Information for the public

Lifestyle advice

There are a number of things you can do to stay healthy while you are pregnant. Your midwife or doctor can tell you more about them.

Work

You should be able to carry on working during your pregnancy, but your midwife or doctor will ask about your job to see whether the work you do could be putting you or your baby in danger. The Health and Safety Executive can give you more information about possible occupational hazards. Your doctor or midwife should also give you information about your maternity rights and benefits.

Exercise

You can continue or start moderate exercise before or during your pregnancy. Some vigorous activities, however, such as contact sports or racquet games, may carry extra risks such as falling or putting too much strain on your joints. You should avoid scuba diving while you are pregnant because this can cause problems in the developing baby.

Alcohol

Please see advice from the UK Chief Medical Officer on drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of your baby being underweight or being born too early – in both instances, your baby's health may be affected. You will reduce these risks if you can give up smoking, or at least smoke less, while you are pregnant. You and your baby will benefit if you can give up, no matter how late in your pregnancy.

If you need it, your midwife or doctor should offer you information, advice and support to help you give up smoking, or to stay off it if you have recently given up. The NHS pregnancy smoking helpline can also provide advice and support – the phone number is 0800 169 9 169.

NICE has also produced guidance on how to stop smoking in pregnancy and following childbirth (see other NICE guidance).

Cannabis

The effects of cannabis on the unborn baby are uncertain; however, if you use cannabis, it may be harmful to your baby.

Sexual activity

There is no evidence that sexual activity is harmful while you are pregnant.

Travel

When you travel by car you should always wear a 3‑point seatbelt above and below your bump, not over it.

If you are planning to travel abroad you should talk to your midwife or doctor, who should tell you more about flying, vaccinations and travel insurance. The risk of deep vein thrombosis from travelling by air may be higher when you are pregnant. Your midwife or doctor can tell you more about how you can reduce your risk by wearing correctly fitted compression stockings.

Prescription and over‑the‑counter medicines

Only a few prescription and over‑the‑counter medicines have been shown to be safe for pregnant women by good‑quality studies. While you are pregnant, your doctor should only prescribe medicines where the benefits are greater than the risks. You should use as few over‑the‑counter medicines as possible.

Complementary therapies

Few complementary therapies have been established as being safe and effective during pregnancy.