Healthy Beginnings

Healthy beginnings

If you are planning a pregnancy, a healthy start for your baby begins well before conception. Most women understand how important it is to take good care of themselves and their unborn baby while they are pregnant, but you may not realize that what you eat and how you keep fit now makes a difference.


Being in a good physical condition before you conceive will help you feel your best during your pregnancy. If you are planning on getting into shape now, start slowly and build up gradually. As your body changes during pregnancy, certain activities may need to be adjusted to prevent injury. It is best to limit high impact activities and those that raise body temperature.

Walk, swim or join a fitness class, especially one designed for pregnant women and new mothers. If you do regular aerobic classes, talk to your instructor and avoid routines that are high impact or put stress on your lower back.

Check your heart rate from time to time: keep your heart rate at the lower end of the range appropriate for your age. Avoid weight training that involves holding your breath or straining. The most important muscles to tone during pregnancy are the pelvic floor muscles (Kegel exercises).

Avoid (or limit) hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your routine. Take 10 – 15 minutes to cool down.

Avoid contact sports and activities that may cause you to fall or be hit, for example, downhill skiing, mountain climbing, floor hockey and soccer.


A healthy diet ensures that you and your baby receive all the necessary nutrients.

The recommended calcium intake for pregnant women is 1200mg per day. This can be obtained by 3 -4 servings of milk products per day.

Additional iron, zinc, protein and B vitamins are also needed by pregnant women and their growing babies. Folic acid is a B vitamin that you should start to take about 3 months prior to conceiving and continue through to week 13. A dose of 800 microgram daily is recommended. Women at higher risk (epilepsy, anemia, diabetes or who had a pregnancy in which the baby had a neural tube defect) should take a higher dose.

Read more about Listeria and foods to avoid, Healthy Eating and Food Safety by downloading the PDF’s below:

To find out what the Mayo Clinic says about foods to avoid click here.


There are no current research studies that show ill effects from drinking a couple of cups of coffee or black tea a day.


Some babies will suffer serious birth defects if their mothers drink steadily or heavily during pregnancy. Nobody knows how much alcohol a woman can drink during pregnancy without causing harm to her baby. We recommend avoiding alcohol altogether during pregnancy.

Street Drugs

Illegal drugs used in pregnancy may cause damage to your developing baby and even cause babies to be born with an addiction. The use of these substances should be stopped before becoming pregnant.


The evidence is clear that smoking (including second hand smoking) is linked to nearly every known adverse outcome in pregnancy, and is harmful to your baby. Ideally, your home should be smoke-free before conception. Even if pregnant, studies show that being smoke-free before your 16th week reduces the risk of your baby being too small or being born early.

If you would like to be smoke-free, we can help, talk to us.

To read more on smoking and your pregnancy click here.

National Women’s Smoke Change Programme 09 357 0781.

Sexual history

Unprotected sex and multiple partners increase your exposure to sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, clamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV.

Some can be treated, some not. Some need to be treated to reduce the risk of transmission to your baby. Talk to us if you have concerns.

HIV testing is now offered to all women in pregnancy. Effective treatment exists to reduce the chances of HIV transmission to babies.


If you work with chemicals, solvents, fumes and radiation, you should take all recommended precautions when planning a pregnancy.

If you are already pregnant, discuss this with your Birthright specialist as you may be advised to avoid any contact with some of these workplace hazards.

Previous pregnancy

Problems in a previous pregnancy, labour or after birth are important. With special planning and care, we can work towards a normal healthy pregnancy.


Almost all medicines (prescription, non-prescription and herbal) can cross over the placenta to the baby. Very few cause harm, but most medicines have not been studied enough to rule out the possibility. The most critical time is the first trimester when your baby is developing and forming organ systems. Talk to your doctor as early as possible about the safety of your medication in pregnancy.

Contraceptive pill

If you are taking any type of hormonal birth control such as the pill, injection, or implants, you should allow at least one normal period before trying to become pregnant. Use a condom during this ‘rest cycle’. If you do become pregnant while taking a hormonal contraceptive, stop immediately, but don’t worry, as there are no known ill effects to the baby from these hormones.

A doctor’s visit before pregnancy

This is crucial if you have any medical problems such as diabetes, blood pressure problems or any condition that requires regular medication. Even If you have no medical concerns, a visit to your doctor is an opportunity for a well check and advice on maintaining good health and habits.

Your menstrual cycle:

  • Keeping a diary of your menstrual cycle will help you to determine:
  • Regularity of your cycle
  • Most likely time of ovulation (most fertile time of your cycle)
  • When you have conceived and
  • Help you to calculate your baby’s due date.

Menstrual cycle

A regular cycle is about 28 days from the start of a period to the start of the next period. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days before the start of the next period. This is the best time to have sexual intercourse if you want to conceive.

Ovulation clues are:

  • Changes in the mucus (vaginal discharge): becomes more plentiful, clear and slippery (similar to the white of a raw egg).
  • Mild tenderness in the pelvis
  • Body temperature rises for a few days just after ovulation.
  • Your due date (approximate date your baby will be born) is determined by adding 7 days and nine months from the first day of your last menstrual period.

This is only a guide and only 5% of babies will actually arrive on their due date!  85% arrived in the week before or after the due date.

It all begins with an egg

About midway between two periods, an egg is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation. The egg travels down the fallopian tube where it meets the sperm and fertilization takes place. The fertilized egg divides in 2 parts, then four parts, then eight, and so on, continuing to divide and grow.

It continues to move down the tube and within seven days the egg buries itself in the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium). This process is called implantation. For the first 8 weeks the fertilized egg is called an embryo. After eight weeks, the embryo is called a fetus.

Our goal at Birthright is to provide you the best gynaecological care in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, where you can talk to us about your needs.

Call us and discuss your care.

0800 247 848