Maternity and early years

Maternal health before, during and after pregnancy, and the first few years of a child’s life are a critical period for a child’s longer term health and wellbeing. Social, economic, psychological and environmental factors during the early years all contribute to the development, behaviour, health and wellbeing of the individual.   

Ensuring access to high-quality services, good housing, affordable healthy food, health information and social support can improve life chances for parents and children.

Work we are doing locally to tackle this issue 

Public health Tower Hamlets work to improve maternal health by working closely with partners to improve access to services and increase awareness of the importance of health during pregnancy.

Some of the work we support includes:

  • antenatal education classes, breastfeeding support services and expectant fathers' programmes
  • improving the uptake of Healthy Start vitamins and developing guidance on vitamin D intake
  • providing pregnancy stop smoking training for frontline staff
  • supporting  vulnerable women during pregnancy and during the early years of the child’s life
  • improving access to home births or midwife-led birthing centres
  • screening for fetal anomalies, sickle cell and thalassaemia, and infectious diseases
  • helping pre-school and daycare settings achieve Early Years accreditation by meeting the agreed criteria for healthy food, physical activity and supporting children’s emotional wellbeing.

Healthy Start

On average, only 10 per cent of the daily requirement of vitamin D comes from food sources. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight (UVB) but a lack of exposure, particularly during the winter months, can lead to low levels of vitamin D in the body.  

Healthy Start vitamins for women contain folic acid and vitamins C and D. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy take a supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid a day until the 12th week of pregnancy and continue to take vitamin D throughout their pregnancy. The children’s Healthy Start vitamins contain vitamins A, C and D.


Healthy Start
Tower Hamlets provides healthy start vitamins for all pregnant women, new mums up to one year post natal and children until their fourth birthday through midwives and health visitors, some children’s centres and pharmacists.
Call Rita Virmani for advice about the scheme and resources on 020 8121 4373 or email or call Sumaira Tayyab on 020 7364 7380.

The Family Nurse Partnership (FNP)
An early intervention programme for young, first-time parents under the age of 20, and provides support during pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life. Call 020 8223 8601 or visit Family Nurse Partnership Network

Healthy Start Vouchers - market scheme:

Healthy Start food vouchers can now be used at some market stalls in Chrisp Street Market E14.  Two participating fruit and vegetable stalls will accept the vouchers in exchange for quality, fresh produce. Please visit the Healthy Start voucher market scheme webpage to read more.

We are planning to get more market stalls across Tower Hamlets to accept the food vouchers so that more people will be able to exchange them for quality fresh produce.

Doula project (Maternity Mates)
A project run by Women’s Health and Family Services that recruits and train women locally to provide emotional and practical support during pregnancy, childbirth and the early weeks of family life. Particular attention for women who are isolated and vulnerable. Email or visit Women's Health & Family Services.

Antenatal parenting education classes
A team of midwives, health visitors, bi-lingual breastfeeding support workers that provides pregnant women with consistent information. Call the Parent’s Education Team on 020 7377 7402.

Expectant Fathers Programme (EFP)
Provides new fathers with the confidence, practical skills and information to better support their partners and babies. Visit their website for more information.

Perinatal mental health service
Provided by East London Foundation Trust, this service offers pregnancy and post natal support to women who have pre-existing or newly onset mental illnesses. Call 020 8121 5425.

The Gateway Midwifery Team
Intensive, specialist care provided for high-risk women during pregnancy. By appointment at various Children’s Centres in Tower Hamlets. To book an appointment call 020 3594 2547.

The Seacole Clinic
Antenatal care to pregnant women who are concerned about their substance use. Services are available to women and their partners up to six months after giving birth. Midwifery services only available to mothers up to six weeks after the birth. Self or GP referrals welcome. Call 020 7377 7000 ext 3910.

Advocacy Link
Language support in antenatal classes to expectant mothers who have difficulties reading or speaking English. Languages spoken include Bengali, Sylheti, Somali, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Swahili, Turkish and Vietnamese. Freephone 0800 0556 359.

Sure Start children’s centres
Provide a range of antenatal and under-5s services to all families. You can find more information on our Children's Centre page.

Fun, active play and healthy eating courses and resource packs for children aged 0 to 4 years and their parents. Visit the Toyhouse website, call 020 7987 7399 or or email

Useful external links