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The Pregnancy Survival Guide

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Now this is a good idea: a website dedicated to all things pregnancy-related – which tackles pretty much every issue and question you might ever think to ask – written by Consultant Obstetrician, Mr Roger Marwood, and his daughter, Rebecca Maberley – writer and mother of two boys, Wiflred and Gus. When Rebecca got in touch and told us about Doctor & Daughter, we leapt at the chance to have her write something for us.

Head to Doctor & Daughter for more: birth stories, interviews, what to expect week-by-week, plus answers to all the big (and niggling) questions you might have.  To get you started, we have Rebecca’s 10 point guide to surviving pregnancy.

Rebecca with Wilfred and Gus

Rebecca with Wilfred and Gus

1. You will not always attain the fabled “Pregnancy Glow”.

[Ed’s note: this is All Too True in my case]. Despite allusions to the contrary, many women do not feel their best during pregnancy and that special warm feeling, as life grows inside you, may sadly evade you for the full 40 weeks.

There are a multitude of little afflictions that can plague the average pregnant woman.

During the first trimester you may feel very tired, sick, emotional, fat, spotty, with sore boobs and odd twinges that fill you with fear.

The second trimester, which is often hailed as the best phase of pregnancy, may bring constipation, piles, more emotion, nausea, strange rashes, aches and pains and a “disappointingly” small or large bump.

The third trimester may bring more piles, more aches, more nausea, extreme tiredness and general grumpiness.  All of this is normal, so do not fret that you are not feeling all the adjectives you hoped you would.

We love this clip from What to Expect When you Are Expecting.

2. Try not to obsess or stress about the birth

This is something that is largely beyond your control and no amount of yoga/raspberry leaf tea-drinking can affect.  Whether you feel you might like a water birth, a home birth, a drug-free birth or an epidural with all the trimmings, try to keep an open mind as your due date gets closer.  The way in which your baby will be born is dependent upon factors which you cannot easily influence (mainly:  the size of the baby, the position of the baby in the pelvis and the size of your pelvis) so please do bear this in mind when thinking about a birth plan.

With regards to a birth plan, we do not see much point in writing a detailed plan. We have heard so many stories of women who have been disappointed and sad that their birth has not gone according to their meticulous plan. So, whilst we would recommend you read up about all your options, try not to fixate on one mode in particular. It is definitely useful to talk through your preferences with regards to drugs and birthing positions with your midwife and partner, but try to remain flexible and put your trust in your midwife and your body.

3. Do not eat for two

Yes, you may be more hungry than normal, and yes, you may crave only Big Macs and cream-filled doughnuts, but try to keep things in moderation. There is no harm in having a few extra pieces of toast or even half a block of cheese in one sitting, but if you do so everyday you will put on a lot more weight than you need to, which you may find hard to shift in the future.

Your growing baby will take what it needs from your regular diet.  Current guidelines suggest that you do not need any extra calories in the first two trimesters, and only 200 extra calories a day in the final 3 months.

To give you an idea of what contains 200 calories: ½ McDonalds cheeseburger, one slice of toast with butter and jam, a bowl of cereal, one packet of crisps.

Not much, eh?

Doing some exercise can help keep the extra weight at bay.  Most recent guidelines suggest 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise everyday.  So a brisk walk or swim is perfect.  Obviously if you have experienced bleeding, or any pain or are simply worried about exercising during your pregnanc,y you should seek advice before embarking on an exercise routine.

4.  Do your pelvic floor exercises 

It is never too late to start, so if you have never done any, then read all about them here and start NOW or after you have your baby you could be wetting your pants every time you sneeze. (Or worse still, your womb will drop out of your vagina.) Do them throughout your pregnancy, do them as soon as you have given birth, even if you have had stitches (they will help healing) and never stop doing them.

5. Sleep! 

For reasons unknown to even the most expert of experts, some women do not sleep well even during the very early stages of pregnancy.  If you are unfortunate enough to have trouble sleeping throughout your pregnancy, try not to stress about it too much and jump on every chance you can to catch up at the weekends.  Some small changes may help you to get a better nights sleep:

– Keep all smart phones and tablets out of the bedroom, it helps if your mind is not racing as you try to fall asleep

– Keep the room cool and use cotton sheets for maximum comfort

– Get a specially designed pregnancy pillow or use some extra normal pillows to support your bump and legs as you get bigger.

– Do not fret about your sleeping position.  Sleeping positions during pregnancy have not been researched thoroughly enough for any firm conclusions to be drawn and guidelines to be set.  However, it would seem that the best current advice would be to try and sleep on your left side if possible but not to worry if you find that you roll over onto your right back in the night.  Sleeping on your front is fine as long as it is comfortable.

6. Be wise

Make sure you know your rights in regards to employment law and maternity pay.  Do not let your company push you into signing any new contracts that you feel uncomfortable about. Seek advice from one of these reputable sources.  Self-employed women cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay, but are able to claim Maternity Allowance, which is normally the same amount.

You should also make sure that you get your NHS Maternity Exemption Certificate – which entitles you to free prescriptions for whole of your pregnancy and until your child is a year old.  This is especially useful if you find yourself needing vats of indigestion treatments.

7. Seek help if you need it

You do not need to suffer in silence with: piles, indigestion, severe morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum), rashes, SPD or Pelvic Girdle Pain – grinding pains in the pelvic area), psychological problems during pregnancy and after.

In most cases your GP can help you with any of these conditions or refer you to a specialist.

8. Take care of yourself (especially in the post-natal period)

It can be a very hard time for many women and you may need reminding to look after yourself.  Even if you have had a perfect pregnancy and birth, and breastfeeding is going well, it can be tough adjusting to your new life and the lack of sleep.  Most checks you have in the first six weeks after the birth may seem to be centred around the health of your new baby, but your mental and physical health should not be over-looked.  You must take care to let your midwife or doctor know if any rips, tears or stitches are not healing as they should.

Make sure you voice any concerns about your mood or wellbeing.

Do not be afraid to ask for help from friends or family with cooking/cleaning or just rocking the baby whilst you nap.

Although you should not feel pressured to do certain things before you are ready (taking the baby out alone, driving with the baby, or even having sex with your partner) it is important to try and take small steps towards normal life!

Do not beat yourself up about breastfeeding.  If you are having trouble with bleeding nipples, pain or the baby’s latch, try and get some help quickly and if all else fails, formula is not to be afraid of.  A happy mother and baby are the most important thing at this difficult time.

9. What (not to) buy

The list of “Things to Buy for your Baby” is so extensive that we thought we would just advise you on what NOT to buy! Forget about: a heated baby wipe dispenser, a special nappy bin, a bottle warmer, dedicated baby changing unit (just buy a changing mat and use it on a chest of drawers or a bed), a nappy bag (just buy a lovely bag and a travel changing mat to put inside), a bath thermometer (you can work out if the bath is too hot or cold), lots of toys, shoes or fiddly clothes for the baby.

If you would like to look at our comprehensive list of things to buy before the baby arrives, have a look here.

10. Every pregnancy is different. 

Not only will each person have an individual experience, but also subsequent pregnancies may differ massively from previous ones.  Just because you had a difficult time last time, this does not mean the second or third time will be the same.  Having terrible morning sickness or bleeding during one pregnancy does not mean you will suffer with the same the next time.  Also, just because your mother or sister or aunt had a 72 hour labour and an awful forceps delivery, this does not mean you will get the same!

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