Dr Annan gives advice on staying healthy throughout your pregnancy and getting ready for the arrival of your baby.
The Channel Four series, One Born Every Minute, has recently returned to our screens, exploring the late stages of pregnancy and birth.
The most common indication of pregnancy is missing your period. There are other signs, however, including:
- Morning sickness or general nausea are experienced by many women during the early stages of pregnancy. If you are being constantly sick, consult your GP
- Your breasts may feel tender, as they would during a period
- An increased vaginal discharge without any soreness or irritation
- A strange “metallic” taste in your mouth
- Craving new foods, or losing interest in ones you previously enjoyed
Every pregnancy is different and not all women will get exactly the same symptoms.
You can take a pregnancy test from the first day of a missed period.
You can get free pregnancy tests from your GP, from family planning clinics, and from NHS walk-in centres. You can also buy pregnancy tests from pharmacists, which you can carry out at home.
A positive test is almost always correct. A negative pregnancy test is less reliable. If you still think you are pregnant, wait a week before trying a test again, or see your GP.
When you find out you are pregnant, you should speak to your GP about arranging antenatal care as soon as possible. Antenatal care helps you plan your pregnancy and birth. You will be offered appointments with a midwife and obstetrician – around 10 appointments if it’s your first pregnancy, and about seven if you have given birth before. You can also go to classes – for example, classes teaching you how to breastfeed.
Lifestyle during pregnancy
It’s important to look after yourself while pregnant. Here are some tips for keeping healthy during pregnancy:
- Eat healthily. You may feel as though you are hungrier when you are pregnant, but you do not normally need to “eat for two”. Make sure you eat plenty of lean meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta and rice.
- You should avoid certain foods, such as rare meat, some types of fish and cheese, and caffeine. Your GP should be able to give you some advice about which foods you should avoid.
- It’s strongly advised that you don’t smoke while pregnant, and you should reduce your alcohol intake to one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week. A unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a standard glass of wine, a 25ml measure of spirit, or half a pint of beer. Your GP can help you quit smoking and regulate your alcohol intake.
- Be careful which medicines you take. Speak to your GP for advice.
- You should try and stay fit and healthy while pregnant – this will make your labour easier and it will also help you get back in shape after giving birth. Certain exercises and sports, such as contact sports during the later stages of pregnancy and scuba-diving – should be avoided.
- You should talk to your GP about whether or not it is advisable for you to take vitamin supplements, such as folic acid and iron – although Vitamin A supplements should be avoided.
- Try to get as much rest as possible, as often at the beginning and towards the end of pregnancy, it’s common to feel incredibly tired. If you work, use your lunch break to eat and rest, rather than do errands. Try to get to bed as early as possible.
- Your employer should protect your health during your pregnancy. If you work with chemicals, lead or X-rays, or do a lot of lifting, this could be risking your own and your baby’s health. If this is the case, your employer is obliged to provide suitable alternative work or suspend you on full pay. If you are unsure of your rights, discuss with a union representative, midwife or occupational health nurse.