Wellbeing During Pregnancy
So, you have decided that the time has come for you to have a baby.
Starting a family is an exciting new chapter in your life and by making a few changes to your lifestyle now you will be able to give your child the best possible start in life.
Starting a family is an exciting new chapter in your life and by making a few changes to your lifestyle now you will be able to give your child the best possible start in life. To help safeguard both your baby’s and your own wellbeing, there are some very simple things that you can do before, during and after pregnancy.
Planning your pregnancy
Give up smoking and alcohol: Many studies have shown that smoking and drinking alcohol are connected to problems such as low-birthweight babies, miscarriage and sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).
Blood test: Rubella, also known as German Measles, is a danger to pregnant women as the virus may infect the unborn child and can cause a range of severe birth defects. If you know that you are not immune to rubella, you should, if possible, be vaccinated before you become pregnant and then wait three months before trying to conceive. It may be advisable to visit your GP to have a blood test to check your immunity against rubella even if you have already been vaccinated.
Medication: Always talk to a doctor if you are already taking medication (especially if you suffer from epilepsy) and are planning a pregnancy.
Conception: Ovulation testing kits can help predict the best time to try for a baby, but they are expensive.
All women want to have fit and healthy babies, which is why taking folic acid is so helpful. Action Research scientists have shown that women who take folic acid before and during pregnancy reduce the risk of their baby having a neural tube defect like spina bifida. Folic acid is a B vitamin, available both as a supplement and as a fortification in some foods such as breakfast cereal and bread. It also occurs naturally (as folate) in other foods including green beans, brussels sprouts and yeast extract.
When is the right time to start taking folic acid? Immediately after stopping with your contraception you are encouraged to take folic acid supplements up until the 12th week of pregnancy. Health professionals recommend the consumption of 400 mcg of folic acid each day. After the 12th week you will not need to continue with this as the baby’s spine will be formed.
What if I’m already pregnant? If you discover that you are already pregnant, start taking folic acid straight away and continue until the end of the twelfth week of your pregnancy. However, do not worry if you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, as taking folic acid is just a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of neural tube defects – most babies are perfectly healthy when they are born.
Is folic acid harmful? Research shows that folic acid is not harmful to you or your baby and does not produce any side effects. In fact, it is a vitamin that your body can get rid of naturally if you take more than you need.
Where can I buy folic acid? Superdrug Stores Plc has a range of specialist supplements, such as Superdrug Folic Acid 400mg x 112, that provide a convenient way of taking those ingredients which may not be present at sufficient levels in a normal diet.
Why I take Folic Acid
"Taking folic acid is important as it helps protect against spina bifida which is a terrible condition. My message to other women is that if you want a healthy baby, then taking folic acid can help. To give your baby the best chance in life you will do anything, including giving up drinking and smoking – after all, it’s got to be a good thing if it ensures your baby’s health." - Brookside soap star, Bernadette Nolan.
During your pregnancy
Confirming you are pregnant: If you have missed a period and think you may be pregnant, there are a number of pregnancy testing kits available, including Superdrug’s own brand pregnancy testing kits (singles and doubles). Once you have determined that you are pregnant, you should contact your doctor to receive an estimated delivery date - calculated 40 weeks from the first day of your last period.
Ultrasound scan: The first ultrasound scan that you have will be arranged by your GP. Your partner will normally be allowed to attend, but it is worth checking with the hospital first.
Morning sickness: You will probably feel sick in the morning for about a six-week period, starting about two months into your pregnancy. If your morning sickness is quite severe and prolonged it may be useful to consider supplementing your diet with an all-round multivitamin and mineral supplement containing no more than 800 mcgs of vitamin A (too much vitamin A can harm your baby). Superdrug has a wide range of multivitamin and mineral supplements for you to chose from. If nausea persists you should visit your GP.
Foods to avoid: Avoid soft and blue-veined cheeses, meat pate, undercooked poultry and eggs, and alcohol during your pregnancy. Keep up your fluid intake, but avoid drinks containing caffeine. You should also avoid foods that contain high levels of vitamin A, such as liver and cod liver oil.
Looking after yourself: You will experience extreme tiredness within the first couple of months because your body will be working overtime as your baby forms. By taking some simple steps you can maintain your energy levels and help yourself to feel better. Remember to eat as early in the evening as possible; and a couple of hours before bedtime try to relax yourself with a warm bath. Also, remember to attend your routine antenatal checks as recommended by your GP.
Preparing for the birth
Antenatal classes: Your antenatal classes will be arranged weekly towards the end of your pregnancy and it is important to attend them for the health of both you and your baby.
Going into hospital: Well before you expect to go into hospital it is advisable to have a bag ready full of essential items that both you and your baby will need. These will include a night dress or T-shirt to give birth in; a pair of warm socks for during and after labour (your temperature may fluctuate); a pair of slippers; two or three maternity bras; cotton or paper knickers; breast pads; maternity sanitary towels; a camera and your clothes for coming home. clothing.
For your baby you will need vests; stretch suits; scratch mittens; disposable nappies; a cellular blanket and cotton wool.
Make sure you have a suitable car seat to bring baby home in
After your baby’s born
When is it safe to have sex? Most women do not have sex until after their postnatal check up, although there are no rules and as long as you have stopped bleeding, the decision lies with you. However, if you have had a caesarean, it may be better to wait for a few week so that you don’t put pressure on the scar.
Breastfeeding: There are books and leaflets available on how to breastfeed to reinforce the advice from your antenatal teachers and midwife. Some women find it easier to breast feed than others, so if you don’t succeed at first. Don’t be tempted to mix bottle with breast. MIXING BREAST AND BOTTLE ENDS UP AS BOTTLE FEEDING.
If you are having problems ask for help. Good sources of help include your health visitor, La Leche League or even friends who have successfully breast fed
Postnatal depression: During pregnancy it is important to gain as much emotional support from friends and family as possible. Expect to experience a mixture of emotions and don’t forget to ask for help from your health visitor or GP if you feel that you need it.
Information on diet and exercise
Giving up alcohol: Many studies have shown that drugs, smoking and alcohol can harm your baby and are connected to low-birthweight babies, miscarriage and sudden infant death syndrome. YOU CAN DRINK WHEN YOU'VE STOPPED BREAST FEEDING AND A LITTLE WON'T HARM.
Food cravings: These are hard to resist and it is nice to treat yourself sometimes! You should not try to lose weight when you are pregnant. However, pregnancy should not be used as an excuse to overeat.
Supplements: As well as maintaining a healthy and balanced diet you may wish to take an antenatal supplement which includes calcium, iron, zinc and folic acid. The Superdrug range of Women's Lifestage supplements have been developed specifically with today’s women in mind and they include all the essential nutrients you will need.
Pelvic floor exercises: These can help improve bladder control and you should talk to your midwife about when to start these exercises. The exercises are simple and quick to do, and can be done at any time – even when you’re watching TV, sitting at your desk or waiting for a bus!
Information on pregnancy complications
There are a number of complications which can occur during pregnancy and if you are concerned about your health or that of your baby, you should book an appointment with your GP.
Pre-eclampsia: Whilst the exact cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown, it is certainly related to the presence of the placenta. Women usually become aware of the problem when blood pressure starts to rise during their pregnancy (though some women may not be aware. This should be detected at one of their regular pre-natal check-ups. Other symptoms include swelling of arms and legs, and tests may also show that protein is present in urine samples. A SUDDEN BAD HEADACHE CAN BE CAUSED BY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE SO CHECK IT OUT
Obstetric Cholestasis: Lots of women itch during pregnancy – it’s irritating but usually nothing to worry about. However, in some cases it can be a symptom of a rare liver disease called obstetric cholestasis. Around one in 200 pregnancies may be affected by this condition and, if left undiagnosed, it can lead to fetal distress, premature birth and even stillbirth.
Premature birth: Around 1 in ten of all babies in the UK are born prematurely. That’s about 70,000 early births a year – at least 7,000 of whom are likely to need intensive care. Those who overcome the problems which the early arrival causes do so because of medical advances. Others die because we do not have the knowledge to save them, or indeed prevent premature birth.
Action Research has touched your life
You may not realise it, but at some stage of your life, you will have been touched by the work of Action Research. Among many other examples, we have been wholly or partly responsible for:
• Britain’s first polio vaccine
• the first artificial hip
• the first medical use of ultrasound scanning
• testing the rubella vaccine
• discovering the importance of folic acid in the prevention of spina bifida
• the specialised treatment of burns injuries in children
• establishing the first genetics research centre of its kind in Europe
• a new test to improve the chances of successful bone marrow transplants
• an infra-red brain scanner which may help prevent brain damage in babies
• new treatment for epilepsy
As you can see from this list alone, Action Research has already funded pioneering medical research into areas that affect pregnant women and babies. Specific leaflets are available from Action Research on a number of topics which women who are pregnant will find interesting. These include:
• Premature Babies
• Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
If you would like to find out more about Action Research and its work, please contact see www.actionresearch.co.uk
This information was produced by Action Research, with sponsorship from Superdrug.