More women discover they are pregnant in January than in any other month of the year.
If you’re expecting a new arrival in 2022, follow our tips to prepare for the coming months.
If you haven’t already, make sure you’ve signed up for the Which? Pregnancy & Parenting newsletter by clicking the image below.
1. Arrange your booking appointment
First off, inform a health professional of your pregnancy so you’re ‘in the system’ – this can be done by self-referral, referral by a GP, midwife or another healthcare professional, or even through a school nurse, community centre or refugee hostel.
At this point you should be offered early pregnancy health and wellbeing information such as stopping smoking, avoiding alcohol, taking supplements and healthy eating, and any supporting materials should be made available in different languages or formats, such as digital, printed, braille or Easy Read, so that all needs are met.
You’ll then be given a date for your booking appointment (around 8-12 weeks), where you’ll find out your due date and information about ultrasound scans and screenings in the coming months.
Thinking about going private for your pregnancy and birth? Read more about NHS vs private maternity care to help you decide
2. Take folic acid and vitamin D
Research in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin journal says most pregnant women in developed countries like the UK don’t actually need a pregnancy-specific multivitamin because our diets are generally good enough to give us most of the nutrients we need.
The only supplements you really need are folic acid (400 micrograms) each day up until the end of your first trimester, and vitamin D (10 micrograms) daily throughout your pregnancy – and this can cost as little as 5p per day compared to up to 99p per day for a pregnancy multivitamin.
Folic acid is to help prevent birth defects called ‘neural tube defects’, such as spina bifida, and vitamin D helps us to absorb calcium and phosphate, which are essential for healthy bones and muscles.
3. Get your Covid-19 vaccine
Whether you have the Covid-19 vaccine or not is down to personal choice but its safety for pregnant women has been made clear by multiple organisations and experts, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
Gill Walton, chief executive and general secretary of the RCM, says: ‘There is overwhelming evidence that the COVID vaccine is safe for pregnant women and for their babies – and that it’s the best way to keep them safe from harm. Sadly, there are too many pregnant women being admitted to hospital with COVID, and 96.3% of them haven’t been vaccinated.’
Speak to your GP, midwife or health professional about the vaccine, and find out more about the Covid-19 vaccine and pregnancy.
4. Follow your pregnancy week by week
When you find out you’re pregnant, one of the most exciting parts is learning about how your baby is developing, week by week.
You’re bound to have lots of questions, such as, ‘Which scan will reveal what sex my baby is?’ and, ‘When will I feel the first flutters or kicks?’
Our week by week guides, take you from conception to your due date, and will help you keep track of what’s going.
Want to know when to share your news? Although there are no official guidelines, prospective parents often wait until after the 12-week dating scan to tell people.
5. Sign up for antenatal classes
Antenatal classes are a way to help you learn more about pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as presenting you with an opportunity to get to know other expectant parents in your area.
The NHS runs weekly classes, starting from when you’re around 30-32 weeks pregnant. You can attend with your birth partner or on your own, and in some areas there are set classes available for if you’re single, a teenager or if English isn’t your first language. Your GP, midwife or health visitor can give you more information.
In the height of the pandemic, these classes were virtual but as restrictions have relaxed, in person sessions have been reintroduced in many places although virtual ones may still be available if you’re concerned about the virus, are extremely vulnerable or self-isolating.
Private classes, including those run by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), are usually more comprehensive and held in smaller groups. Although they usually start when you’re around 25 weeks pregnant, book as early as you can in your pregnancy as they can fill up quickly.
Read more about NHS vs NCT antenatal classes to help you make up your mind.
6. Think about where you want to give birth
There are several places you can choose to give birth: a hospital labour ward (also known as an obstetric unit), a birth centre (also called a midwife-led unit) or at home.
Your decision will affect a number of things, from the facilities available to you – such as birth pools and certain types of pain relief – to how likely it is you’ll know the midwife during your pregnancy and birth, so it’s worth thinking about it at an early stage.
7. Manage pregnancy symptoms
Your growing baby may have made its presence known through a range of symptoms since the beginning of your pregnancy.
Morning sickness (which usually starts around 4-6 weeks of pregnancy), breast tenderness and tiredness are all common, especially during early pregnancy. If you’ve been quite sick, it’s important you stay well hydrated, and eat small meals or snacks at regular points during the day.
You may feel hotter than usual because of changing hormone levels, especially as the weather gets warmer, so a fan can be a good way to circulate the air to increase your comfort levels.
8. Eat a healthy pregnancy diet
Eating a balanced diet is vital for both you and your baby and despite the old wives’ tale, you don’t have to eat for two (or more, if you’re expecting a multiple birth).
All you need for most of your pregnancy is 2000 calories a day, the exception being the final three months of your pregnancy (the third trimester) when you should have an extra 200 calories a day.
Starting each day with a healthy breakfast should help to reduce the temptation to snack on sugary, fatty foods. Have plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbs such as brown bread, dairy and protein foods such as fish and poultry.
Make sure you know which foods you can’t eat when pregnant – including unpasteurised milk and cream, non-British Lion mark eggs and some fish – by clicking the link below.
9. Keep exercising
The more active and fit you are in pregnancy, the better you’ll cope with labour and getting back into shape, post-birth.
Experts say you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity spread throughout the week, each activity lasting at least 10 minutes, and it should be a mixture of aerobic, and strength and stability, such as pregnancy yoga (which you can do in a class or even at home), jogging or running, or swimming.
10. Make time for self care
With so much going on with your growing baby, it can be easy to forget about yourself and your own needs.
Changing hormone levels can leave you tired and emotional, especially in the early months. Not only that but as your pregnancy progresses the extra weight you’re carrying can take its toll on your energy levels and your growing bump can mean sleeping well is harder.
You could book in a pregnancy massage to ease any aches and pains, as well as practice good sleep hygiene for a good night’s sleep. Enjoy your rest – you need it for now, for labour and for when the baby arrives.
Want a good night’s sleep? Find out what are the best mattresses for 2022.
11. Know your pregnancy benefits
Pregnant women or those who gave birth less than a year ago are entitled to free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment with the Government’s Maternity Exemption form (FW8).
Women receiving certain benefits and all pregnant women under 18 will also receive free milk, infant formula, vitamins and fruit and vegetables under the Healthy Start scheme.
They may also be entitled to a one-off £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant to help with the cost of their baby.
If you are working, you may have the right to paid time off for antenatal care.
12. Book pregnancy travel
If you’re jetting off for work or even a babymoon, check with the airline and your travel insurer for their policy on pregnant women flying.
After 28 weeks, you may need a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming when you’re due and that you aren’t at risk of complications.
The chances of going into labour are naturally higher from 37 weeks (32 weeks if you’re having twins or multiples) so flying isn’t recommended from this point onwards.
Ferry companies may also refuse to carry heavily pregnant women (often beyond 32 weeks) so check with the company before you book.
For more information, read our guide to flying during pregnancy
13. Research what to buy for your baby
Having a baby will propel you into a whole new world of products to buy, from car seats and pushchairs through to nappies, cot mattresses and baby monitors.
You might not want to purchase them until you’re further along in your pregnancy – or even after the birth – but it’s worth familiarising yourself with what’s out there.
14. Childproof your home
According to RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), children aged 0-4 are at most risk from accidents in the home.
Before your baby arrives, think about whether your home is baby-ready from a safety point of view.
For example, do you have a pond that needs covering or even filling in? Or is it time to think about buying a lockable first aid cabinet that can be put up high, away from curious little fingers?
Although it may strike you as something you can delay to a later date – for example, when your little one starts crawling – chances are you’ll have more time to do it now than when they’re on the move.
Read our guide to childproofing your home so that you don’t leave any safety consideration unchecked.
15. Plan your finances
In the calm before the storm when the baby arrives, it may be wise to review your finances and think about how your new addition might impact things.
Whether it’s budgeting, opening child savings accounts or Isas, working out how much childcare will cost or how to check your entitlement to tax credits and benefits.
With another person (or people) coming into your life, there’s plenty to think about.
But don’t worry – follow our how to budget for having a baby guide and it needn’t be as daunting as it sounds.