Pregnancy Lifestyle Advice

The general lifestyle advice for pregnant women includes:

  • Take folic acid 400mcg from before pregnancy to 12 weeks (reduces neural tube defects)
  • Take vitamin D supplement (10 mcg or 400 IU daily)
  • Avoid vitamin A supplements and eating liver or pate (vitamin A is teratogenic at high doses)
  • Don’t drink alcohol when pregnant (risk of fetal alcohol syndrome)
  • Don’t smoke (smoking has a long list of complications, see below)
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy or blue cheese (risk of listeriosis)
  • Avoid undercooked or raw poultry (risk of salmonella)
  • Continue moderate exercise but avoid contact sports
  • Sex is safe
  • Flying increases the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE)
  • Place car seatbelts above and below the bump (not across it)



Alcohol can cross the placenta, enter the fetus, and disrupt fetal development. There is no safe level of alcohol in pregnancy. Pregnant women are encouraged not to drink alcohol at all. Small amounts are less likely to result in lasting effects. The effects are greatest in the first 3 months of pregnancy.


Alcohol in early pregnancy can lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Small for dates
  • Preterm delivery
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome


Fetal alcohol syndrome refers to certain characteristics that can occur in children of mothers that consumed alcohol during pregnancy. The features include:

  • Microcephaly (small head)
  • Thin upper lip
  • Smooth flat philtrum (the groove between the nose and upper lip)
  • Short palpebral fissure (short horizontal distance from one side of the eye to the other)
  • Learning disability
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Cerebral palsy


Smoking in pregnancy

Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of:

  • Fetal growth restriction (FGR)
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Preterm labour and delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)


Flying in Pregnancy

The RCOG advises flying is generally ok in uncomplicated healthy pregnancies up to:

  • 37 weeks in a single pregnancy
  • 32 weeks in a twin pregnancy


After 28 weeks gestation, most airlines need a note from a midwife, GP or obstetrician to state the pregnancy is going well and there are no additional risks.


Last updated August 2020
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