safe motherhood



Giving up smoking
Safe exercises
Chickenpox (varicella)
Back to Introduction

For about the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy, your baby's body will be forming inside you. He or she will be drawing on your own supply of nutrients so a good diet is important. If sickness is making it really hard for you to eat, consult your midwife.

It's also important to drink a lot of fluids to replace what your body loses as it breathes, sweats and excretes - about 75% of your body is made up of water, so it's essential to keep cells and tissues hydrated. Aim for at least two litres of water a day. If you find this hard, try pouring yourself a glass of water every time you make yourself a hot drink.


• Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit as they are packed with vitamins and minerals, especially if eaten raw or lightly cooked. Try
starting meals with a vegetable soup - a carton from the supermarket chill cabinet is fine - make yourself a side salad for every main meal and finish with fruit, which you also add to your breakfast.

• Snacking on starchy carbohydrates will help with nausea - day-old, home-made popcorn has been shown to reduce sickness, as have crackers, dry toast and plain boiled rice or pasta. Aim for an average of six servings of starchy carbohydrates throughout the day. (One serving equals two slices of bread or two chapattis; a bowl of breakfast cereal; six tablespoons of boiled pasta; four tablespoons of rice; and two potatoes or yams.)

* Try to take adequate protein - two to three servings a day of lean meat, fish, beans, nuts or milk and milk-products such as cheese. Eating pulses in combination with grains - beans on toast, chickpeas with rice - increases the protein content. A stir-fry of fresh vegetables with chicken and rice or noodles makes a healthy meal.

Do I need to take supplements?

A daily supplement of 400 microgrammes of folic acid is recommended by the Department of Health.

If you feel your diet isn't as good as it could be, a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will cover any shortfall, but do stick to the recommended dose. Vitamin A in particular - liver, cod-liver oil supplements - is dangerous in very high doses and, in rare cases, can cause birth defects.


• Soft cheese, such as Brie, Camembert, however, cottage and curd cheeses are fine.

• Blue-veined cheeses, such as Danish Blue or Stilton.

• Unpasteurised goat's, cow's, or sheep milk.

• Ready-prepared coleslaw.

•Raw shellfish.

•Raw eggs (in mayonnaise, mousses, cake-icing or cheesecake).

•Päté (any type)

•Raw or undercooked meat.

•Liver (unacceptably high levels of vitamin A).

•Peanuts or peanut butter (if there's a family tendency to allergies).

Fast foods that are good for you and your baby

• Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in the fridge. Choose well-washed lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, spinach leaves, cauliflower or broccoli florets, slivers of carrot, red and green peppers, radishes, baby sweetcorn, and grapes. Mix with cubes of hard cheese (extra calcium and protein), or dip into hummus or yogurt.

• Add cold ham or chicken to a stir-fry or mix a small tin of tuna with a can of black-eyed beans (rinsed) and a little French dressing.

• Mash up sardines with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and eat on wholemeal toast.

• Couscous can be made up instantly with boiling water. Add cooked chickpeas or fried red pepper and onions (if your stomach can take fried food).

• Baked potato with cottage cheese or baked beans is an old favourite.

• If you can't face a boiled egg, beat an egg into some milk and flour and make yourself a pancake.

• Healthy snacks like dried fruit and bars bought from a health food shop will give you vitamins as well as energy.

• Whizz up a banana in a liquidiser with some fresh milk, a carton of yogurt and a bit of brown sugar. Bananas are a low-cal way of getting instant energy and they're full of the calming mineral, potassium.

• If constipation is a problem, snack on wholemeal bread, fruit or wholegrain breakfast cereals.

• A midwives' tip for avoiding constipation is to eat two ripe pears for breakfast.