Stay healthy and well during pregnancy to help your unborn child grow

Staying healthy is important at any time in your life, but none more so while you’re pregnant. After all, your baby is reliant on you to help them grow and develop properly.

But your immune system, your body’s defence against infections, is weaker while you are pregnant (1). What can you do to ensure you stay healthy? Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is especially important (2), as is taking steps to protect yourself and your unborn child from infections (2). Let’s take a closer look.  

A healthy, nutritious diet

During your pregnancy, eat a variety of different foods to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need (2)(3). Your diet should include foods from the four main building blocks: protein, fruit and vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates:

  • Protein: Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry, and make sure you cook poultry, burgers, sausages and whole cuts of meat thoroughly. Try to eat two portions of fish a week; one of them oily. Protein provides the building blocks for your baby to grow.
  • Fruit and vegetables: Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables. These provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which can help prevent constipation. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced, but wash fresh fruit and vegetables carefully.
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt contain calcium and other nutrients that you and your baby need. Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible. Go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions of soya drinks and yoghurts if you prefer non-dairy alternatives. Avoid unpasteurised cheeses.
  • Carbohydrates: Starchy foods including bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, yams and cornmeal are an important source of energy, vitamins and fibre. They can help fill you up without containing too many calories. Opt for wholemeal when you can.


You may be hungrier than normal, but don’t be tempted to ‘eat for two’ (2)(3). Try having a healthy breakfast to help you to avoid snacking on foods high in fat and sugar, such as sweets, biscuits, crisps or chocolate (2). Choose healthy alternatives instead, such as small sandwiches, salad vegetables, vegetable sticks, fresh or ready-to-eat dried fruit, low-fat low-sugar fruit yoghurt, milky drinks or a small bowl of unsweetened porridge or other cereal.

Cut down on salt (3). It can raise your blood pressure, which can increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

Keep the flu at bay

Your body naturally weakens your immune system while you’re pregnant (1), making you more likely than others to catch the flu (4). If you do catch it, you’re more susceptible to developing complications. Possible complications include pneumonia, breathing difficulties and dehydration (4).

The flu may also be harmful to your developing baby. It could lead to a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight (5).

If you do catch the flu, there are some things you can do to treat the symptoms (4):

  • Use cold flannels to help reduce your fever.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace the water you’ve lost through sweating.
  • Rest up and try to eat little and often to keep your energy levels up.
  • A hot water bottle or wheat heat-pack may help reduce flu symptoms.


Getting a flu vaccine will reduce your chance of getting serious complications with the flu. It will also help protect your baby, both before and they’re born (5).

When you get your flu shot, your body makes antibodies to protect you from the flu. It can also pass these onto your developing baby during your pregnancy (6). These will help protect them from the flu during the first few months of their life. And if you breastfeed your infant, your body can pass its antibodies on through your breast milk too.

Protect yourself and your unborn baby. Eat well and get your flu shot.



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