - your body has vital stores to give your baby the nutrients it needs,' says Zita. 'If you crave carbs, it's your body's way of telling you it needs energy. Little and often is best for balancing blood sugar. Plenty of protein in your diet will also provide the building blocks your growing baby needs. And if you can't face fruit, try sipping smoothies or juices to keep up your vitamin levels. I think alcohol is best avoided during pregnancy.' For the latest Government advice, visit nhs.uk/planners/pregnancycareplanner.

  • DO... Keep up the exercise

    'Exercising in moderation is fine during pregnancy, especially if you're used to a certain level of fitness,' says Zita. 'In fact, gentle exercise can be very beneficial for your body. The concern for me is raising your body's core temperature, which should be avoided, so steer clear of anything too strenuous. The same goes for hot baths, saunas and Jacuzzis. If you go along to a fitness class, advise your instructor that you're pregnant and adjust your output according to what your body is telling you.'

  • DO... Avoid environmental pollutants

    'There are lots of potentially toxic pollutants in our everyday lives, so it's definitely best to avoid the obvious ones if you can,' advises Zita. 'New carpets, paint and household cleaning products all carry harmful toxins, which can be ingested, inhaled or even absorbed through the skin. Switch to safer, natural alternatives where you can, or limit your exposure to them.'

  • DO... Keep your feet on the ground

    'Medical advice may differ, but I think it's better not to fly if you can avoid it, especially long haul,' says Zita. 'It's better to be close to home and crucial medical care if you need it. Give overseas travel a miss in the first trimester.'

  • Do... Supplement your diet

    You'll most likely have been taking folic acid while trying for a baby. 'I also recommend DHA, in omega 3 oil, which is so important for spinal cord and brain development,' says Zita. 'Flaxseed oil is another good source and can be added to salads. Take a good multivitamin that's been developed specifically for pregnancy, and try to choose foods like fruit and vegetables, which are naturally rich in antioxidants.'

  • Do... Keep a positive outlook

    You expect to be happy when you discover you're expecting, but instead you feel anxious and confused. Stress is bound to have an effect, so positive thoughts are key. 'Try some meditation, yoga or deep breathing, which rebalance you and keep your wellbeing on track,' says Zita. 'Get support if you're concerned or feeling out of control. Most of all, believe in your body's ability to give birth successfully.'

Last updated on 19 January 2012

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