HiPP's A-Z of pregnancy & child health

The A-Z contains information on many aspects of pregnancy 
and child health. It is arranged alphabetically so you can find what you are looking for with ease. If you are at all concerned about your health or your child’s health, please consult your health professional.


Also known as Slapped Cheek Disease or Fifth Disease, this is an infectious disease that mainly affects children and causes a rash that starts on the cheeks - hence the name. Speak to your doctor if you come into contact with slapped cheek disease and you are pregnant, since this infection can be harmful to the baby (if you are infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, there is a 15% increased risk of miscarriage). Immunity can be checked with a blood test (around 60% of women are immune) - although most babies of pregnant women infected with slapped cheek disease are not affected.

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Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles give you control over your bladder and bowels. They can become weak as the result of stresses of pregnancy where the muscles have been stretched in pregnancy and during vaginal delivery, which may cause problems. Pelvic floor exercises can help to protect you from incontinence during and after your pregnancy and later on in life. You may be shown these exercises in antenatal classes - if not ask your midwife about them.

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Pessaries - Prostaglandin

Often used when inducing labour, a prostaglandin pessary inserted high in the vagina encourages the cervix to 'ripen' i.e. soften and open.

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Phenylketonuria (PKU)

This is a rare inherited disorder in which the body is unable to deal with a nutrient called phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is an amino acid and is found in most protein foods. It must be excluded from the diet - otherwise it accumulates in the body, resulting in epilepsy and severe learning difficulties. All newborn babies are screened for PKU using the heel prick test.

For more advice, support and information visit the National Society for Phenylketonuria (NSPKU):

Screening means that babies with the condition can be treated early - through a special diet - which will prevent severe disability and allow them to lead normal lives.

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The term applied to cravings in pregnancy (and also childhood) to eat non-food substances such as earth. In some cases this can be a symptom of iron-deficiency anaemia.

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The placenta, in the womb, connects the blood system of a pregnant woman to her developing baby - and supplies the baby with food, oxygen and antibodies. After the baby has been born, the placenta will be delivered and is known as the afterbirth. An injection -syntocinon - is often offered at the end of labour to speed up the passing of the placenta and to help prevent heavy bleeding.

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Placenta Praevia

Early scans may show that the placenta is attached rather too low in the womb and may obstruct the neck of the womb. As the womb grows and the baby develops, however, the placenta is usually carried upwards and, by 20 weeks of pregnancy, is generally in a position where it will cause no problems.

In some women, however (around 1 in 10 of those who have a low-lying placenta in early pregnancy) it remains too low. This is the condition known as placenta praevia. A low-lying placenta after 20 weeks can cause vaginal bleeding and may also prevent the baby from getting into the normal ?head first? position ready for birth. A caesarean section will often be necessary.

If placenta praevia is suspected or diagnosed, you are likely to be given additional ultrasound scan/s to monitor progress. You will also need to observe for vaginal bleeding.

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Placental Abruption

Placental abruption is a rare condition whereby the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before the baby is born. The condition can deprive your baby of oxygen and nutrients and cause severe bleeding that can be dangerous to mother and baby. If you experience bleeding at any time during pregnancy contact your doctor immediately.

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A child can swallow, inhale, or absorb poison through the skin. Once in the body, the poison may enter the bloodstream and be carried quickly to all organs and tissues. The treatment that your child will need depends on the type of poison involved.

Corrosive poisonous substances, e.g. bleach, dishwasher powder, petrol:
If the substance is on the skin, wash it away with water. If your child has swallowed something corrosive, get them to rinse out their mouth, and then give frequent sips of milk or water. Dial 999 for an ambulance - and give information about the poison.

Non-corrosive poisonous substances, e.g. medicines, tablets, alcohol, poisonous plants:

Dial 999 for an ambulance. Give as much information about the poison as possible.

Never make the child vomit. It is helpful if you can:

  • Try to find out how much has been taken
  • Take any relevant medicine bottles/tablet containers etc to show the medics
  • Try to find out how long ago the poison was taken
  • If the child is sick, keep samples of the vomit for analysis

Prevention of poisoning

  • Keep all alcohol and medicines locked away
  • Keep medicines in their child resistant containers
  • Household chemicals e.g. cleaning products, bleach, etc should be kept in a safe place or locked away
  • Teach children not to eat plants/berries/fungi

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Poisonous Plants

The list of poisonous plants commonly found in our houses and gardens is surprisingly long. Babies and children playing in the garden should be closely supervised until they are old enough to learn that they must not touch or eat the plants. Some of the most well-known poisonous plants include:

  • Digitalis (foxgloves)
  • Laburnum
  • Yew berries
  • Deadly nightshade
  • Mushrooms
  • Privet
  • Rhubarb leaves
  •  Sweet pea seeds
  • Poppies

In the house, make sure that all plants are well out of reach.

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Positional Plagiocephaly (flattened head syndrome)

Babies? skulls are made up of several ?plates? of bone that are not yet tightly joined together (the skull gradually fuses together as they get older).

Spending long periods in one position (e.g. on their backs when sleeping) can result in a flattened appearance of part of the head (e.g. the back of the head) and this is known as ?positional plagiocephaly?. Mild flattening is very common. It is estimated that about half of babies under 12 months are affected.

The condition is a cosmetic one and does not cause any medical or developmental problems. Once the baby is old enough to change position (e.g. when sleeping) and the constant pressure is reduced, the condition usually gradually resolves itself or improves. There are corrective means that can be used i.e. a helmet, but this is not usually offered under the NHS.

You can help the natural improvement to baby?s head shape by giving plenty of play time on his or her tummy - and also sitting them up to watch the world!

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Postnatal Depression

It is quite usual to experience ?baby blues? three or four days after the birth of your baby. You may feel tearful and experience emotional highs and lows. This is not the same as postnatal depression, which is more serious.

Estimates vary, but it is believed that up to a quarter or more women suffer from some degree of postnatal depression. It may start soon after the birth or take weeks or months to develop. Most new mums go through bad patches, but postnatal depression is a constant problem. It may gradually improve, but may also require medication or counselling.

If you feel you may be suffering from this condition, don?t hesitate to talk to your health visitor or doctor. It can also be very helpful to meet up with other mums and compare notes.

Also try contacting:

  • The Association for Postnatal Illness (APNI): Helpline: 020 7386 8885

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This is a dangerous condition that can develop in the second half of pregnancy. Early symptoms include high blood pressure, oedema (swelling) of the legs, ankles and fingers, and protein in the urine.

Pre-eclampsia is dangerous for both the pregnant woman and her baby. Sufferers may be given drugs to lower blood pressure and told to rest - and will be closely monitored to make sure the condition doesn?t worsen. In late pregnancy induction of labour, or a caesarean section, may be necessary. After the birth, blood pressure should return to normal again.

Pre-eclampsia danger signs - seek immediate advice from a health professional if you have any of the following:

  • Severe headache
  • Problems with vision, such as blurring or flashing before the eyes
  • Severe pain just below the ribs
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden swelling of the face, hands or feet

For more information, advice and support on this condition visit Action on Pre-eclampsia or visit Tommy?s The Baby

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Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates (oligosaccharides) and a source of dietary fibre. These special nutrients improve health by stimulating the growth of ?friendly? gut bacteria. Prebiotics are found in wholegrains, bananas, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, chicory. There are many prebiotic and probiotic supplements available in the market; consult with your healthcare professional whether to take any in pregnancy. The prebiotic fibres are naturally found in breastmilk in large quantities and are also added to baby milks. They absorb water and this has the effect of making stools softer and easier to pass. PRÆBIOTIK® is our registered trademark which indicates that our products contain a special mix of prebiotics, derived from the lactose in milk. Probiotics are the ?friendly? bacteria which naturally exist in our gut and thrive on prebiotic fibres we ingest. They fight potentially harmful (pathogenic) bacteria in our digestive system. Probiotics are traditionally found in yogurt-based foods. What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotics Probiotics Found in breastmilk Found in breastmilk Food for the friendly bacteria in the gut They are the friendly bacteria in the gut which thrive on prebiotic fibres

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Pregnancy Book

This is a useful and informative book published by the Department of Health that is given out to women during their first pregnancy.

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Premature Birth

A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is technically premature.

If you would like more information visit Tommy?s The Baby Charity:

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These are free whilst you are pregnant and for 12 months after you have given birth. Your child also qualifies for free prescriptions until the age of 16.

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