To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance his Department issues to general practitioners on best practice on how to advise newly pregnant women on health and dietary matters; (2) what advice is available from his Department to assist women in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. 
In the early weeks of pregnancy, advice and information are available to women from a range of health professionals, including midwives and general practitioners. It is important for women to book for antenatal care as soon as they think they might be pregnant. The report "Changing Childbirth", published in 1993, sets out the principles of woman-centred maternity care and emphasises the critical importance of good communication skills in enabling health professionals to present clear and unbiased information to women that allows them to make informed choices and take an active part in decisions about their care. Local maternity units have also been encouraged, as part of the implementation process of "Changing Childbirth", to produce their own information for women.An important and comprehensive source of information to women and health professionals on health and dietary needs during pregnancy is contained in the Health Education Authority's pregnancy book, given free to all first-time mothers. A Department of Health leaflet, "While You Are Pregnant," provides guidance on safe eating and how to avoid infection from food and animals. The Department has also commissioned the HEA to undertake a programme of education about the importance of an increased intake of folic acid in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. To achieve its full effect this needs to be increased before conception and in the very early stages of pregnancy.