Pregnancy and breastfeeding

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Information & Advice


Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Let's help you and baby stay healthy.Becoming pregnant can be an exciting time in your life and keeping on top of your health will help you make the most of every moment.

Take a look at our handy interactive guide below to learn more about doing the best for baby and for you. Together we can play an active part in helping you feel good through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Peace of mind with medicines Safe for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Icon

Our pharmacists are on hand to help and advise. We use this symbol in store to show which medicines may be suitable to use when you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

During pregnancy, it is recommended that all medicines are best avoided if possible as some may affect your unborn baby, so you should always make sure you speak to a pharmacist or GP before you take any medication.

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  • Illnesses
  • Common conditions

Advice about taking medicines and other healthcare products when pregnant or breastfeeding

It is important to seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine when pregnant or breastfeeding. Speak to your local Boots pharmacist who first can explore alternatives with you such as diet or lifestyle changes, or, if necessary, recommend a suitable product. Always read the label and leaflet before taking any medicine.

Cough and Cold > v

Many cough and cold medicines aren't suitable to use when you're pregnant.

What's available?

At the first signs of a cold, Boots Pharmaceuticals Cold Defence nasal spray can help reduce the severity and duration of the cold. If the cold develops, your pharmacist can advise you on some cough mixtures, such as glycerine with honey and lemon, to help soothe your symptoms.

Hayfever and Allergy > v

Allergies occur when you're in contact with something that gives you an allergic reaction. With hayfever, it's pollen that causes the reaction. The best prevention for all allergies is avoiding the thing that causes it. So if you get hayfever, try wearing wrap-around sunglasses and avoid going outside when the pollen count is high.

What's available?

Prevalin Allergy, which you can use during pregnancy, is a nasal spray that lines the inside of the nose to prevent the pollen getting through and causing the allergic reaction. Or you could consider Boots Pharmaceuticals Allergy Relief Device, which uses light therapy to help stop your nose being as sensitive to the pollen.

Common conditions in pregnancy

Being pregnant means a lot of changes to your body. The pregnancy hormones that help to get your body ready for your growing baby and birth affect other parts of your body too. Add to this the weight and size of your growing baby and it's no surprise that you might experience a minor, common condition or two along the way. Making a few diet and lifestyle changes can often help prevent you from getting these conditions.

Advice about taking medicines and other healthcare products when pregnant or breastfeeding

It is important to seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine when pregnant or breastfeeding. Speak to your local Boots pharmacist who can first explore alternatives with you such as diet and lifestyle changes, or, if necessary, recommend a suitable product. Always read the label and leaflet before taking any medicine.

Indigestion > v

Heartburn or indigestion are not uncommon during pregnancy, especially towards the end of the nine months when the size of your baby squashes your tummy a bit.

What can I do to help?

Eating smaller meals more often and avoiding spicy foods can help prevent indigestion, but if this doesn't work for you, ask your pharmacist to discuss products that are suitable to use during pregnancy.

Constipation > v

The digestive system can get a bit sluggish during pregnancy so, to avoid constipation, make sure there's enough fibre in your diet and drink plenty of fluids. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluids a day. Gentle exercise can also help to keep you regular.

What can I do to help?

If you do get constipated, Fybogel (contains ispaghula husk, always read the label) is suitable for use during pregnancy - it can be used to help regularity or to relieve constipation.

Teeth and gums > v

You need to take extra care of your teeth during pregnancy as the hormones can make you more likely to get bleeding gums. Visit your dentist regularly - it's free on the NHS while you're pregnant.

What can I do to help?

Between visits to the dentist make sure you have a good dental regime that includes brushing, flossing and mouthwash.

Piles > v

Piles or haemorrhoids are very common in pregnancy and can be very uncomfortable. The best way to avoid them is to try and avoid becoming constipated.

What can I do to help?

If you do get piles, increase your fibre and fluid intake to help make it easier to go to the toilet and consider products such as Preparation H gel which may provide some relief. If there's any bleeding you should speak to your GP or midwife.

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  • Eating well
  • Vitamins
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Exercise

Eating well in pregnancy

Enjoying healthy, balanced meals during pregnancy will give your baby the best possible start. As well as helping your baby to grow and develop, it'll help you feel fit and well too. Choose a variety of foods across the different food groups to provide the nutrients you and your baby need:

So, what can I eat? > v

  • Go for at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day - fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, pure juice and smoothies all count towards your 5-A-DAY.
  • Keep energy levels high by basing meals on starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals. Choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can.
  • Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans and lentils will help keep your iron levels topped up. Try to include two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily (salmon, sardines, herring).
  • Choose lower fat milk, cheese, and yoghurt.
  • Cut down on sugary and fatty foods such as cakes, biscuits, sweets, crisps and chocolate - snacking on fruit, dried fruit, vegetable sticks, rice cakes or bread sticks is a healthier option.
  • Drink plenty of fluids - at least 6 to 8 glasses a day. Water and fruit juices are best.

Do I need to eat for two? > v

Although you may feel hungrier during pregnancy, your body only needs around 200 extra calories a day in your last trimester.

That's just two slices of wholemeal toast with butter, or a jacket potato with a little cheese or baked beans, or a banana and a glass of fruit juice.

Is there anything I should avoid eating? > v

Experts recommend avoiding certain foods while you're pregnant. Some of the foods you enjoyed prior to pregnancy may not be safe or suitable now that you're pregnant.

It's a good idea to avoid:
  • Mould-ripened soft cheeses (eg. Brie, Chevre and Camembert) and soft blue-veined cheeses (eg. Danish blue).
  • All types of pâté (including vegetable pâté).
  • Raw or under-cooked eggs.
  • Raw or under-cooked meat.
  • Liver and products made from liver.
  • Certain fish - shark, marlin and swordfish.
  • Raw (uncooked) shellfish.
  • Unpasteurised milk.
  • Alcohol, especially in the first 3 months
It's a good idea to limit:
  • Tuna - no more than two fresh tuna steaks or four medium sized cans of tuna a week.
  • Oily fish - a maximum of two portions a week.
  • Caffeine - 200mg a day, roughly two mugs of instant coffee or tea.

What about vitamins?

For the majority of people, eating a healthy, varied diet should provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need. However, The Department of Health does advise two supplements during pregnancy:

Folic acid > v

The Department of Health recommends that all pregnant women and women who are planning to become pregnant should take a 400 micrograms supplement of folic acid each day, from the time they stop using contraception until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Vitamin D > v

The Department of Health recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D to ensure their own requirement for vitamin D is met. This in turn helps build adequate stores for the baby in early infancy.

Can I take a multivitamin? > v

If you think you're not getting all the nutrients you need, perhaps because you're feeling sick, too tired or have a poor appetite, then a pregnancy-specific multivitamin is a good way to help get the range of vitamins and minerals you need. Ask your Boots pharmacist for advice and to help you choose the right supplement for you from our range.

Note: You may be eligible for free vitamins under the Government's Healthy Start scheme if you receive income support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. The vitamin tablets include recommended levels of folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin D. Ask your GP or midwife for advice.

Can I drink alcohol?

You should try to avoid alcohol, especially in the first 3 months of your pregnancy. If you do choose to drink don't have more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week.

Time to stop smoking

Cigarette smoke is harmful to your unborn baby. As well as reducing the level of oxygen in your blood, it deprives your baby of essential oxygen too. The more you smoke, the greater the risks - so there's every reason for giving up, ideally before you become pregnant.

What can I do to help?

Quitting smoking isn't always easy. If you're struggling using willpower alone, ask your pharmacist which nicotine replacement product may be suitable for you.

If your partner or anyone else who lives with you smokes, their smoke can affect you and the baby both before and after birth. So ask your partner, friends and family not to smoke near you.

Can I exercise?

Keeping active during pregnancy is great for boosting your energy leveIs. If you're used to exercising there's no reason you can't continue throughout your pregnancy, as long as your body feels comfortable with it and your GP hasn't advised against it.

What should I avoid? > v

The only precaution is to avoid contact or extreme sports, where there's a risk of damage to the baby. Pregnancy is not the time to take up a radical, new regime. But keeping as active as possible will benefit you and your baby.

When you've had your baby, the current advice is that if your pregnancy and birth were 'uncomplicated' and not a Caesarean delivery, you can start with gentle exercise such as walking, pelvic floor exercises (to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence) and stretching straight away.

When is it safe to exercise after birth? > v

Wait until 6 to 8 weeks after the birth before doing anything more strenuous. If you want to increase the amount of exercise you do, discuss this at your postnatal check.

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  • Cosmetics

Look good - feel good

Pregnancy hormones can also affect your skin and hair. When you need to look good in order to feel good about yourself, keeping up with your beauty regime may be a priority.

Is it still OK to use my normal products? > v

Yes, all cosmetics, toiletries and skincare are covered by strict laws which govern their safety. These laws also require that warnings are printed on pack. You can be sure that if there were any risk to pregnant women from using any cosmetic product, there would be a warning in place.

Is it still safe to colour my hair? > v

Yes, it's perfectly safe. But, when using hair colours, it's really important to do the skin sensitivity test 48 hours before using the product.

Is it safe to use self tanning lotions and sunscreens? > v

Yes, self tanning products and sunscreens are safe to use.

If you have questions about whether any of our cosmetic products are suitable to use while pregnant or breastfeeding, just give us a call on 0845 070 8090.

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  • Nutrition
  • Benefits of breastfeeding
  • Need more help?
  • Medicines

Eating well while breastfeeding

Things to do

  • Healthy balanced diet
  • Plenty of starchy foods
  • Plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)
  • Remember to take your daily vitamin D supplement

Things to avoid

  • Limit alcohol
  • Limit caffeine
  • No more than 2 portions of oily fish per week

Vitamin D

The Department of Health recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D to ensure their own requirement for vitamin D is met. This in turn helps build adequate stores for the baby in early infancy.

Why choose breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding gives your baby everything they need to get the best start in life. Your milk is the best food for your baby because it contains the perfect balance of nutrients, while the proven benefits include a lower risk of diarrhoea, vomiting, chest and ear infections.

Breastfeeding has lots of benefits for new mums too - the longer you keep it up, the lower your risk of certain cancers, and it can help your bones stay stronger in the future. It can also help you get back in shape more quickly. What's more, breast milk is free, portable and always 'on-tap' at the perfect temperature.

You can feel free to breastfeed in our stores but if you would like somewhere more private to feed, just ask a member of the team.

Getting the hang of breastfeeding

As natural as breastfeeding is, it's not always the easiest thing to get the hang of. Not every woman can and not every woman chooses to breastfeed. If you decide to give it a go, we've got a great range of breastfeeding products to help you feel comfortable.

Whatever you decide, the most important thing is that you and your baby thrive. If you're unsure, it's better to try breastfeeding first - if you start with bottle feeding and then change your mind, it's difficult to start breastfeeding. Bear in mind, too, that partial bottle feeding will reduce your milk supply, especially if breastfeeding hasn't been fully established. If you do decide to bottle feed we have all the products you'll need.

Speak to a midwife or GP if you have any issues or concerns about breastfeeding.

Advice about taking medicines and other healthcare products when pregnant or breastfeeding

It is important to seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine when pregnant or breastfeeding. Speak to your local Boots pharmacist who can first explore alternatives with you such as diet and lifestyle changes, or, if necessary, recommend a suitable product. Always read the label and leaflet before taking any medicine.

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