Winter-proof your pregnancy

Winter-proof your pregnancy - here's how to stay healthy and happy this winter

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  • Keep colds at bay

    Pregnant women are more susceptible to illnesses, which can be more severe and last longer during pregnancy. Unfortunately, in winter there tends to be more flu and vomiting viruses about.

    Dr Lisa Ackerley, food and health safety expert on BBC's Watchdog says, 'Make sure you wash your hands frequently and take an antibacterial gel out with you in case there are no basins to hand.'

    And all pregnant women are being advised to have a flu jab this year. Prima Baby's GP Dr Rob Hicks says that it offers sensible protection when pregnant. 'The benefits of this vaccination definitely outweigh the risks.'

  • Nurse your cold

    If you do come down with a bad cold or flu, drink plenty of liquid and rest as much as possible. Paracetamol is believed to be safe in pregnancy. And don't be shy about using your sick leave. Your body will need to rest and recover. In addition, says Dr Hicks, 'If you suffer with symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, yellow-green spit, or if symptoms worsen, seek medical advice. You should also see your doctor if you're concerned you may have come into contact with chickenpox (and not already had it) or cat faeces.'

  • Get up and out

    Seventy-five per cent of pregnant women do no exercise, and yet moderate exercise in pregnancy is not only safe, it's good for you. Prima Baby's fitness expert Melissa Nicci says, 'Exercising outdoors is the best option, but if the weather is really too grim, then a prenatal DVD at home will help keep minor aches and pains at bay.'

    Ideally, you should do a minimum of 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Do ask your doctor before taking up a new sport, but swimming and brisk walking in pregnancy are good ways of getting started. For more tips visit

  • Take some sunshine

    The Department of Health advises all pregnant and breastfeeding women to take 10mcg of vitamin D daily. Dr Hicks says, 'If a woman has a lack of vitamin D, it can hinder an unborn child or baby's absorption of calcium and leave them at risk of weak bones and teeth. Pregnant women should also take 400mcg folic acid before conceiving and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some women in high risk groups may be advised to take more.'

    When you're choosing a supplement, read the small print carefully. Pregnacare recently launched the Big Deal campaign to encourage all women to check their pregnancy supplements before they buy, as not all contain the recommended doses.

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  • Stay food savvy

    Bacteria grow more slowly when it is colder, but just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can afford to be more relaxed about food hygiene than you would during summer. Dr Lisa Ackerley says, 'When the heating is on, perishable food could become dangerous quickly. Avoid pate, unpasturised, mould-ripened cheese (brie and camembert) and blue cheese while pregnant, to reduce the risk of contracting listeria.'

    And make sure you always use clean cutlery and glasses. If you want to eat out, check your restaurant's Food Hygiene Rating on the government website,

  • Don't get SAD

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can lead to depression and is caused by a lack of light in winter. Studies show that women are four times more likely to suffer than men. Symptoms include lethargy, tiredness, irritability, short temper and poor memory.

    But Prima Baby's midwife Nikki Khan says there are lots of things you can do to send the winter blues packing. 'Get enough sleep, avoid "empty" foods like biscuits and, importantly, get outdoors,' she says. 'Sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D, which increases levels of the feelgood hormone serotonin.'

  • Go light on comfort foods

    Cold weather and seasonal socialising means that most of us are prone to eating more at this time of year, pregnant or not. But when you're growing a baby, every calorie counts. And don't be lulled into thinking you need to eat for two. Until the 28th week of pregnancy, you don't need any extra calories to grow your baby. After that, you only need an additional 200 calories a day, equivalent to two small pieces of toast.

    But according to food writer Erika Lenkert and nutritionist Brooke Alpert, authors of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy, there are plenty of ways to keep your comfort eating healthy. 'Eat several small meals a day, and most importantly, seek out and enjoy meals that are decadent and hearty, yet healthy,' says Erika.

  • Beat the burn

    Eating several small meals a day is also key to fending off heartburn, which afflicts many pregnant women - particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy. Dr Nick Read, a specialist in gastro illness, says overeating can exacerbate heartburn. 'Hormones in pregnancy can relax in the valve that holds food in the stomach, which is one of the causes of heartburn,' he says.

    'To prevent this, it's important not to eat too much, and avoid any foods that may irritate, like hot curries.'

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  • Tackle dry skin

    During the nine months of pregnancy, the body experiences hormonal changes which have an effect on your biggest organ - your skin.

    Zahira Beddou, of Palmer's Bodycare, says, 'Higher levels of hormones disrupt your skin's protein balance, making it thinner than usual. In winter when central heating can substantially dry out your skin, it's very important to moisturise daily.

    'Vitamin E is proven to keep your skin supple, so choosing a rich or oil-enriched cream with vitamin E will not only deliver much-needed moisture to your skin, but will also improve softness and help to keep stretchmarks at bay.'

Last updated on 30 November 2011