With so much information (and so many myths) floating around about pregnancy, sometimes it's easier to break things down into a simple list to help you feel prepared for the journey to motherhood.
Dr Thomas Chong, Gold Coast based obstetrician counsels his antenatal patients with the following 5 easy to remember "E's of expecting" during their visits- and today we are sharing those with you. If you're pregnant, or planning a pregnancy - here are some golden rules:
1- Eating healthily
Good nutrition is first and foremost, and there's some simple rules. Only eat food that is well cooked, fresh and nutritious and limit the greasy, sugary stuff.
If you're known to have a junk food weakness, pregnancy is the time to push yourself to eat better than normal - to help your growing baby to have an optimal chance at development.
This online guide (NSW GOV document) is a fantastic reading point when it comes to food safety during pregnancy: http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/consumer_pdf/pregnancy-brochure.pdf
Remember pregnancy certainly isn't the time for dieting, but it is a time to ensure that your weight gain isn't outside normal limits. Don't be tempted by the term "Eating for 2" - over gorging and putting on an unhealthy amount of weight can lead to health hiccups along the way, and more difficulty returning to a healthy weight post- birth. You don't need to eat a lot more than you normally would- you just need to keep eating a good balance of healthy foods in normal portions.
Iron is also important, as many women experience low iron during pregnancy. Check out these foods that can help keep your iron levels up:
You may even need to take a supplement such as fefol under your GP or pharmacists advice, if your iron becomes low.
Here is another great healthy eating guide that has some good guidelines for iron intake too:
Lastly- a pregnancy multivitamin is a no-brainer. There are a heap of choices out there- and anything with folic acid, which is especially important in the first 12 weeks, will be well worth taking.
2- Exercise regularly and safely
Exercise can and should still be a part of your lifestyle when expecting. Some adjustments may need to be made to lower the impact, or risk of injury if you're usually quite adventurous with fitness, but in general- exercise in pregnancy can continue for as long as you feel comfortable, in fact women to maintain safe exercise in pregnancy are more likely to experience an easier labour.
So how do you know what kind of adjustment to make to your workout? Well, consider the "Talk test"...
The ‘talk test’ can be used to guide the intensity in which pregnant women are recommended to exercise. As the name suggests, the woman is exercising at a comfortable intensity if she is able to maintain a conversation during exercise. She should reduce the exercise intensity if this is not possible. (source: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/pregnancy_and_exercise)
A lot of navigating through pregnancy is common sense, if you experience any of the following: Stop immediately and consult your doctor.
Pregnancy yoga, Pilates and aqua aerobics are fantastic pregnancy exercises to try - not only are they are suitable to your changing body - but they are fun and a great way to meet other expecting mums.
3- Expecting labour and birth with confidence
Don't let yourself be left in the dark when it comes to labour expectations. A good obstetrician will have you feeling well informed and prepared for birth by your last trimester. You shouldn't find yourself leaving your appointments and still needing to 'google' answers. (Ok - moment of truth- there's no doubt that us mums- to- be do love to do our fair share of googling, and that's fine- we recommend it in moderation- but your doctor or midwife should be your first source of information, to help you feel prepared with the facts)
So what do you need to know about labour? Well, it's a topic that could take up a whole blog entry in itself. But a few basics worth considering to help you prepare:
* Comfort in labour - Yes, you can aim to maximise your comfort in labour by preparing now.
Here's a link to a PDF that we found and love
* Pain relief options - Never say never. Labour has many variables, sometimes accepting pain relief can be the deciding factor in how your baby is delivered, and how you remember your experience.
Prepare yourself by investigating drug -free options such as tens machine hire, water techniques and massage - plus mental strategies ( http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10186 )
Also, even if you think you want to avoid drug-based pain relief, it's worth brushing up on the methods available and how they are administered, so that you feel comfortably informed- just incase your labour takes an unexpected turn.
Alternatively, if you're the one who's been asking for the epidural since 36 weeks - some natural pain relief knowledge and planning could arm you with the power to conquer a drug free labour that you might not have thought was possible.
4- Expressing breast milk and breastfeeding with confidence
It can be hard to imagine how to succeed at something totally new, such as breastfeeding, until you get to put it into physical practice but reading up on breastfeeding and preparing now can really help kick things into gear when baby arrives.
" Many studies have shown that hands-on preparation for postnatal parenting, especially for breastfeeding and understanding normal newborn behaviour, can provide a solid foundation for the establishment of breastfeeding. Learning about breastfeeding before baby is born (when you have more time to take in the information and seek answers to your questions) can be the first step to helping you to reach your breastfeeding goals. "
Talk to other women about what they found easy or hard, which breast pumps they found best, attend pre-natal classes and know that there is help if you need it. A lactation consultant, a midwife, GP or your obstetrician can help if it's not going to plan.
Understanding how the baby should attach to the breast and feed frequency are two important factors for the first days.
It's also worth doing some early research on how to express milk to increase your supply or for the convenience of having a midnight feed on-hand (for dad of course) plus the rules for storage and 'shelf life' of breast milk.
Spend a bit of time on the Breast Feeding Association website- it will be your breast feeding bestie.
5- Emotional expectations and adjusting to motherhood
Perhaps the most important point so far is to prepare yourself emotionally. After all you're adding a person, a real live human, a precious, noisy, needy little baby and therefore a HUGE responsibility to your life.
It's not always easy. There are some amazing moments and there are some sleep deprived, why-won't-you-stop-crying-I've-done-everything-they-said-to-do moments, and we all have them. Knowing when to seek help if you think you've gone beyond 'just a bit flat because I'm tired'- to 'something's not right here' is one of the best pieces of advice we can give.
Be prepared to recognise signs of your mood being too low for too long, and ask for help- do not be ashamed, may I remind you that your life (and hormones) have just done a 360 ?
If you are (or know of) someone who is finding the new motherhood journey a bit tougher than expected - ask for help. Tell someone at home, see your GP & have a look at PANDA 's website where you will find a huge amount of self help information and a confidential help hotline if you need a little help taking the first step.
Oh, and don't forget the new dad. New fathers can get overwhelmed too, and raisingchildren.net.au is a goldmine of information and reassurance for new all parents: Here is a good article to read in bed tonight: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/grownups_being_a_parent_nutshell.html
Everyones emotional adjustment phase is different- and we all need varying levels of support. There are so many amazing moments to come when your new baby arrives, and this is really something to be excited about. There's something about having your very own squishy delicious baby that will make your heart explode with joy, so look forward to those moments, and by preparing your mind now and imagining the big changes ahead, while knowing that it's totally ok to seek and accept support if you need it - will make the journey even better.