Thinking of Having a Baby?...
If you're planning on conceiving, congratulations on being so organised! This gives you time to optimise your diet and lifestyle habits prior to conception and help eliminate some of the worry new parents can have regarding their health in the early weeks of getting pregnant.
A first visit to your doctor or health care provider would be helpful in recommending an optimal diet and assist with information regarding fertility.
It has been suggested that consumption of alcohol and even caffeine during pregnancy, particularly the early stages, can contribute to miscarriage or problems with foetal development.
Dietary changes may mean increasing your consumption of dark, leafy greens for important iron intake. It is also widely known that a folic acid supplement helps prevent the risk of birth defects when taken prior to and after conception. Your doctor or midwife should be able to suggest the best brand and dosage. If you are interested in taking additional multivitamin supplements, again check first with your care provider and then go to your health food shop and ask for one prepared especially for pregnant women.If you have allergies to some ingredients, you can find a supplement without unnecessary additives and ingredients. It's important to remember that you should be able to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals you and baby require from a healthy diet,
so don't supplement to cheat as it is also believed by many that supplements are useless and are not properly absorbed by the body. A good diet is first and foremost in maintaining health.
It should go with out saying that if you smoke, you should quit now before conception and your partner should also. Smoking seriously affects the health of your baby before and after it's birth, so quit for life.
Choosing a Care Provider
An important part of your pregnancy and ultimately, your birth experience will be who you choose to provide your care.
Many women think they have no choice and have to use their family doctor, which is not the case. If you would prefer someone who specialises in pregnancy and childbirth, a midwife is probably your best option. Most midwives will attend hospital, birth centre or home births.
There are three types of midwives;
Community Midwives work for the NHS and within the hospitals and doctor's surgeries. Their care is free. You can choose to receive community midwife care combined with a doctor or solely with the midwife. Most practises will have several midwives working together and depending whose on call will depend on who delivers your baby. The Community midwife you see can be down to "luck of the draw", but very often there will be several in a practise and hopefully you can feel comfortable enough with one of them to talk about your feelings and wishes. You will generally meet all the midwives so you are familiar with them should your assigned midwife be unable to attend you.
Independent Midwives work in a private practise and charge a fee for their services. A lot of NHS midwives who have been unhappy with working within the confines of the medical system have left and formed their own independent practises. You will usually find a greater amount of freedom and support, especially if you do not wish for a managed or hospital birth.
Lay Midwives have varying levels of skill and experience, sometimes more than a certified midwife, but have not necessarily taken the exams to hold the Certified Nurse Midwife title.
They are often less expensive than a private practise but will still need to charge a fee. Again, they will offer considerable support and freedom for you to make informed
Doulas are labour support assistants. The do not normally offer pre-natal care or deliver babies, but are skilled and knowledgeable in providing support for the labouring mother. Many women find them invaluable as they provide a different role to that of the birth partner or husband. They have experience in the labouring process and are aware of the wishes of the mother and aim to have those wishes respected. They are becoming more popular in the US, and may be a little harder to find in the UK at the moment. They are independent and usually charge a small fee for their service.
Remember that if your are not happy with how you are being treated,
you have the right to choose another care provider. Pregnancy is not
an illness but a natural healthy state and you deserve the best care
you can find. For more information on making a choice or if you're not
happy with your current provider, visit this Link to UK Independent
Midwife Site. For help and assistance.
Whatever you choose, it is very important to get regular check-ups to chat and monitor your health. Many tests are offered these days to expectant mothers but they are not compulsory, so think it over and choose which ones you opt for.
Eating right during pregnancy is very important to you and your baby's health (as I'm sure your care provider as told you..!). I always found it a little difficult to eat all those leafy dark greens I was instructed to, even though I'm a vegetarian. I actually consider myself a "carbo-terian", I consume a lot of starchy bread and potatoes, which are great building blocks for baby. However, to prevent delivering a 12 lb baby, it's advisable to eat a varied diet of grains, pulses, fruit and veg. Here's a good page you can print out with nutritional advice from a lay midwife and here's another link to more dietary guidelines split into the trimesters.
What you really need to avoid is the so-called "empty calories". These are foods that offer high sugar and fat with virtually no nutritional content (yes, the comfort food..) It really is surprising how much weight can be gained by drinking fizzy drinks and eating crisps and biscuits every day. Limit "low-fat" options, they just pump more sugar into food to make it taste good, but it will soon turn into fat if you don't run a mini marathon every day.
The Bad Stuff
Avoiding smoking, caffeine and alcohol is widely known to reduce risk of miscarriage , low birth weight, fetal alcohol syndrome and other complications. If other members of your household smoke, make sure they don't around you. Once the baby is born, smoky atmospheres have been linked with numerous health problems and cot death.
Eliminating the foods with the following ingredients has been suggested also: monosodium glutamate, saccharrin, aspartame, artificial colours and flavours. This is due to their connections with potentially serious health problems.
For more information on these additives visit any of the following links:
Food Additive Reports Various reports on food additives, quite informative.
MSG Website also offers information on some other topics
As long as you're happy you're limiting your "empty calories" and your health is good, don't be too worried about gaining those necessary pounds. I always put on an average of 48lbs, have big babies and lose the weight eventually. All women are different and our bodies (and babies!) need what they need, not necessarily the standard 25-35 lb. A good massage with vitamin E-rich oils (such as wheatgerm) or cocoa butter will help to enhance your skin's natural elasticity as well as make you feel good. However, these things are mainly hereditary, so if your mum has stretch mark, chances are you'll get them too.
This a special time to enjoy your body. Soft, curvy and glowing, you should delight in those parts of you that are popping out! You are the embodiment of all things "woman". For some reason in this society (there are some cultures where big women are a great symbol of status and beauty), woman are made to feel that unless they have the figure of a pre-pubescent boy, they are not conventionally attractive. When we become pregnant and start to flesh out a little, it can be a little disconcerting. Your body may start to remind you of your mother's! Nipple darkening and enlarging, extra body hair (anywhere!), skin changes (pigmentation, acne, sweat) it can all happen. It usually all changes again postpartum, so it's easiest to try and remain positive and love your new body, changes and all. As for feeling attractive to your partner, I've always believed that if a man is attracted to skinny and/or shapeless women and repelled by curvacious, large (and pregnant!) women, they are either most likely gay or secretly harbour a hatred of women (see Psychology Year 1- "My Mum was an Evil Monster"). I know that may sound outrageous, but basically, women are supposed to be round and soft and have babies and be squishy. If that's not attractive to you as a man, how can you truly love women? So enjoy this time, get massages, get photos and don't sweat the stretch marks (they turn silver postpartum and are comparable with tattoos that represent your special journey to bring your child into the world).Also tamanu oil is great for strecth marks as well as many other things.
The 40 week pregnancy is divided in to three parts, 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters. These represent different phases of development for you and your baby.
First trimester - From conception to 12 weeks
The time of adjusting to the reality of what is happening! Your body will go through many changes, many unseen, but a few will definitely be noticed! Emotionally you may be all over the place, this is normal as you manufacture different levels of progesterone and oestrogen, so be kind to yourself and remind others to be as well. If you're pregnancy was planned, this could be a major time of adjustment as your whole life flashes before you and you may feel totally overwhelmed. It is akin I feel with being on a rollercoaster that doesn't seem to stop and you are not permitted to leave, in other words you have top cope with giving up a little bit of the controls to this amazing event happening inside you. When you come to terms with this, it gets a little smoother and a different set of options and choices are presented to you, this can help you regain some of the control. This is a time for getting your diet in check and making sure you will be in a safe and stable place come the birth. The first 8 weeks of a pregnancy is when the foetal brain and nervous system is developed and avoiding all vices is important. Many women miss this stage of pregnancy altogether, so if you are newly pregnant, you have a great advantage to optimise your health and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy.
Morning Sickness : can range from irritating nausea to violent vomiting. I only ever experienced the former and found the best relief came from eating dry toast or crackers (cream or water). I have recently discovered the theory that morning sickness is caused by fear. Your hormones are having a merry party too, which is commonly blamed for the sickness, but it gave me food for thought. If you have any thoughts or experience on this subject, we'd love to hear from you.
"Life before baby" becomes a distant memory......
Especially if you're expecting your first baby, your life as you know it ends. You hear people all the time that say this, because it's true. There really is no way to prepare for it either, just accept it and enjoy your new path as a parent. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I moved to the USA with my (American) husband. We lived with his parents on their farm in Kentucky. I didn't have much else to focus on besides the imminent event and spent my time reading. Book after book I read and read and read, I think some part of me subconsciously knew it might be a long time before I could enjoy a book in peace and quiet again. So my advice is to do that stuff that may be difficult to do after baby comes. Go out to eat, all the time. Read books. Take long baths. Keep a diary (really important when your memory starts to fail due to hormones or whatever causes memory loss in busy mothers). Know that it may be hard in the beginning, getting used to a new daily and nightly rhythm, but that it does get easier. So much pressure is placed on parents to "do the right thing" for their babies, the advice alone can be overwhelming. Make life easy for yourself and go with the flow. Your baby will be happier and more relaxed if you're not fretting over co-ordinated outfits and "developmental" toys etc. Reciting a special verse each morning or evening can help to relax and reassure when the baby is soon to come (and after). I read about a woman who when she showered every morning would repeat "I am not these responsibilities" and it helped her to remember the person she is and gain perspective on her day.
Second Trimester - 14 weeks to 26 weeks
This is usually the most enjoyable time of pregnancy. Development steadies a little and allows you to feel more comfortable within your body. Your libido may return if it went awol during the first trimester and so makes this a favourable time to enjoy your rounding body to it's fullest. If you experienced morning sickness, it should ease off and disappear now. Your baby's development is still rapid and you will start to feel it's activity with gentle kicks. Your baby has always been jumping around but as baby grows, you will now feel each other. Now is the time to assess your wardrobe and buy those comfortable but supportive nursing bras and maternity jeans!!! You do not want to wear a thong all the way through your pregnancy, so give in and buy some generously oversized knickers, I know that psychologically it is hard to buy anything bigger than you need it , but the sheer heaven of sliding on knickers that actually cover your belly is something to be experienced!
Third Trimester - 26 weeks to 40 weeks
This is a slowing down time as your baby starts to lay down it's fat stores and get down to "bulking up". An important time to watch your diet again to avoid piling on the calories. Eat well, but vary your diet to get the most nutritional benefit.
As the imminence of the birth approaches, you may find you have many urges and impulses to get things in order, but none less powerful than the "nesting instinct". This in particular has driven me desperate during more than one pregnancy, even when I saw it coming, I knew there was nothing I could do but surrender to it. I have painted my house many colours and felt an urgency to have "everything completed" by my due date. The crazy thing is and this is important to focus on if you are similarly afflicted is that once the baby arrives, it doesn't matter anymore! The unfinished spare bedroom can remain unfinished, the kitchen can stay half renovated and it will not matter!!!!! Not that there is much point in me saying this, because if you are in the middle of this "affliction" you will not want to hear that, least of all believe it!
If you are coping better than I did then feel good about that! Look forward to the arrival of your little one, a most exciting time.
Your Birth Plan
Wherever you choose to deliver or whoever provides you care it is a good idea to draw up a Birth Plan.
This is a guideline of the things you do and do not want to happen during your labour and birth.
It really is essential that you discuss your wishes with your caregiver during your pre-natal check ups.
It is generally safe to assume that if you are planning on a hospital birth, you will need to strictly outline your wishes. Present copies of your plan to the head midwife and registrar in advance, as hospital births are more regulated and you may not be the only labouring woman!
Wherever you give birth, make sure your birth assistant/partner is familiar with your choices also, as the time may come when you're not fully able to express yourself and they can make sure the plan is observed as closely as possible. Friends or family members usually send out baby shower invites and plan a day of celebration with a baby shower for the expecting mother.
Of course, things may occur that cause you to not be able to follow
the birth plan as you had wished. Use it as a guideline and don't be
hard on yourself if circumstances prevent it being followed perfectly.
The point of the Birth Plan is to have your wishes respected, presenting your care provider with a copy in advance will allow any conflicts of opinion to arise early enough to hopefully be dealt with!
Your Baby’s Health
In addition to eating well and staying away from common vices like smoking and drinking, there are other things you can do to ensure that your child lives a healthy life. A safe way for parents to secure a healthy future for their children is by considering the option of banking their children’s cord blood, providing them with a store of stem cells should they ever fall ill. With the rising rates of survival for premature births, it becomes increasingly important for parents to take all precautions in case their child is born with a blood disease or brain injury. Cord blood can be used to treat over 75 different blood diseases that are common in young children, and researchers are currently working on ways to use it to treat brain injuries and diseases.
A sample birth Plan might include:
No pain relief to be offered unless I request it.
I want to move freely around the room when in labour.
I want to be able to eat or drink if I choose to
The baby is to be delivered onto my tummy and left to nurse for as long as I choose.
The umbilical cord is not to be cut until it has stopped pulsating (unless tight around neck, etc)
My birth partner is allowed with me at all times
I do not want the injection to clot my blood after delivery
No vitamin K for the baby
I do not want an episiotomy
I want minimal foetal monitoring and examinations if all is progressing well.
If well, I want the baby to stay with me at all times.
I would like the lights dimmed after delivery.
This is just an idea