Diet & Activity

What is a healthy lifestyle and why does it matter?

This page has been created to help you to understand about how you can look after yourself and your baby during pregnancy.

There are many important but easy things you can do to be as healthy as possible and by following the advice below you can lower your risk of complications during pregnancy, labour and after you have had your baby.

Tips and advice for anyone planning a pregnancy are also included because leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to start a pregnancy and stay healthy throughout motherhood.

Download Healthy Habits for Baby and You booklet (659kb)
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A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time – but is especially vital during pregnancy

Eating a healthy diet will help your baby to develop and grow and will keep you fit as well.

There is no need to eat for two! Most women do not need to eat any extra calories until the last three months of pregnancy and even then you may only need about 200 extra calories each day.

Being active and exercising is also important. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity physical activity daily will not harm your baby and could help keep you both fit and healthy.

The Start4Life website has lots of other useful information for parents and parents-to-be about being healthy during pregnancy.

What do I need to know about my diet?

By eating a variety of foods each day you can get the balance of nutrients that you and your baby need to stay healthy. Click on the picture of the eatwell plate below to learn more.

eat well plate

It is also important that your food is washed and clean before you eat it, as well as making sure anything you cook is heated properly to reduce your risk of food poisoning.

Find out more about what foods you should be eating during pregnancy as advised by NHS Choices here.

Click on the following link to find out more about what foods you should avoid in pregnancy.

You might be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers to spend on milk and fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables. Click here to find out if you qualify eligible for Healthy Start vouchers and click here to apply for Healthy Start vouchers.

What about vitamins?

Most people will get all the vitamins and minerals they need through eating a healthy balanced diet. But when you are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or when you are a new mum you may not be able to get everything you need from food alone. We recommend that you take:

  • 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid (or five milligrams [mg] if you have a body mass index above 30, a family history of babies affected by neural tube defects, have epilepsy, or have been advised yo do so by your doctor or midwife) until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant to prevent neural tube defects
  • Vitamin D 10 micrograms throughout your pregnancy as this help your body to absorb calcium which helps your bones to remain strong and your baby to develop strong bones and teeth

Healthy start vitamins have been specifically made for pregnant and breastfeeding women and are eligible free to women on the Healthy Start voucher scheme.

Avoid non-pregnancy multivitamins as they may have high levels of vitamin A, which you are advised to avoid during pregnancy.

What about getting active?

If you’re already exercising, you can carry on! But be cautious to avoid bumping your bump.

The goal of exercise during pregnancy is to stay fit not to reach peak fitness. Seek advice from your midwife or GP if you have any questions.

If you’re new to exercise or activity you should start slowly, with ten minutes walking a few times a week. You can gradually build this up until you manage the recommended 30 minutes each day.

Please note if you attend any exercise or activity groups during pregnancy they should be run by someone qualified to coach pregnant women. Ask your leisure centre or gym to speak to the pregnancy trained instructor, for advice on how to modify your usual exercise routine for pregnancy.

Download Tommy’s guide to exercise during pregnancy (603kb)
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Just 30 minutes of activity each day is good for you and baby too!

Your 30 minutes of activity does not have to be all in one go! Ten minutes here and ten minutes there, it all adds up.

  • Stroll to the shop instead of driving
  • Get off the bus a stop earlier
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Take your children to the park
  • Go to an aquanatal class or pregnancy pilates group
  • Join a walking group

Bump ‘n’ Splash!

bump n splash

We now run aquanatal classes at five different locations across the South Tees area.

This means Monday to Friday we have a group running near you.

Please contact the leisure centre to confirm the time and price of these classes and before you set off for a class to ensure it is running on the day you want to attend.

Loftus Leisure Centre – Loftus 01287 642020 Monday 10.30am-11.15am
Redcar Leisure Centre – Redcar 01642 771070 Tuesday 9.30am-10.30am
Neptune Centre – Berwick Hills 01642 230106 Wednesday 9.15am-10.15am
Guisborough Leisure Centre – Guisborough 01287 633311 Thursday 6pm-7pm

Pregnancy and postnatal pilates

We now run pregnancy and postnatal pilates groups at Eston Leisure Centre, Rainbow Leisure Centre, Coulby Newham and Middlesbrough Sports Village for women over 15 weeks pregnant.

Please ask your community midwife to document in your maternity notes that you are fit to attend. You can also print off an important information form to take to your first session with you by clicking on the link below.

Spaces are very limited so please contact the pilates teacher Karen Jane to learn more! Karen’s contact details can be seen on the pictures below.

pregnancy pilates

antenatal pilatespostnatal pilates

Print this form and take it with you on your first pregnancy pilates session!(196kb)
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What about my weight?

In order to measure if you have a healthy weight the NHS uses the body mass index (BMI) calculation, which is based upon your weight and height. You can work out your BMI by clicking on this link.

We only do this at your first antenatal appointment (the booking appointment) because some weight gain during pregnancy is normal and expected.

Once we know which BMI category your weight and height places you in, we can advise you how to stay healthy or help you to become healthy.

BMI Categories
Less then 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Healthy weight
25 – 29.9 Overweight
30 – 34.9 Obese
35 – 39.9 Very obese
≥ 40 Extremely obese

Why does my weight matter?

Most women will have a straight forward pregnancy and birth and will deliver healthy babies. However, being overweight does increase the risk of complications to you and your baby.

Ideally if you are overweight or obese you should aim to achieve a healthy weight before you become pregnant to reduce the risks linked with being overweight and obese during pregnancy.

The Royal College of Midwives supports Slimming World to help manage your weight before, during and after pregnancy. If you go to Slimming World they will continue to support you during pregnancy and you do not need to stop attending your group. There is a cost attached to attending Slimming World but the website linked above is totally free and full of useful advice for women planning a pregnancy, who are pregnant and new mums.

What if I am overweight?

It is important that we recognise when a pregnant woman has a raised BMI so that we can offer her the right advice to care for her and her baby during pregnancy and support her to manage her weight post-pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and have a raised BMI there are lots of things you can do to lower your risk of complications. Please keep reading the information on this page to find out more.

Download the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advice about why weight matters (534kb)
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Download the Obstetric Anaesthetic Association’s leaflet about having a raised BMI (101kb)
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What are the risks of having a raised BMI during pregnancy?

• An increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth

• Increased likelihood of high blood pressure, diabetes and developing blood clots in the legs or the lungs

• Being more likely to have a longer, slower labour

• Being more likely to have a caesarean birth and getting a possible wound infection afterwards

• Risk of heavy bleeding after delivery

What can I do to lower my risks if I have a raised BMI?

If you are planning a pregnancy it would be a great idea to aim to lose some weight before you get pregnant. You can use the information on this website and also visit the free Slimming World website to learn more.

If you are already pregnant your community midwife will record your weight, height and BMI at your first appointment. If you have a BMI of 30 or above she will start you on our raised BMI pathway.

This includes offering you support and advice about diet and activity to help you to lead a healthy lifestyle during your pregnancy. These tips and advice will help you to learn the skills you need to lose weight after you have had your baby.

If your BMI is 40 or above and you do not have any other health problems you will be invited to attend our Healthy Lifestyle Clinic to recieve specialist midwife and dietitian input.

How should I change my diet to lower my risks?

There are lots of easy ways you can alter how you eat to help to give you and baby all the nutrition you need and avoid putting on too much weight during pregnancy.

  • Eat breakfast
  • Always have a starchy food with your meal (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes – choosing wholegrain where possible). This should be one third of your meal
  • Eat at least 5 portions (the amount you can hold in the palm of your hand) of a variety of fruit and veg each day
  • Eat a low fat diet, with as little fried food as possible, avoiding drinks and food that are high in added sugar (fizzy drinks, cakes, pasties) and high in fat (takeaways and fast food)
  • Consider your calcium intake (aim for three portions daily) and swap from full fat to semi-skimmed milk
  • Watch the portion size of meals and snacks (remember the healthy plate)
  • Think about the amount of caffeine in your diet and limit to three cups of tea or two of coffee each day. Be aware that energy drinks and chocolate bars also contain caffeine too
  • Grill food instead of frying it

How can I get active to lower my risks?

Being active during pregnancy is important for your health and your baby’s health.

Making activities such as walking, swimming and gardening part of everyday life can help to lower your risks and keep you healthy. You should also try and spend as little time as possible doing activities that keep you still, like watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer.

Tommy’s video provides information and top tips to help you to exercise in a way that is safe for you and your baby.

Tommy's Logo

How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

A lot of women want to know how much weight is safe to gain during pregnancy but at present there is no guidance in the UK relating to weight gain during pregnancy.

Advice from the American Institute of Medicine is used by some hospitals to offer an estimate of how much weight women should gain during pregnancy depending upon their booking BMI (the calculation done at a booking appointment with a community midwife based on your weight and height). See the table below for the Institute of Medicine’s suggestions.

BMI Category Total Weight Gain in Pregnancy
Underweight (Under 18.5) 13 to 18 kg (2 to 3 stones)
Healthy weight (18.5-24.9) 11 to 16 kg (1.7 to 2.5 stones)
Overweight (25 – 29.9) 7 to 11 kg (1 to 1.7 stones)
Obese (30 and above) 5 to 9 kg (0.8 to 1.4 stones)

At South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust we have worked with women who have a raised BMI and found that eating a healthy diet and introducing exercise even in very small amounts can help limit weight gain to 5 or 6 kilograms during pregnancy (about a stone).

We suggest that all pregnant women should remain mindful that they do not need to eat for two and should avoid overeating, as this can cause you to gain a lot of weight which will be hard to shed after you have your baby.

To help us learn more about weight gain during pregnancy we will weigh you at each antenatal visit. This will help us to offer diet and activity advice individual to your own needs.

What about after I have had my baby?


Now you have had your baby if you carry on the healthy habits you started during pregnancy you will find it easy to stay healthy.

For many women simply making the healthy diet and activity changes suggested above can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight gradually over the next year.

Please note if you had a caesarean birth it is important to check with your GP around six to eight weeks after delivery that you are fit and well enough to return to your pregnancy exercise and activity levels.

What exercise programmes are available in the South Tees area to help me achieve a healthy weight after I give birth?

Please see the documents below to find out more about what is available in the South Tees area.

While we try to keep this page as up-to-date as possible, it is always important to check with the leisure centre or event organiser that the programme or class you plan to join is still running before you attend.

Also check out our Facebook and Twitter pages which will have regular updates about weight management groups and exercise/activity programmes near to you.

push and go stewarts park

buggy walking

Download Mummy buggy push fitness (104kb)
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Download Active Middlesbrough Adult Development Programme Leaflet (293kb)
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Download Active Middlesbrough Junior & Adult Activities Leaflet (217kb)
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Download Active Middlesbrough Fitness Classes Leaflet (209kb)
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Download Active Middlesbrough Pool Info Leaflet (524kb)
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This page has been created using information from NHS ChoicesNHS Choices Logo



Page updated 14/4/2015: Information correct as of this date.