Pregnancy and childbirth are mainly trouble-free however sometimes complications can occur, even in the later months of pregnancy.
While most problems can be picked up by routine tests at antenatal appointments, some develop unexpectedly. Knowing what to look out for and reporting it to your maternity team without delay can help you reduce the risk of serious illness and stillbirth (when a baby dies before he or she is born, after 24 weeks of pregnancy).
If any of these happen you should seek help straight away by contacting your midwifery unit.
Don’t wait until the next day if:
- Your baby’s movements reduce, slow down or change
- You have bleeding from the vagina
- You have itching, even mildly (particularly on the hands and feet, but other areas of the body may be affected too). This could be a sign of a liver disorder called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP, also called Obstetric Cholestasis)
- You have watery, clear or coloured discharge that seems abnormal for you.
- You have signs of pre-eclampsia.
Know the signs of pre-eclampsia:
- Obvious swelling, especially affecting the hands and face or upper body
- Severe headache that won’t go away, sometimes with vomiting
- Problems with vision (blurring, flashing lights or spots difficulty in focussing)
- Severe pain just below the ribs in the middle of your abdomen.
Call your maternity unit straight away if you experience any of the above. Please don’t wait until the next day.
It’s recommended that you take:
- 400 micrograms of folic acid every day – from before you’re pregnant until you’re 12 weeks pregnant
This is to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy.
The Department of Health and Social Care also advises you to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) when you’re pregnant. Too much vitamin A could harm your baby. Always check the label.
Did you know babies should not move less towards the end of pregnancy? If you think your baby’s movements have reduced, call your maternity unit straight away. Don’t wait to see what happens. You should be asked to go in for assessment.
In the third trimester our advice is to go sleep on your side because research has shown that this is safer for your baby. This includes night sleep and day time naps. If you wake up on your back, just settle back to sleep on your side.
Tips for sleeping on your side in pregnancy:
- Put pillows behind you to prevent falling on your back. It won’t prevent you being on your back for certain but is likely to make it more uncomfortable.
- If you have long hair, try tying it in a low bun, which may make it uncomfortable to sleep on your back for any length of time.
- If you wake up for any reason during the night, check your position and go back to sleep on your side.
- If you are likely to nap during the day pay the same attention to sleep position during the day as you would during the night.
Don’t rely on hand-held monitors, Dopplers or phone apps to check your baby’s heartbeat. They don’t always give a true picture of your baby’s health and you may be falsely reassured.
Eat for you – not for two. Try to swap unhealthy foods for healthier options and keep active. If you are overweight, don’t try to lose weight but eat healthily and stay active.
Stopping at any time in pregnancy will help give your baby the best start in life. The sooner you can stop, the better. Visit the MAMA website for support services.
The safest way to ensure your baby isn’t affected by alcohol is to not drink while you’re pregnant. If you are finding it hard to stop, ask for help from your midwife or GP. It is also now advised to cut out caffeine whilst you are pregnant.
Attend all your antenatal appointments to help your midwife identify any potential problems that may need treating. You will then receive key information as your pregnancy progresses.
Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife if you have taken street drugs or other substances. It will be treated in confidence. The more she knows about your general health, the better she’ll be able to help you and your baby.
Don’t forget to book your free flu and whooping cough jabs. These are safe to have at any stage of pregnancy and some protection is passed onto your baby which lasts for the first few months of their life. More information about vaccinations can be found on our Be Healthy page.
Have a safer pregnancy by avoiding contact with people with infectious illnesses, including diarrhoea, sickness, chickenpox or slapped cheek. If you have been in contact with someone with an infection, speak to your midwife or GP for advice.
Avoid infection. Wash your hands properly before and after handling food, before and after going to the toilet and after sneezing and blowing your nose.
Foods to avoid while pregnant:
- Soft mould-ripened and soft blue veined cheeses
- Raw or undercooked non lion marked eggs
- Vitamin A supplements i.e fish liver oils
- Liver and products that contain liver such as pate
- Raw fruit and veg that haven’t been washed
Call The Midwife
Write the number of your maternity unit on your MAMA Wellbeing Wallet so it’s always handy. It’s not an emergency number, but a number for you to use if you notice a change in your health or pregnancy. Visit our Call the Midwife page for symptoms that should be report straight away.