Health things you should know in pregnancy

There are things you can do and avoid to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible during pregnancy.

Go to your pregnancy (antenatal) appointments

It’s important not to miss any of your antenatal appointments. These appointments are part of your pregnancy journey.

The tests, scans and checks you’ll have help look after your and your baby’s health.

Some tests and measurements that can find potential problems must be done at specific times of your pregnancy, which is why you have appointments at certain weeks.

There are also things you can do to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible during pregnancy.

Have a healthy diet during pregnancy

A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time but is especially vital if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow.

You do not need to go on a special diet, but it’s important to eat various foods daily to get the right balance of nutrients you and your baby need. 

It’s best to get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, but when you’re pregnant, you need to take a folic acid supplement to ensure you get everything you need.

There’s no need to “eat for 2”

You will probably be more hungry than usual, but you do not need to “eat for 2” – even if you expect twins or triplets.

Try to have a healthy breakfast every day because this can help you to avoid snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar.

Eating healthily often means changing the amounts of different foods you eat so that your diet is varied rather than cutting out all your favourites. 

You can use the Eatwell Guide to get the balance of your diet right. It shows how much of your food should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.

You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal but try to get the balance right over a week.

Fruit and vegetables in pregnancy

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables because these provide vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which help digestion and can help prevent constipation.

Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables daily, including fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables carefully.

Starchy foods (carbohydrates) in pregnancy

Starchy foods are an important source of energy, some vitamins and fibre, and help you to feel full without containing too many calories. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, yams and cornmeal. If you have chips, go for oven chips lower in fat and salt.

These foods should make up just over a 3rd of your food. Instead of refined starchy (white) food, choose wholegrain or higher-fibre options such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice, or simply leaving the skins on potatoes.

Protein in pregnancy

Eat some protein-rich foods every day. Sources of protein include:

  • beans
  • pulses
  • fish
  • eggs
  • meat (but avoid liver)
  • poultry
  • nuts

Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry, and try not to add extra fat or oil when cooking meat.

Ensure poultry, burgers, sausages and whole cuts of meat such as lamb, beef and pork are cooked thoroughly until steaming through. Check that there is no pink meat and that juices have no pink or red.

Try to eat 2 portions of fish each week, 1 of which should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel. 

Find out about the health benefits of fish and shellfish. You should avoid some types of fish when you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, including sharks, swordfish and marlin.

When you’re pregnant, you should avoid having more than 2 portions of oily fish a week, such as salmon, trout, mackerel and herring, because it can contain pollutants (toxins).

You should avoid eating some raw or partially cooked eggs, as there is a risk of salmonella.

Eggs, women are advised to avoid eating them raw or partially cooked, including in mousse, mayonnaise and soufflé. These eggs should be cooked until the white and the yolk is hard.

Find out more about foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Dairy in pregnancy

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt are important in pregnancy because they contain calcium and other nutrients that you and your baby need.

Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible, such as semi-skimmed, 1 per cent fat or skimmed milk, low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt and reduced-fat hard cheese.

If you prefer dairy alternatives like soya drinks and yoghurts, use unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.

Foods that are high in fat, sugar or both

Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories, which can contribute to weight gain. Having sugary foods and drinks can also lead to tooth decay. 

Fat is very high in calories, so eating too many fatty foods or eating them too often can make you put on weight. Eating too much-saturated fat can also increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which increases your chance of developing heart disease.

Foods that are high in fat, sugar, or both, include:

  • all spreading fats (such as butter)
  • oils
  • salad dressings
  • cream
  • chocolate
  • crisps
  • biscuits
  • pastries
  • ice cream
  • cake
  • puddings
  • fizzy drinks

If you’re having foods and drinks high in fat and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts. 

Try to cut down on saturated fat, and have small amounts of foods rich in unsaturated fat instead, such as vegetable oils. Find out about saturated and unsaturated fat.

Healthy snacks in pregnancy

If you get hungry between meals, try not to eat snacks high in fat and/or sugar, such as sweets, biscuits, crisps or chocolate. Instead, choose something healthier, such as:

  • small sandwiches or pitta bread with grated cheese, lean ham, mashed tuna, salmon, or sardines, with salad
  • salad vegetables, such as carrots, celery or cucumber
  • low-fat, lower-sugar fruit yoghurt, plain yoghurt or fromage frais with fruit
  • hummus with wholemeal pitta bread or vegetable sticks
  • ready-to-eat apricots, figs or prunes
  • vegetable and bean soups
  • a small bowl of unsweetened breakfast cereal, or porridge, with milk
  • milky drinks
  • fresh fruit
  • baked beans on toast or a small baked potato
  • a small slice of malt loaf, a fruited tea cake or a slice of toasted fruit bread

When choosing snacks, you can use food labels to help you.

Preparing food safely

  • Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil, which may contain toxoplasma (a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis), harming your unborn baby.
  • Wash all surfaces and utensils, and your hands, after preparing raw foods (poultry, meat, eggs, fish, shellfish and raw vegetables) to help you avoid food poisoning.
  • Make sure that raw foods are stored separately from ready-to-eat foods. Otherwise, there’s a risk of contamination.
  • Use a separate knife and chopping board for raw meats.
  • Heat ready meals until they’re steaming hot all through – especially important for poultry meals.

You also need to ensure that some foods, such as eggs, poultry, burgers, sausages and whole cuts of meat like lamb, beef and pork, are cooked thoroughly until steaming through.

What Food to avoid

  • any other foods made from unpasteurised milk, such as soft-ripened goat’s cheese
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside, such as Brie, Camembert and chèvre (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • pasteurised or unpasteurised soft blue cheeses, such as Danish blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort (unless cooked until steaming hot)
  • unpasteurised cows’ milk, goats’ milk, sheep’s milk or cream


There’s a small chance that unpasteurised or soft-ripened dairy products may contain Listeria bacteria. This can cause an infection called listeriosis.

Listeriosis can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth or make your newborn baby very unwell.

Soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside have more moisture. This can make it easier for bacteria to grow.

Cooking cheese until steaming hot kills bacteria, reducing the risk of listeriosis.

Meats and poultry

What to avoid

  • raw or undercooked meat
  • liver and liver products
  • all types of pâté, including vegetarian pâté
  • game meats such as goose, partridge or pheasant


There’s a small risk of toxoplasmosis if you eat raw and undercooked meat, which can cause miscarriage.

Cured meats are not cooked, so they may have parasites that cause toxoplasmosis.

Liver and liver products have lots of vitamin A in them. This can be harmful to an unborn baby.

Other foods and drinks


You can have caffeine, but no more than 200mg per day.

There is:

  • 100mg in a mug of instant coffee
  • 140mg in a mug of filter coffee
  • 75mg in a mug of tea (green tea can have the same amount of caffeine as regular tea)
  • 40mg in a can of cola
  • 80mg in a 250ml can of energy drink
  • less than 25mg in a 50g bar of plain dark chocolate
  • less than 10mg in a 50g bar of plain milk chocolate


Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to your baby.

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol.

This keeps risks to your baby to a minimum.

Herbal teas

You should drink no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day.


Liquorice is safe to eat. But you should avoid liquorice root.

Fruits, vegetables and salads

Be careful with fruits, vegetables and salads as they can have soil on them, making you unwell.

Make sure to wash all fruits, vegetables and salad ingredients thoroughly.


You do not need to avoid eating peanuts when you’re pregnant.

Avoid eating peanuts if you’re advised to by a healthcare professional or have a nut allergy.


Do not take high-dose multivitamin supplements or any supplements with vitamin A.


  • do not drink alcohol while pregnant

Not smoking

  • if you smoke, stop smoking during pregnancy


  • take vitamins and supplements during pregnancy, such as folic acid and vitamin D


Not all medicines are safe to take when you’re pregnant. This includes prescribed medicines and medicines you can buy in a pharmacy or shop.


Check with a doctor, pharmacist or midwife before taking any medicines when pregnant.

If you’re already taking prescribed medication, do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.


  • do some safe pregnancy exercise

Baby movements

  • know about baby movements in pregnancy and when to get help

Your mental wellbeing

  • know how to cope with feelings, worries and relationships in pregnancy
  • mental health in pregnancy

Sleeping well

  • get tips on tiredness and sleep problems during pregnancy


  • travelling safely during pregnancy, including flying, long journeys and travel vaccinations

Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots)

  • know the risks, symptoms and ways to prevent deep vein thrombosis in pregnancy

X-rays during pregnancy

You should let the hospital know if you’re pregnant for all X-rays.

X-rays are not usually recommended during pregnancy unless it’s an emergency

Cervical screening during pregnancy

You will not usually need to have cervical screening if you’re pregnant, or could be pregnant, until at least 12 weeks after you’ve given birth. This is because pregnancy can make it harder to get clear results.