When you’re expecting it’s hard to know what to expect! I really struggled to find a pregnancy A-Z. Especially anything that covered everything, without judgement! Through clenched teeth and over the toilet bowl I put together this what to expect: Pregnancy A-Z.
The first port of call on our pregnancy A-Z is: Alcohol
Despite advice given to previous generations of women, the truth is that experts aren’t entirely sure how much (if any) alcohol is safe for a pregnant woman to consume. It’s for this reason that the NHS takes the ‘better safe than sorry’ stance to alcohol by advising zero units at any point during pregnancy.
If you’re craving a bit of a fizz or are in need of a party beverage alternative you might fancy trying the following:
St. Clements (O.J & lemonade)
Sparkling water with a twist of either fresh lemon or lime and a splash of either apple or blackcurrant cordial
Belvoir organic elderflower presse
Non alcoholic beer. There are a plethora of different brands stocked in all good supermarkets. Although, there is some debate on just how alcohol free non alcoholic beer is as most do still have a low trace of alcohol in them. If this is worrying at all to you why not try mixing your alcohol free beer with some lemonade to make a refreshing shandy.
Can often come to what seems to be a complete stand still during pregnancy, especially during your first trimester. This is often due to the body reacting to the pregnancy hormone progesterone. See also C for Constipation.
The best way to combat constipation is by increasing your water and fiber intake as well as staying as mobile as possible (this is one ailment you can walk off/out!) But, remember even if you think you are drinking the recommended 8 glasses (roughly 2 litres) a day, this will need to be increased further if you’ve added extra fibre to your diet, not doing so can exacerbate your condition and make stools harder to pass.
The Great British, National Health Service suggests that no more than the equivalent of 2 mugs of instant coffee a day should be consumed during pregnancy. Because caffeine is found in a lot of the foods we eat many pregnant women forgo tea and coffee in order to continue the enjoyment of their favourite choc treats, guilt free.
Due to the pregnancy hormone progesterone it’s pretty much standard practice to feel light headed and have the occasional spell of dizziness especially if you stand up too fast or are on your feet for a prolonged period of time. This is because a woman’s blood pressure drops slightly as the blood flow to her baby increases. However, continuous dizzy spells, fainting and light headedness should all be reported to your consultant/GP/ midwife straight away. If in doubt, get checked out!
Take it easy on yourself and don’t feel the need to be everything to everyone, it’s normal to feel your energy levels deplete but, a lot of women waste energy on trying to maintain their pre-pregnancy lifestyles when what they really need is to focus on catching a few extra breaks here and there. Forget the cleaning, that gym session or even nights out if what your body needs is for you to slow down and catch up on some ‘you’ time. Although you don’t want to be constantly sedentary taking time just to relax on your own with your bump is proven not only to reduce stress levels but also combat post natal depression. Make sure to also have your blood pressure and iron levels checked as even the smallest dip can have a big effect but is easily rectified.
Despite any desperation you have to clear the poop pipes, enemas are generally not deemed save during pregnancy especially pre week 20 and post week 30. Always check with your GP before self medicating or taking advice from your pharmacist or even surgeon. My surgeon booked me in for a colonoscopy at 7 weeks as he didn’t deem it to be an issue despite both my midwife and consultant feeling very strongly that it was not safe at all!
Unless under supervised advice from your doctor it is unwise to increase your physical activity when pregnant. However, maintaining a similar level of exercise is often encouraged. So, if you’re a gym fanatic, an avid walker or regularly attend yoga don’t feel you have to drop all physical movement to incubate! Discuss your work outs with your midwife on your check in appointment, where you’ll either be given the OK or told whether they feel you should tone it down. Exercise has been proven to help fight many pregnancy linked ailments and is linked to easier and quicker labouring. See also Y for yoga.
Those dreaded hormones are again to blame for physical affects that often reduce your eyesight ever so slightly during pregnancy, the good news is that these changes are rarely serious and normally got back to normal once baby is born. This is why laser surgery is not recommended during pregnancy. The most common complaints are dry, itchy eyes and blurred vision. For dry eyes and difficulty putting in lenses Boots the pharmacy suggests a check up with your GP or optometrist “to see if eye drops or artificial tears will help and are safe for use when you are pregnant. Check the label on your contacts to make sure any drops don’t contain preservatives, which can damage soft lenses.”
With distorted or blurred vision fluid retention is often to blame. Boots recommended treatment: “If the symptoms don’t bother you there is no need to do anything, but if your vision changes a lot, talk to your doctor.”-See also P for preeclampsia
You should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until the end of your first trimester. Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.
Foods high in folic acid include: Marmite, fortified breakfast cereal, green leafy vegetables and lentils.
Make sure to check your maternity pay entitlements. In the UK all the info you’ll need can be found at GOV.co.uk See also M for maternity exemptions
“Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. It can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but is more common in the second half. It occurs if your body cannot produce enough insulin – a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels – to meet the extra needs in pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can cause problems for you and your baby during and after birth. But the risk of these problems happening can be reduced if it’s detected and well managed.”-NHS Direct
“Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area. They typically range in size from as small as a pea to as large as a grape, and they can develop inside the rectum or protrude through the anus…
…Hemorrhoids are especially common in the third trimester. Some women get them for the first time while they’re pregnant. And if you’ve had them before pregnancy, you’re more likely to have them again now. They may also develop while you’re pushing during the second stage of labor.” -Baby Center
When it comes to changes in your hair during pregnancy, absolutely anything goes! From becoming freakishly dry and frizzy to chip shop greasy and limp, you may find your hair thickens, thins or even becomes curly. But don’t worry too much negative hormone changes to your fur and fuzz will normally rectify themselves after you give birth… Due to all these hormonal hair changes it’s always best practice to have any colour or drastic hair restyling completed by a professional if at all.
Although in every day life herbal teas are considered to be a healthy way to both hydrate and supplement ones in take of vitamins and minerals, there has not been enough research into the effects of consuming herbal tea during pregnancy to give a definitive answer as to how healthy or dangerous it may be to your unborn baby. It’s for that reason that most health care providers will advise avoiding herbal tea during your first two trimester and to seek advice from either your GP or midwife if you are considering trying any herbal teas.
Raspberry leaf tea is often recommended during the late stage of pregnancy to tone the uterus, relieve constipation and aid the run up to labour.
It is good to note however that there are a lot of teas on the high street that make various claims including being for women’s health during pregnancy despite research (easily accessed online) suggesting otherwise. So always research and query before trying!
Because indigestion can happen at any point during pregnancy here’s a list of tried and tested remedies:
Avoid caffeine, chocolate and the over consumption of citrus fruits
Tum tums; have them to hand everywhere!
Standing, stretching and/or walking after eating will aid digestion
Don’t over eat and take it slow, small mouthful and taking time to chew are key, no matter how hungry you are.
Remember soda water and other fizzy drinks are only a quick fix, temporary relief that will actually exacerbate the problem
Ginger biscuits, Ginger ale, boiled ginger sweets
Stay dehydrated and sip rather than gulp
Don’t eat before going to sleep
Stack pillows to sleep elevated in order to avoid acid reflux
As unattractive as it may sound loose fitting clothes are not only more comfortable than their tight fitting counterparts, but will also allow you to sit comfortably while eating which in return aids digestion
Warm water with a squeeze of lemon
Although research shows poor eating and in particular over indulging on junk food is directly linked to gestational diabetes pregnancy cravings have the power to break the most dedicated of fitness gurus amongst us. Combine that with morning sickness and food aversions most pregnant women (especially during the initial first few months) will find themselves at a cross road, where their choice is either to eat slightly unhealthily just to get something down them or to not eat all. So what can you do to find a balance?
Take your pregnancy vitamins, this way you know you’re at least getting your recommended daily allowance (RDA)
Stay hydrated, often morning sickness, mild stomach cramps and fatigue (which can all affect your appetite and cravings) can be eased simply by drinking water
Eat little and often to stay topped up but not overwhelmed.
Think about what you’re craving and break it down. That Big Mac that you’ve just got to have, what is it that’s capturing your appetite the most; something greasy, stodgy, the beef of the burger, pickle relish? Cravings are your body’s way of telling you what kind of nourishment you need. It’s up to you to translate your cravings. A burger doesn’t have to be unhealthy and you don’t have to have it with a large portion of fries and a milkshake.
Often it’s the effort and energy of cooking combined with the cooking smells that make eating off putting. Don’t feel guilty or bad for ordering in, there are healthy take out vendors and alternatives. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/155605/Top-5-healthy-takeaways
Don’t be afraid to ask for help this includes having others cook for you
At the end of the day it’s better to eat what you can than nothing at all!
It’s often hard to know what to do when asked if you would like the latest vaccines, especially if you’re a first time mum and like most of us have almost nil medical training. You can follow the NHS link at the bottom of this article to hear their stance on why you should get vaccinated but, in the mean time here is a selection of views and experiences from some of our followers:
Emily, mother of 2:I had all my vaccines while pregnant because I felt it was the best way to protect my unborn child.
Victoria, mum of 4: There was never the option to be vaccinated when I had my children, but if there had been I don’t think I would have taken it up. I was so ill all the way through my pregnancy and on anti -sickness medication. I think the thought of anything else in my body would just not have sat well with me, at all.
Connie, mother of 1: I really worried about all the conspiracy theories but, I had mine done in the end as my research weighed in favour of the benefits.
Rachael, mother of 3: I had both the flu and whooping cough vaccine, it did worry me to be honest but, at the end of the day the pros out numbered the cons.
Michelle, mother of 2: I wouldn’t put the toxic chemicals in my kids dog or myself.
Naomi, mother of 2: With my first child I had the whooping cough vaccine, in hindsight I had it done as all the literature given to me made me feel I didn’t really have the choice. However, I’m better informed now and I do think it is the best thing to do. I didn’t have the flu vac the first time around as my pregnancy didn’t fall within the peak flu period, my second pregnancy did though and although I ‘ummed’ and ‘ahhhed’ about it, I had my flu jab as I suffer from bad morning sickness and had already had a chest infection during the first weeks of finding out I was pregnant, this combined with having a toddler to chase after meant I just couldn’t stand the idea of getting ill again so opted to be vaccinated.
Rachel, mum of 1: Here in Australia it’s considered unsafe to jab pregnant women with some types of vaccines, so I had to wait until after I gave birth for my MMR vaccine, even though I was at risk of catching the diseases while I carried! I also had to wait for the whooping cough vaccine too. I had an amazing obstetrician here, so I trusted everything she said and everything she told me to do. In saying that, I was totally against the gestational diabetes test, as they make you fast overnight and then drink a bottle of flat lemonade with far more than your RDA of sugar in order to take blood samples to see how your body processes the massive sugar intake!
Caroline, mother of 2: After researching I decided the risk associated with the vaccine were very rare and minor compared to the effects on me and my baby if I caught the disease. Especially being pregnant in flu season.
Vicki, mother of 1: I just leave it up to the experts to say what they recommend to keep me and bub safe and I just go with that!
Isavella, mother of 2: In Greece (where I live) no vaccines other than for flu are offered to pregnant women. I wasn’t pregnant with either of my children during flu season so I was never given the injection. If I had I still don’t think I would have had it done; I try to be as natural as possible and don’t like the idea of foreign substances and chemicals being put in my body. I would just eat well instead and stay away from busy public places.
Donna, mother of 1: I had my vaccines while pregnant. The benefits will always outweigh any risks and coming from a medical background I understand the stringent process followed for any treatment/vaccines/medicine being introduced to the public. They would not be offered if it wasn’t thought that they were beneficial to the health of the baby. That said, GP’s/midwives etc often don’t fully explain each vaccine to parents to enable them to make an informed choice.
Kegel exercises are beneficial in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and controlling all types of incontinence in both men and women. Doing kegel exercises regularly while pregnant will also aid you when giving birth.
Low blood pressure
Although persistent spells of low blood pressure should be taken seriously and checked out by your GP, occasional episodes of LP can be fixed by eating a salty snack or a banana and slowly sipping a glass of water. Caffeine and garlic should both also be avoided.
”Morning sickness, also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), is a symptom of pregnancy that involves nausea or vomiting. Despite the name, nausea or vomiting can occur at any time during the day. Typically these symptoms occur between the 4th and 16th week of pregnancy.” – Wikipedia
Here’s a list of our followers go to morning sickness remedies:
Plain, dry crackers
Cereal with cold milk
Ice cold soda water
Warm water with lemon
Going for a walk
Eating less but, more often
Don’t let yourself get hungry
Maintaining regular bowel movements
Over the counter remedies (always seek medical advice first)
Lying on your left side
Increase your greens
Take your vitamins either after food or before you go to sleep
Although it is best not to under go any extreme dental procedures, good oral hygiene during pregnancy (as ever) is vital in maintaining your over all health. Maintain you bi-yearly check ups and let your dentist know you are pregnant and of any dental issues you are worried about.
Your gums tend to be slightly more sensitive when pregnant so continue to brush and rinse twice a day as you normally would but, maybe opt for a softer bristle and floss regularly.
It’s best to avoid taking most medicines when pregnant but, you shouldn’t sit in silence and suck it up either! It’s considered safe to take low levels of paracetamol when pregnant however, try to monitor your intake and keep it to a minimum as paracetamol can contribute to constipation. For anything stronger see your GP.
changes in your eyesight during pregnancy are sometimes a symptom of pre- eclampsia. The condition occurs in 3 – 5 % of pregnancies and most cases are mild. However, it can also be a potentially serious problem so you should see your GP or midwife if you are concerned. Signs of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure and protein in urine. Eyesight problems usually involve vision changes such as temporary loss of vision, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, auras or flashing lights.
Treatment: It’s important to seek medical help immediately if you experience these symptoms. Pre-eclampsia can be dangerous for mother and baby if left untreated.
It might sound silly but where ever possible my own personal advice would be to avoid long queues at any cost! Especially at peak periods in busy, packed stores, which tend to be over heated. During my first pregnancy I fainted ALOT and nearly every time it was in a queue; waiting to pay for groceries, waiting to get off the tram, waiting in line at the doctors. Every time a combination of heat, anxiety and prolonged standing were to blame and sadly every time it was too busy for anyone to even notice or dare I say care and yep that includes the time at the doctors too!
Routine check ups
It’s vital you keep up to date with all your healthcare, this also includes your dental appointments as well as any check ups with your midwife and doctor.
Sex is perfectly safe during pregnancy, with some women feeling their libido increases.
Pregnancy should be a smoke free zone. For help on how to quit sign up to one of the many free NHS support groups in your area: https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree
Depending on whether or not you live in a high risk area of the country you may need to have the TB (BIG Tuberculosis) vaccine. See also J for jabs.
That ever expanding hungry bum gobblihg up all your pre-pregnancy lingerie? Look for no VPL granny pants. These white Brazilians from Primemark are our faves:
Bra extenders are a great, cheap alternative to constantly buying new bras that you’ll never wear again:
For comfort and to prevent infection due to over heating and irritation try to stick to cotton only knickers.
Discharge in pregnancy is very normal and common as your body adapts and changes to the effects of your hormones in preparation for Labour. If the discharge is dark yellow or greenish and accompanied with a rash and/or itching, seek medical advice as its probably the signs of an infection, also very common.
Let’s face it pregnancy is just one big waiting game, especially if it’s your first time around. It’s like waiting for buses; you wait forever and then everything comes at once. Here are some ways you can while away your time:
Book your scans during dates you’ve nothing else on, it’ll help fill your calendar and allow you the time to enjoy the moment.
Throw a gender reveal party
Throw a baby shower
Write a pregnancy diary
Treat yourself to a pregnancy massage
Attend your local NCT groups and classes
First time mum? Enjoy a last chance to holiday with your partner and/or friends by going on a ‘Babymoon’
“According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, x-rays are generally safe during pregnancy, but there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this issue. Studies have been conflicting and, therefore, x-rays should only be done when the benefits outweigh the risks.” -Taken from Americanpregnancy.org:
Yoga during during pregnancy can be a great way to stay in shape and relax. Make sure to pick a class that is specifically aimed at pregnancy and fitting to your ability level. Alternatively practice from the comfort of your own home by following one of YouTube’s yoga vlogs:
To maximise your quality of sleep, it is considered best to sleep on your side and preferably to your left, to maximise blood flow and prevent pins and needles developing and inevitably waking you up at night.
By now you will have figured out that pregnancy is not all unicorns and rainbows. Pregnancy acne is the last on this list of hormone related pregnancy annoyances. A great way to fight off pregnancy pimples is to eat clean and avoid over cleaning or scrubbing your face. Try soothing sore skin with cool slices of cucumber and cleanse with a mix of 2 parts extra virgin olive oil and one part Apple cider vinegar.
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