One of the most joyous moments of any parent’s life is welcoming that amazing little miracle into the world.
I am now 60 with grown up children of 32 and 28, one of whom, has recently become a father himself giving me a new role as Grandee in the process! But even now, all those years on, I can still remember the moment of pure unadulterated bliss as I nursed my new born baby, and realised my life had changed for ever.
Times change and with it advice – everyone from health visitors and midwives to pregnancy forum subscribers and influencers have a slightly different view on how to chart a successful course through the 40 weeks ahead and beyond! It can be daunting wading through all the do’s and don’ts out there, so with the help of my daughter-in-law Sally, now five and a half months into motherhood, we have put together some pregnancy tips which she found useful.
Make an appointment with your GP or health centre as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed and make sure you don’t miss any of the antenatal appointments which are a vital check on the health of you and your baby. The first trimester is from 2 to 13 weeks, the second from 14 to 27 and the third 28 to 40 and some of the test and measurements that can find potential problems have to be done at specific times within those periods.
Avoid alcohol and smoking and adopt a healthy diet which will help your baby develop and grow. You don’t need to go on a special diet but it’s important to eat a variety of different foods to get the right balance of nutrients. It’s best to get the right vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat but when you are pregnant you do need to take a folic acid supplement as well to reduce the risk of spina bifida. The Department of Health and Social care recommend that mums-to-be take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day, from before you’re pregnant until the 12th week of pregnancy to reduce the risk of problems in the baby’s development in those early weeks of pregnancy. They also advise you to consider taking a Vitamin D supplement but not to take Vitamin A or supplements containing Vitamin A (retinol) as too much can harm a baby, so always check the labels.
One common misconception is that you don’t need to eat for two during pregnancy – no extra calories are needed for the first 6 months of pregnancy, so no excuses !, but in the last three months, the recommendation is to increase by another 200 calories a day. It is really important to stay hydrated as the amount of water in the body increases to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The suggested daily fluid intake is eight glasses of water, fruit teas, skimmed milk or fresh fruit juices.
Exercise is important but doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial and the more active you are during the pregnancy the easier it will be to cope with labour and get back into shape after the baby is born. The advice is to keep up your normal daily physical activity whatever it may be – sport, running, yoga, dancing, walking – Sally continued riding her bike on her daily commute into work in the centre of London until the end of her second trimester. As the centre of gravity changes cycling with a bump in the third trimester can be tricky with a risk of falling and possible injury to mum and baby. Sally also continued with her personal training and daily exercise for a long as she felt comfortable which seems to be the best possible advice - moderate exercise is not dangerous for your baby but it is also important not to exhaust yourself, so the body should dictate.
ON EXERCISE Sally Says...
- Warm up and cool down before exercising.
- Avoid strenuous exercise especially in hot weather and keep drinking plenty of fluids before, after and during.
- Make sure the class instructor is fully qualified and knows how many weeks pregnant you are.
- Swimming is always a great activity when pregnant as the water supports your increased weight and some pools even provide aqua natal classes – just check with your local authority.
- Don’t forget the pelvic floor exercises – they can be done anytime, anywhere and no-one will even know you’re doing them! Eight pelvic floor squeezes three times a day – one tip you will not regret.
It’s all about balance though so try also to get as much rest as possible – make time to sit with your feet up during the day and accept offers of help. It is common to feel tired during pregnancy especially the first 12 weeks and hormonal changes can make you feel nauseous, tired and emotional. Look after your mental well-being as well as your physical health – talk to your doctor or midwife if you are feeling vulnerable, anxious or depressed – there is help and support out there for you.
Later in pregnancy you may feel tired because of the extra weight you’re carrying and also as the bump gets bigger, it is more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Try and support your bump with pillows and put a pillow between your knees which often helps.
A normal pregnancy is uncomfortable but it is not an illness – and don’t forget there’s another benefit – with a baby on board everyone wants to help you – from carrying your shopping to giving up their seat on the tube or the bus – an offer you don’t get when you’re a grandmother !!!