For any new mum-to-be - especially a first time mum - after the initial period of excitement on the news you're expecting, it can be really daunting knowing what steps you need to take to ensure you have the best pregnancy and birth.
There are so many considerations - am I eating the correct foods? Am I taking enough vitamins? The questions can be endless.
Ever evolving developments in antenatal research mean that advice on what's best for you and your baby is constantly changing - what may have been advised 20, 10 or even two years ago may no longer be applicable, so whilst it's important to follow advice - in particular that of your health care providers - there's also an element of instinct involved in knowing what's right for you and your baby.
We spoke to our resident GP @themedicmummy, Tara to advise on her top five tips for new mums-to-be.
Tara says ...
Congratulations – you’ve found out you're pregnant! It's normal to be feeling a whirlwind of emotions- shocked, excited, scared, it can all be overwhelming at the start of your journey of pregnancy and parenthood. Now that you’ve processed things you may be wondering, what’s next? Here are my top 5 pregnancy tips:
1. Speak to your doctor and midwife
Book an appointment to speak to your GP as soon as possible. At this initial appointment they will be able to discuss all things pregnancy, including healthy eating, foods to avoid, food hygiene, vitamin supplements, exercise, smoking cessation, implications of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and they will also answer any questions you may have.
The next step is to decide which hospital you want to be seen at, your GP can refer you to the local hospital or can give you advice on how to self-refer to a hospital of your choice.
You will receive regular antenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy from the maternity services. At these appointments you can expect to see a doctor or midwife who will check you and baby are in good health, monitor the pregnancy, arrange blood tests, screening tests, ultrasound scans and check your blood pressure and urine. These appointments are also great to discuss your birth plan, answer any questions you may have about labour and discuss all your options for giving birth.
In the current pandemic, you will still have regular appointments and scans, but there may be some changes. The midwife appointments may be by phone or video call and you may be asked to attend your scans and appointments alone. You can ask your maternity team for more information on this.
2. Take vitamin supplements
You can find lots of information on vitamin supplementation during pregnancy on the NHS start4life website HERE
Folic acid supplements are usually advised before conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Speak to your GP or midwife to check what dose to take, as some women are advised to take a higher dose based on their risk. It is also good to include foods containing folate in your diet, such as spinach, broccoli, and other leafy green vegetables.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding it is also usually advised to take vitamin D supplements throughout for bone, teeth and muscle health.
3. Practice self care
It is so important to focus on self-care and to look after yourself during pregnancy! There will be many ups and downs emotionally, but there are lots of things you can do to make sure you are looking after your physical and mental health. Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Going for regular walks
- Attending antenatal classes (even if it is just to meet and get support from other mums to be)
- Spending quality time with family and friends
- Getting lots of rest and sleep before baby comes
Try to find some time in the day for yourself, even if it is just for 10 minutes- you deserve it! Spend this time doing some breathing exercises, reading before bed or listening to some relaxing music. Mindfulness can also help relax your mind, it can be difficult to start with but there are lots of apps available to help you.
4. Undertake regular exercise
As long as there are no contraindications, it is good to keep active during pregnancy. Of course it is important to speak to your doctor or maternity team about your individual circumstances and it is generally advised to avoid high impact activities and contact sports. The NHS website states
‘As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously.'
If you are just starting out, start gently and build up gradually, if you are used to doing regular exercise continue for as long as you feel comfortable and make sure you listen to your body. If you are attending exercise classes let the instructor know that you are pregnant. You can find more information on exercise tips for pregnancy as well as sports and exercises to avoid HERE
I personally enjoyed swimming and prenatal yoga classes which helped me relax after a busy week; it was also a great opportunity to meet new mums and helped with my pregnancy back pains.
5. Follow a healthy and balanced diet
Your diet during pregnancy may become a bit erratic due to cravings and feeling constantly hungry! However, it is important to have a healthy and balanced diet with regular meals. It is important to include fruits and vegetables along with a combination of carbohydrates, protein and dairy and try to reduce foods high in fat and sugar. It is common to want to snack throughout the day so make sure you pack healthy snacks if you’re on the go. The Eatwell Guide from the NHS is a helpful visual guide on how much you should eat from each food group to maintain a healthy balanced diet. View the Eatwell Guide HERE
There are certain foods to avoid in pregnancy, such as raw, undercooked meats, unpasteurised milk, and mould ripened soft cheese, for example.
Refer to the NHS websites for the full list of foods to avoid HERE and advice on safe food preparation HERE
All images by @themedicmummy
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