The choices you make during pregnancy should aim to balance the risks and benefits that any product or activity may pose to your pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, it is a good idea to stick to some of the following rules, starting at least three months before conception.

Dyeing your hair: leave it for later

Hair dyes contain harsh chemicals that are absorbed by the scalp and may be passed on to your child. If you cannot do without colouring your hair, do it in the second trimester of your pregnancy.

Sunbathing and solariums: better to stay cool

To reduce any risks, experts advise against sunbathing for long periods and going to solariums. It is believed that UV rays break down folic acid, an important substance for the development of your baby. If you get too much sun you might get dehydrated or overheated, and due to hormonal changes your skin may react to the UV rays with unsightly spots.

Smoking: active and passive smoking can be extremely damaging

Tobacco products contain substances that harm your baby’s development. They impact the blood supply to the placenta, which can reduce the supply of oxygen and important nutrients to your baby, while also exposing it to toxic substances. This can result in slower development, hyperactivity and an increased risk of allergy. Furthermore, it dramatically increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Alcohol: not a good idea

Try to avoid alcohol completely. Your baby will ingest the alcohol directly via the placenta. This can cause malformations and mental abnormalities, and may lead to learning disabilities and attention disorders later in life.

Coffee, cola, tea: try to reduce

Fighting your pregnancy fatigue with lots of coffee is not a good idea. Caffeine can harm your baby because it interferes with the absorption of calcium, iron and vitamin C, and is associated with a low birth weight. Two to three cups (approximately 300mg caffeine per day) are OK, but not more. Remember that cola, black tea and green tea also contain caffeine.

Exercise: keep active but do not overdo it

Brisk walking, swimming, aquanatal classes and cycling on a stationary exercise bike are good and safe forms of exercise, as long as you do not overdo it. Pregnancy yoga and Pilates are good for strengthening and toning, though you should find a registered, qualified teacher who is experienced in teaching pregnant women. A combination of aerobic exercise (swimming, walking) and strengthening / conditioning exercise (yoga, Pilates) is ideal.

If you are trying to get pregnant, it is a good idea to practise some of these safe and healthy habits starting at least three months before conception. Since every woman’s situation is different, seek advice from your obstetrician or midwife regarding specific questions.