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The first trimester of pregnancy is a hopeful, joyous time the time when you first find out that you are expecting! It's also a dangerous time, as by far the bigger number of miscarriages takes place within the first 12 weeks.

Most miscarriage are actually the result of deviations within the fetus that are not compatible with life. As many as one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, and even more if you count the miscarriages that happened before the woman's period was due.

Miscarriage is a very common event, in other words. The vast majority of women who suffers a miscarriage will be able to say with near certainty that the miscarriage was not due to something she did (or did not do). Miscarriages in individual women are not usually researched to the extent that a cause can be clearly identified, so the reasons for a miscarriage may remain unknown.

We do know that some miscarriages are due to chromosomal disorders in. the fetus, while infections, injuries and anatomical abnormalities are responsible for other miscarriages. Certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes, can also lead to miscarriage. Despite the fact that miscarriages are usually not preventable, we still have to acknowledge that certain dangerous behaviors or choices that can indeed place a pregnancy at risk.

How can you give your baby the best possible start during the first trimester, and what can you do to reduce your risk of miscarrying to a minimum?

The first thing you can do to protect your baby is plan your pregnancy well. This is of no use to women who get pregnant by surprise, and they definitely don't need to feel guilty for experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. But those women who do plan their pregnancy should always take proactive steps that will set the body up for a healthy pregnancy. These steps include eating well a nutritious, balanced diet that includes foods from all major food groups.

Folic acid is one nutrient that you may not get enough of just from diet alone. It is also the one nutrient that has repeatedly been proven to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bidifa. Furthermore, low folic acid levels have been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage. So, start taking a folic acid supplement at least three months before you start trying to conceive,n because folic acid needs time to build up within the body. You'll need 400 mg or more a day. It's also a good idea to get tested for nutritional deficiencies, either while still trying to conceive or within your first trimester.

The earlier you know you have a nutritional deficiency, the earlier you can do something about it. Nutritional deficiencies can make a large impact on your baby, and of course your own health. Now, we've got to mention alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. There is no evidence that any of these are safe during pregnancy in even minute quantities, and plenty of evidence to suggest all are dangerous though the exact dangers depend on your specific addiction, of course.

Because there is no amount of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes that has been proven to be safe during pregnancy (no, not even that dinner-time glass of red wine), it is undoubtedly safest to stay away from these things altogether. By the way, second-hand smoke is dangerous too.

What else isn't safe during pregnancy?

Well, coffee and other products containing caffeine should be limited to a cup or two a day, but you can also just say no. You should also avoid gardening, in case you come into contact with toxoplasmosis. If you have a cat, stay away from their litter tray or use gloves instead. The flu can pose a danger to a pregnancy in its earliest stages, but so can too much paracetamol.

High impact sports or activities that are always dangerous should also be avoided. For example, if you love your motorcycle you may want to consider it while it's sitting in your garage instead :), and bungee jumping is just not a good idea.

Parachuting, white water rafting, paint ball, visiting dangerous parts of the world... just leave that for later or skip it full stop, since you will have a kid to look after later.

Oh yes, you want to check if you need any booster vaccines. Most are safe for pregnant women and can help prevent dangerous diseases that can impact your baby. And finally, stay away from domestic violence. Abusive male partners are at their most dangerous when their partner is pregnant. If you have an abusive partner, now is definitely the time to get out but do so safely, so he can't find you.

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