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Ready for pregnancy

How to prepare for a pregnancy and to be in the best possible shape for the health of you and your baby.

Planning to have a baby is exciting, whether it’s your first pregnancy or you already have children.

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, this guide will help you and your partner to prepare - both physically and mentally.

Bump, Birth and Beyond is packed with friendly and helpful advice for parents-to-be in Kent and Medway on pregnancy, birth and the first days of parenting.

#ReadyforPregnancy is here to support you if you're thinking about having a baby.

Pregnancy image

  1. Looking after your body
  2. Looking after your mind
  3. What else you can do
    1. Download Born to move
    2. Sexual health
    3. Sign up for Healthy Start vouchers
  4. What you should avoid
    1. Smoking
    2. Alcohol
  5. Early signs of pregnancy
  6. Antenatal and postnatal care
  7. Understanding your child
  8. Extra support
  9. Feeling safe in your relationship
  10. Beside You - breastfeeding support
  11. Children centres

This short film explains how you and your partner can prepare for pregnancy.

Looking after your body

Looking after your body image

Keep active and eat a healthy diet

An easy way to improve your health is to take regular exercise. If you do it with others, it can be more fun and make it easier to stick to. Eating a healthy diet will also help you to maintain a healthy weight, and ensure your baby grows and develops well.

Aim to eat five or more different types of fruit and vegetables every day, as well as some protein such as lean meat, beans, or tofu. One You Kent provides free services that can help you stay fit, healthy and well. If you’re not sure where to start, or just want some advice, start here. No lectures, just friendly advice and support to make the changes that are important to you.

Taking supplements

Taking folic acid every day can reduce the risk of your baby being born with spina bifida. While you are trying to get pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.

Taking vitamin D every day can keep your bones and muscles healthy and give your baby enough vitamin D for the first few months of life. This is particularly important if you have dark skin, you’re indoors most of the day, or if you usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin.

Check your immunisations are up to date

Some infections, such as rubella (German measles), can harm your baby if you catch them during pregnancy. The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR) will protect you and your baby. If you have not been vaccinated or are unsure, call your GP to see whether they have a record. If you have no record of receiving them, make an appointment to get vaccinated before you try for a baby.

If you catch flu while pregnant, you are at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill. This can result in an increased risk of premature birth or a baby who is seriously below birthweight. Having a flu jab while you’re pregnant helps to protect against this. The jab is safe to have when you are pregnant. You will also be offered a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy.

The vaccine antibodies you make will also pass across the placenta and help protect your baby in the first few months of life, when babies are at their most vulnerable.

Looking after your mind

Looking after your mind image

Trying to get pregnant or being pregnant, can be stressful. It’s not always easy to say how you are feeling. Taking time for yourself and finding time to unwind will support your emotional health.

It’s quite normal to feel vulnerable and anxious. It helps to talk about your feelings. Learn more about looking after your mental health and pregnancy. Kent County Council has more information on local services and other support to help you and your family’s wellbeing.

Make sure that you ask for help, whether from your partner, a friend, or from your GP if you need it. If you have a mental health problem and are planning a pregnancy, you can contact the specialist perinatal mental health teams in West Kent, Medway and Swale and East Kent for advice before and during your pregnancy.

What else you can do

What else you can do image

Download the Born to Move app

The Born to Move app supports you and your child on the amazing journey from pregnancy, all the way to starting school. You can add your child’s profile and record photos and milestones along the way to look back on, or to share with friends and family. Regular tips from your local health visitor will give you ideas to try with your child. Download the free Born to Move app and let us join you on this exciting adventure.

Sexual health

If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause serious harm to your baby and long-term health issues for you, including infertility. It’s a good idea to get tested for STIs before you start trying for a baby. The Kent Sexual Health service can provide STI testing and treatment, psychosexual therapy services as well as care for people living with HIV. Make sure your cervical screening test is up to date too.

Healthy Start

If you are on certain benefits and are pregnant or have children under the age of four you can claim Healthy Start vouchers. Find out if this applies to you at Healthy Start.

These weekly vouchers can be used to buy milk, fruit and vegetables, pulses, and infant formula milk. You can also get vitamin supplements.

What you should avoid

What you should avoid image

Smoking

Smoking halves your chances of becoming pregnant. Breathing in someone else’s smoke is also a risk. Men who smoke can have reduced quality sperm and erection difficulties.

Quitting smoking is the most important thing you and your partner can do to give your baby the best start in life.  One You Kent has a specialist team dedicated to supporting pregnant women and their families to quit smoking. Their friendly advisors offer non-judgemental support and will contact you every week at a time convenient to you. Find tips and support for pregnant women and their families in their video playlist.

Alcohol

There’s no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid it completely while trying to get pregnant, and during pregnancy. Alcohol can damage sperm production, so men should cut down on drinking  too. Try swapping your usual drink for fruit juice with fizzy water.

Early signs of pregnancy

Signs of pregnancy image

Even before you have missed a period, there might be some early symptoms. You could feel tired or nauseous, your breasts might feel tender or you could get a strange metallic taste in your mouth.

Antenatal and postnatal care

Antenatal care image

A team of experienced midwives and health visitors are on hand to support you during pregnancy and after you give birth. They really want to hear from you if you need help or are feeling worried about anything so please get in touch.  Book an appointment with your local midwifery team as soon as you know you are pregnant to make sure you get the support you need while pregnant.

Bump, Birth and Beyond is packed with friendly and helpful advice for parents-to-be in Kent and Medway on pregnancy, birth and the first days of parenting.

Understanding your child – online parenting courses

Understanding your child image

Free online courses for anyone caring for a child in Kent and Medway are available. You can complete courses at your own pace, starting in pregnancy up until your child’s 19th birthday.

These courses:

  • Help you build a loving and close relationship with your baby even before they arrive.
  • Give simple, practical strategies for your parenting toolbox.
  • Covers everything you need to know about pregnancy, labour and birth and beyond.

Go to ‘In Our Place’ and apply the access code Invicta to register for an account.

Extra support

Extra support image

It’s normal to worry about your baby’s health, both during pregnancy and once your baby is born. If you have an existing health condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, ask for advice from your specialist, as you may need to adjust your medication.

Planning to have a baby can be exciting. It can also be an anxious time for both parents-to-be. You’re making plans for a huge change in your life. Your pharmacist, GP or midwife can give you information on a wide range of subjects. There is also lots of information and support online, including pregnancy planning tools as well as online forums to chat with other parents.

Feeling safe in your relationship

Feeling safe image

Domestic abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse in couple relationships or between family members. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. If you feel uncomfortable, pressurised, threatened or have been attacked don't wait, ask for help now. You can find more information about local support for domestic abuse at domesticabuseservices.org.uk.

Women can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247), and men the Mens' Advice Line (0808 8010327) for free at any time, day or night. They will offer confidential, non-judgemental information and support.

You can also speak to Kent Police on the non-emergency telephone number 101, but if you are at immediate risk then please call 999.  You can also call your local health visiting team for support.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding image

Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby will learn together. Research has shown that having support from your partner can make a real difference to your success. No matter what stage of the breastfeeding journey you are in, Beside You is here to help every step of the way. You can find out more about the benefits and how to get ready to start once baby arrives, or speak to your midwife or health visitor for more support.

Children’s Centres

Children's centre image

Children’s centres offer a range of services to support you and your baby before they arrive and continuing after they arrive. You will most likely see your midwife for antenatal appointments at the local centre.

Centres may offer:

  • childcare
  • early education
  • training or finding a new job
  • antenatal classes
  • baby clinics
  • support with breastfeeding
  • support with parenting and speech and language
  • drop-in sessions for parents and children
  • services for children with special needs and disabilities
  • opportunities for families to get involved with volunteering and designing services

Please register with your local children's centre to find out what they offer.

You can download the #readyforpregnancy campaign booklet in the following languages or in an easy read format.