Staying healthy in pregnancy

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Food hygiene

Weight gain in pregnancy

Weight gain in pregnancy varies greatly. Most pregnant women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 26lb), putting on most of the weight after week 20.

Much of the extra weight is due to your baby growing, but your body will also be storing fat, ready to make breast milk after your baby is born.

If you are overweight or obese there is no UK based evidence on how much weight you should gain during pregnancy. American research has suggested that limiting your weight gain to below 10kg may be beneficial to mum and baby.

Gaining too much weight

Putting on too much weight can affect your health and increase your blood pressure. It is not recommended to go on a restricted diet, however eating healthily and stating active is beneficial for your baby.

Gaining too much weight can increase your risk of complications. These include:

  • gestational diabetes: too much glucose (sugar) in your blood during pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes, which increases your risk of having a large baby
  • pre-eclampsia: a rise in blood pressure can be the first sign of pre-eclampsia; although most cases are mild and cause no trouble, pre-eclampsia can be serious

Staying active

Staying active is important while you’re pregnant, as it will prepare your body for labour and birth.

By exercising during pregnancy you are less likely to develop gestational diabetes, pre eclampsia or have excessive weight gain. Exercise during pregnancy is also very good for your mood stability.

Keep up your normal daily activity or exercise (unless you’ve been advised by your midwife or GP not to exercise).

Support services

Many units offer free weight management services during pregnancy. Please ask your community midwife to refer you.

Alcohol and pregnancy

Smoking and pregnancy

We know that it can be difficult to stop smoking. But we also know that you want to give your baby the best possible start in life.

The risks of smoking during pregnancy are serious, from premature delivery to increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you and your partner can do to help your baby develop healthily during pregnancy and beyond. For more help and advice visit the NHS Smoke Free website.

How smoking affects your baby in the womb

When you smoke you breathe in more than 4,000 chemicals from the cigarette. The smoke goes from your lungs into your bloodstream. That blood flows to your placenta and umbilical cord,right into your baby's tiny body. This causes your baby to struggle for oxygen.

One of the chemicals found in cigarettes is carbon monoxide, a dangerous chemical that gets into your bloodstream. This restricts the supply of oxygen that's essential for your baby's healthy growth and development.

How smoking affects your newborn baby

Your baby's tiny body is completely dependent on yours, so if you smoke throughout your pregnancy, your baby will go through nicotine withdrawal once it is born. This can make your baby stressed and irritable and it may be difficult to stop them crying.

Smoking while you are pregnant also increases the risk of your baby dying from cot death by at least 25%.

What are the effects of e-cigarettes during pregnancy

Many people are choosing to use e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking. While these products are not completely risk free and the vapour may contains some toxins, these are at far lower levels than in cigarette smoke, so using an e-cigarette is a great deal safer than smoking

However, little is known about any potential risks of e-cigarette vapour to your baby and mums-to-be are therefore recommended to use one of the licensed stop smoking medications such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help reduce any withdrawal symptoms when quitting smoking.

If you do want to use an e-cigarette – maybe because you’ve tried other methods without success – there is lots of advice and support available from your local Stop Smoking Service. The most important thing for you and your baby is to stop smoking.

Mental health and pregnancy

Common health problems in pregnancy

Sexual health

Existing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and pregnancy

If you are pregnant and suspect you have a sexual transmitted infection tell your GP, midwife or self refer to your local sexual health clinic. Depending on what kind of infection you have, you are still likely to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child.

For infections that can't be cured completely, such as herpes and HIV, steps can be taken to lessen the chances of the virus passing from mother to child.

Catching an STI during pregnancy

Catching an STI during pregnancy can cause problems for both mother and child. The infection may be passed to the child during pregnancy, labour, or during childhood.

If you are pregnant and suspect you may have caught an STI, tell your midwife or doctor immediately.

Some STIs are symptomless and some may give you signs. Some of these symptoms are also common changes that happen in pregnancy and may not be a sign of an STI. Tell your midwife if you are experiencing any of the following

  • pain when you pass urine (pee)
  • itching, burning or tingling around the genitals
  • blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus
  • black powder or tiny white dots in your underwear – this could be droppings or eggs from pubic lice
  • yellow or green vaginal discharge
  • discharge that smells
  • pain during sex
  • lower abdominal pain

If you suspect your partner is having unprotected sex outside of your relationship then always use a condom to protect yourself and your baby from potential STIs.

To find your nearest STI screening clinic please follow the link

Domestic violence

Domestic abuse is very common; approximately 1.3 million women suffer abuse in some form every year. It has a wide range of effects both physical and mental which if not addressed can have long term health consequences. Pregnancy can trigger an increase in the frequency and intensity of abuse and many women will experience it for the first time during their pregnancy.

We know that people suffering abuse often want help but feel they cannot speak out; this is why all health care staff have been trained to ask you about your relationship and if you feel safe at home. Midwives, GP’s and Health visitors will support you and your family offering advice and referral to a specialist worker if this is needed. They will not make decisions for you but offer guidance and information so that you can move forward together and keep yourself safe.

Please speak to your midwife if you need any support or call one of the help line numbers below.

National domestic abuse helpline 24 hours (free) 0808 2000 247

PIPPA Southampton helpline 09.30-16.30 Mon-Fri 02380 917917

Pippa stands for ‘prevention, intervention and public protection alliance’. It is an alliance group of specialist sexual and domestic services in Southampton, working to end domestic and sexual violence and abuse.

Safer pregnancy

Urinary incontinence

What is urinary incontinence?

The involuntary loss of urine (uncontrolled leakage of pee)


  • 1 in 3 women experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy and/or after birth
  • WHY? During pregnancy, hormones make your muscles relax and your pelvic floor stretches in preparation for the birth of your baby/s. These hormonal changes are also responsible for your frequent night trips to the toilet. As your pregnancy progresses, the pressure of your baby/s over your bladder can make you leak urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, jumping and lifting weights, such as shopping bags or your own children. Top tip: tighten your pelvic muscles before doing any of these activities.
  • Just because it's a common problem doesn't mean it's normal, and you can't do anything about it. Here are some tips for a healthy bladder:

- Do pelvic floor exercises regularly during pregnancy. Click here for information on how to do them

- Drink plenty of fluid to keep you hydrated. Top tip: look at the colour of your pee. The ideal wee should be 1-3 healthy, with little or no smell and a good amount. A dribble is not enough.

- Limit the amount of caffeine, fizzy drinks, alcohol, fruit juices and anything that contains caffeine, as they all irritate your bladder and make you need the toilet more often. Smoking also irritates the bladder.

- Constipation is related to urinary incontinence. Pressure from a full bowel and too much strain can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and make it harder to control your urine. Excessive weight gain can also increase the pressure over your bladder. Top tip: Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fibre and exercise regularly.

- When passing urine, pay attention to the flow (weak or slow), feeling of emptiness (do you think you still need to go but you can't?) and hesitancy (trouble starting to pee or maintaining the flow). Top tip: Later in pregnancy, some women find it helps to rock backwards and forwards while they're on the toilet. This lessens the pressure of the womb on the bladder so you can empty it properly.


It is normal to have a weak sensation in your pelvic floor after birth, particularly if you had:

  • a long labour
  • an epidural
  • a big baby
  • an instrumental delivery (forceps or suction cup)
  • a cut or a 3rd/4th degree tear

Current research estimates that it can take up to a year to fully recover from childbirth.

Some women are scared of peeing after labour. Top tip: you can pour some water when you pee or pee in the shower.

The first few times you pee after giving birth you might find some blood, which usually comes from your vagina (lochia) rather than your bladder. Keep an eye on the colour of your urine, flow, hesitancy and bladder emptiness.

Start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible and keep exercising throughout your life, like any other muscle. You might not have much feeling at the beginning, but the earlier you start, the better.

Drink plenty of fluids, keep caffeine to a minimum, and avoid constipation and smoking. Remember to tighten your pelvic floor muscles before lifting you baby/s or any other weight. Make sure you go to the toilet regularly. This might be hard when looking after a newborn baby, but you need to look after yourself too.

Some women experience abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti), which has been linked with urinary incontinence and back pain. Talk to your midwife or GP if you are worried about this.


- pain or blood when you pee - it maybe a urine infection

- unable to empty your bladder

- leakage or urine despite measures mentioned above

- leakage of stools


Ask your midwife or contact your GP, they may refer you to a woman's health physiotherapist

Some areas of Wessex offer a self-referral service for women after giving birth, which means you can make an appointment to see an NHS physiotherapist without having to see a doctor first. Staff at your GP surgery or your local hospital should be able to tell you whether it's available in your area.

- If you maternity care was provided by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust you can refer yourself within ten working days after your baby is born to the Women's health physiotherapy team at the Princess Anne on 023 8120 8967. If you have concerns beyond this time please make an appointment with your GP.

- If you have a Southampton GP postcode, you can self-refer on: Community Bladder & Bowel Service Bitterne Health Centre Commercial Street. Bitterne, Southampton SO18 6BT. Telephone: 0300 123 3795; E-mail

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