Pregnancy care tips for every trimester

pregnant woman lying on sofa holding baby bump

Pregnancy care tips for every trimester

When you first become pregnant, there are lots of things to think about. And, whether you’ve just found out you’re pregnant or are entering a new trimester, you’ll already be aware that looking after your health is one of the most important things to prioritise for a healthy birth. The right prenatal and pregnancy care can help to prevent complications later down the line.

As a GP and new mum myself, I know how difficult it can be to figure out what you should and shouldn’t be doing during this special time in your life. It seems the science and NHS guidelines are always changing; the wisdom the matriarchs in your life might have passed down to you may not match modern-day science – as well-meaning as the advice can be,

So, I am sharing some expert prenatal health tips with you to help you along the way. From the supplements that can support you in your first trimester (weeks one to 12) to advice for later down the line, read on for my pregnancy care guide.

I’ve just found out I’m pregnant – what are the first steps?

Have you recently discovered that you are pregnant? Make an appointment with your GP first to discuss your next steps. Depending on the local guidelines in your area, you can also self-refer to local antenatal services to get an appointment with a midwife.

In terms of supplements, if you aren’t already taking a prenatal supplement, such as folic acid, now is the time to start.

Many women take this when trying to conceive, but it is also important to take it up to 12 weeks into your pregnancy, as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the baby. The NHS advises a dose of 400 micrograms once a day for most women.

I also recommend taking vitamin D to help your baby’s bones, teeth, and other bodily functions develop. If you’re already taking it, make sure to consult your doctor about the proper dosage during pregnancy.

Top Tip: A supplement like our Vitamin B12 + Folic Acid is ideal for supporting a healthy pregnancy.

What lifestyle changes are most important during pregnancy?

 pregnant person eating fruit salad

To keep your prenatal health on track, you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of complications. The NHS advises that pregnant women stop smoking, drinking, and using recreational drugs, as these things can be harmful to a developing baby. I know this can be easier said than done, so talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble breaking any of these habits – we’re here to support, not judge.

What food can and can’t I eat during pregnancy?

Nutrition is more important than ever when pregnant. Again, I know it’s difficult to think about this when you’re experiencing symptoms like morning sickness, but try to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables whenever possible. During your first trimester, your iron levels will be checked, so make sure you’re getting enough of this from your diet, too.

Wondering what foods to avoid? Stay away from raw shellfish and certain cheeses (including mould-ripened soft cheeses such as brie, blue cheeses and unpasteurised cheeses), as they can carry bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to the baby.

Can I drink coffee when pregnant?

Caffeine addicts, prepare to be surprised: most experts believe it’s safe to have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine per day – typically, the equivalent of two cups of coffee (though this will vary according to type of coffee and size of cup, with filter coffee typically containing more caffeine than instant).

Keep in mind also that there is caffeine in certain soft drinks, chocolates and tea, so they also need to be counted towards that total. Many women choose not to drink coffee at all, instead opting for caffeine-free teas such as rooibos. If you’re unsure whether a particular tea or coffee alternative is safe during pregnancy, ask your GP.

Should I give up exercising while pregnant?

pregnant women in yoga class

Doctors recommend staying active during your pregnancy because it can alleviate many of the aches and pains you’ll experience, while also giving you mental benefits. If you were previously active and worked out frequently, stick to the same routine and modify it as you go.

If you weren’t previously active, keep in mind that now isn’t the best time to join a gym and start taking intense classes. Stick to safe, low-intensity workouts like walking and swimming, and you should be fine. However, you might need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses: talk to your maternity team if you’re unsure.

How can I manage morning sickness?

Morning sickness is often a tricky one, as many women decide not to reveal their pregnancy publicly until they enter their second trimester – yet feelings of nausea and vomiting tend to hit hardest in the first 12 weeks.

If you’re comfortable with sharing, I’d advise anyone in this position to tell their close friends and family their news. It’s important to have the right support around you throughout this stage of your pregnancy.

The good news is, there are some known ways to fend off the symptoms of sickness. Try eating ginger biscuits to lessen the feeling of nausea and drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. You can also get anti-sickness tablets from your GP.

If you can’t hold anything down, you might be dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), where pregnant women experience very bad nausea and vomiting, and this can lead to dehydration. Contact your GP or midwife as soon as possible, if you suspect you’re suffering from HG, and go to A&E if the signs are severe.

Not ready to tell your employers that you’re expecting? If you’re feeling ill, go to your doctor and ask them to write a sick note describing your symptoms – GPs aren’t obligated to reveal everything due to patient confidentiality.

What can I expect as I move into my second trimester?

pregnant woman drinking tea

In the second trimester (weeks 13-26), your midwife will check you for diabetes. Don’t panic – this doesn’t mean you have it, but some women do get gestational diabetes. This can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. If this does happen, you’ll be advised on what lifestyle changes you need to make to manage this effectively.

The good news? The second trimester is the time where many women feel happy and energised, as they are able to do the things they normally do like going shopping or working out. Enjoy this time, and just be mindful of any major changes in how you feel or the baby’s movements.

You might start to feel movement in the womb as early as 16 weeks, but if you haven’t by 24 weeks, please speak to your midwife.

Next comes the third trimester…

What do I need to be mindful of in my third trimester?

You might be getting excited about finally meeting your baby. However, the third trimester (weeks 27 onwards) can often be the most uncomfortable. You’re at your heaviest, and the baby is pushing on your bladder. Your joints might hurt and you constantly need to pee, while the tiredness you experienced in the first trimester often comes back.

But this is also the best time for you to nest and really find ways to make yourself comfortable, whether that’s finding the perfect pregnancy pillow to support your bump or having more relaxing baths (just make sure the water isn’t too hot). A lot of self-care during this time will help you get through this, I promise!

It’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different and what might work for you, might not work for others. If at any point you feel unsure during your pregnancy, speak to your GP or midwife for professional advice.

Read more from Doctor Shireen and Nature’s Truth’s expert panel here.

Dr Shireen

Dr Shireen

General Practitioner

A GP working in the NHS, you might have already seen her online or featured in magazines as a health educator and communicator. Doctor Shireen takes a holistic approach to wellbeing and is passionate about supporting her patients’ mental health and physical health. She’ll be helping us bring you clear and helpful information and ideas for taking care of your general health.