Maternity Services - Before you conceive

Planning for Pregnancy

The first eight to ten weeks of pregnancy are vital to baby's development. This is a vulnerable time for the fetus as many women may not yet be aware of their pregnancy.

Ideally you should plan for your pregnancy three to six months before you conceive. Don't worry if you do not conceive immediately - it may take several months and it is normal.

If you are trying for a baby and do not conceive after a year or so, you may wish to see your family medical practitioner or gynecologist to rule out any possible fertility problems.

Continue with your usual method of contraception until you and your partner are ready for pregnancy.

If you have been using a cap or condom, you can stop using these and start trying for a baby at any time.

If you have been using the pill it is best to wait two to three months after stopping the pill, to allow your periods to re-establish a regular pattern.

Do remember to use a condom or cap until you are ready to conceive.

You are most likely to conceive 14 days before the start of a period.

Keep a note of the dates of your periods, as your baby's due date will be calculated from the date of your last period.

Folic Acid

It has been recommended that all women who are planning to have a baby take a daily 400 micrograms supplement of folic acid from the time that they start trying for a baby until the end of the twelth week of pregnancy. This can help to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

Foods which are rich in folic include...raw or lightly cooked green vegetable, green salad, fresh fruit, fortified breakfast cereal and wholemeal bread.

Smoking & Alcohol

Drinking alcohol regularly, even in small quantities, can affect fertility in both men and women.

Heavy drinking, especially in the first three months of pregnancy can affect your unborn baby's development.

Research clearly shows that smoking during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight babies, and may have other harmful effects.

Even passive smoking can have an effect , so try to stay away from people who are smoking.

As part of a healthy pre-conceptual routine it is a good idea to try to stop smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.  

Diet in Pregnancy

Your body will need the right balance of nutrients and vitamins so eat a wide variety of healthy foods. If you're overweight it's a good idea to get your weight down to a healthy level, before you conceive. Dieting during pregnancy is not recommended, as it may have a harmful effect on the growth and development of your baby.

Foods to avoid include unpasteurised cheese, soft or blue cheese and pate, raw or soft boiled eggs, and raw or lightly cooked meats, as these may contain harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria. Foods containing high levels of vitamins A such as liver and cod-liver oil should also be avoided.

Take care to ensure food is hygienically stored and prepared, and that all reheated food is piping hot.

Rubella Immunization

Rubella or German Measles is normally a fairly mild illness, but if caught during pregnancy it can result in a seriously handicapped child.

Although most girls are vaccinated in school it is safer to have a blood test to check your immunity before you become pregnant. If you are not immune, you should have a rubella vaccination as soon as possible.


Toxoplasmosis is a dangerous parasitic infection which can cause blindness in an unborn baby. Avoid handling cat litter, wear rubber gloves when gardening, and thoroughly wash hands before and after handling meat products, and avoid all unpasteurised milk and products.



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