From morning sickness to nausea, stretch marks to sleepless nights, pregnancy isn’t without its obstacles and challenges along the way. But aside from the roller coaster of emotions you’ll be coping with, along with the overwhelming excitement, there are some surprising health perks that may have got overlooked. How many of these do you know about?
- Three free vaccines
During pregnancy, women are entitled to free vaccines protecting against COVID-19, seasonal flu and whooping cough – three diseases that can be unpredictable, unpleasant and even harmful to your unborn baby.
The NHS says that ‘you’re at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if you’re pregnant’. It can also cause your baby to be born prematurely or have a lower birth weight. The same goes for catching flu while you’re pregnant, with the NHS even saying it could ‘lead to stillbirth or death.’ Whooping cough cases have risen in recent years and can be life-threatening to newborn babies, without the protection the vaccine gives them.
Yet vaccine uptake is currently lower than it should be, with NHS trusts urging more pregnant women to have theirs when offered, to protect them and their baby.
‘These vaccines are perfectly safe during pregnancy and offer protection to pregnant women whose immune system is lower when they’re expecting. They won’t pass flu, whooping cough or COVID-19 onto your unborn baby either. In fact, the whooping cough vaccine actually passes them antibodies for protection once they’re born, until they have their own vaccinations at 8 weeks,’ says ZoomDoc Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenny Livingstone.
‘And with COVID still very much around, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risk. It’s much safer to be vaccinated against it than take a risk of getting it and ending up with complications, or worse, being hospitalised,’ he adds.
The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine should be given between 16-32 weeks ideally but can be given anytime. The COVID-19 and flu vaccines are safe to have anytime during your pregnancy. If you haven’t already had yours, book your vaccines ASAP via your GP or midwife.
- No-fee dentist appointments
Hormonal changes in pregnancy can create dental problems like swollen and bleeding gums so it’s important to keep an eye on your teeth as your bump grows.
During pregnancy, you’re entitled to see an NHS dentist for free until your baby is born and turns one. Within this period, you’ll pay nothing for appointments or treatment required.
All you need is a Maternity Exemption Certificate (MatEx), which is available via your FW8 form from your midwife and then you’re all set. So if you’re due a check-up or are concerned about bleeding gums, book a dentist appointment for peace of mind, without worrying about the cost.
- Prescriptions without paying
The same goes for prescriptions … during pregnancy and up until your baby turns one, you won’t have to pay a penny for your prescriptions (currently £9.35 per item). And of course your baby won’t pay for his or her prescriptions until the age of 16.
You’ll need your MatEx certificate for proof, available from your midwife. Your doctor or midwife will only prescribe medicines that are considered safe for you and your unborn baby, or where the benefit outweighs the risk.
Always make sure your doctor knows you’re pregnant before they prescribe you something and if you are pregnant, don’t stop taking prescribed medication without checking with a doctor or midwife first.
- ‘Fit to fly’ – without the hassle
If you fancy squeezing in a holiday before the baby arrives but are worried you’ve left it too late, you can actually fly quite far into your third trimester.
The NHS says:
‘Flying isn’t harmful to you or your baby, but discuss any health issues or pregnancy complications with your midwife or doctor before you fly.’
Most airlines will let you fly up to the 36-week mark, 32-weeks if you’re expecting twins or more. Just remember to arm yourself with a pregnancy ‘fit to fly’ letter before you go – as some airlines will require these once you’re 28-weeks pregnant.
Top tip: Save yourself another trip to the doctor’s and get your pregnancy ‘fit to fly’ letter online via ZoomDoc here. Available the same day it will save you time and energy. Plus, it costs the same as you’d pay via the NHS anyway!