Pregnancy, Natural Baby Essentials, Diet and more…..
If you’re planning on conceiving, congratulations on being so organised ! This gives you time to optimise your diet and lifestyle habits prior to conception and help eliminate some of the worry new parents can have regarding their health in the early weeks of getting pregnant.
A first visit to your doctor or health care provider would be helpful in recommending an optimal diet and assist with information regarding quitting smoking or drinking alcohol and caffeine.
It has been suggested that consumption of alcohol and even caffeine during pregnancy, particularly the early stages, can contribute to miscarriage or problems with foetal development.
Dietary changes may mean increasing your consumption of dark, leafy greens for important iron intake. It is also widely known that a folic acid supplement helps prevent the risk of birth defects when taken prior to and after conception. Your doctor or midwife should be able to suggest the best brand and dosage. If you are interested in taking additional multivitamin supplements, again check first with your care provider and then go to your health food shop and ask for one prepared especially for pregnant women. If you have allergies to some ingredients, you can find a supplement without unnecessary additives and ingredients. It’s important to remember that you should be able to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals you and baby require from a healthy diet, so don’t supplement to cheat as it is also believed by many that supplements are useless and are not properly absorbed by the body. A good diet is first and foremost in maintaining health.
It should go with out saying that if you smoke, you should quit now before conception and your partner should also. Smoking seriously affects the health of your baby before and after it’s birth, so quit for life.
Choosing a Care Provider
An important part of your pregnancy and ultimately, your birth experience will be who you choose to provide your care.
Many women think they have no choice and have to use their family doctor, which is not the case. If you would prefer someone who specialises in pregnancy and childbirth, a midwife is probably your best option. Most midwives will attend hospital, birth centre or home births.
- There are three types of midwives;
- Community Midwives – work for the NHS and within the hospitals and doctor’s surgeries. Their care is free. You can choose to receive community midwife care combined with a doctor or solely with the midwife. Most practises will have several midwives working together and depending whose on call will depend on who delivers your baby. The Community midwife you see can be down to “luck of the draw”, but very often there will be several in a practise and hopefully you can feel comfortable enough with one of them to talk about your feelings and wishes. You will generally meet all the midwives so you are familiar with them should your assigned midwife be unable to attend you.
- Independent Midwives – work in a private practise and charge a fee for their services. A lot of NHS midwives who have been unhappy with working within the confines of the medical system have left and formed their own independent practises. You will usually find a greater amount of freedom and support, especially if you do not wish for a managed or hospital birth.
- Lay Midwives – have varying levels of skill and experience, sometimes more than a certified midwife, but have not necessarily taken the exams to hold the Certified Nurse Midwife title. They are often less expensive than a private practise but will still need to charge a fee. Again, they will offer considerable support and freedom for you to make informed choices.
- Doulas – are labour support assistants. The do not normally offer pre-natal care or deliver babies, but are skilled and knowledgeable in providing support for the labouring mother. Many women find them invaluable as they provide a different role to that of the birth partner or husband. They have experience in the labouring process and are aware of the wishes of the mother and aim to have those wishes respected. They are becoming very popular in the US, and are now receiving interest the UK (visit my Links to contact them). They are independent and usually need to charge a small fee for their service.
Remember that if your are not happy with how you are being treated, you have the right to choose another care provider. Pregnancy is not an illness but a natural healthy state and you deserve the best care you can find. For more information on making a choice or if you’re not happy with your current provider, visit this Link to UK Independent Midwife Site. For help and assistance.
Whatever you choose, it is very important to get regular check-ups to chat and monitor your health. Many tests are offered these days to expectant mothers but they are not compulsory, so think it over and choose which ones you opt for. Here’s a link to a page that discusses the risks and ethical concerns ofultrasound and amniocentesis.
Eating right during pregnancy is very important to you and your baby’s health (as I’m sure your care provider as told you.. !). I always found it a little difficult to eat all those leafy dark greens I was instructed to, even though I’m a vegetarian. I actually consider myself a “carbo-terian”, I consume a lot of starchy bread and potatoes, which are great building blocks for baby. However, to prevent delivering a 12 lb baby, it’s advisable to eat a varied diet of grains, pulses, fruit and veg. Here’s a good site with plenty of information on nutritional and dietary advice.
What you really need to avoid is the so-called “empty calories”. These are foods that offer high sugar and fat with virtually no nutritional content (yes, the comfort food..) It really is surprising how much weight can be gained by drinking fizzy drinks and eating crisps and biscuits every day. Limit “low-fat” options, they just pump more sugar into food to make it taste good, but it will soon turn into fat if you don’t run a mini marathon every day.
A helpful chart on the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables.
The Bad Stuff
Avoiding smoking, caffeine and alcohol is widely known to reduce risk of miscarriage , low birth weight, fetal alcohol syndrome and other complications. If other members of your household smoke, make sure they don’t around you. Once the baby is born, smoky atmospheres have been linked with numerous health problems and cot death.
Eliminating the foods with the following ingredients has been suggested also: monosodium glutamate, saccharrin, aspartame, artificial colours and flavours. This is due to their connections with potentially serious health problems.
For more information on these additives visit any of the following links:
Food Additive Reports Various reports on food additives, quite informative.
MSG Website also offers information on some other topics
As long as you’re happy you’re limiting your “empty calories” and your health is good, don’t be too worried about gaining those necessary pounds. I always put on an average of 48lbs, have big babies and lose the weight eventually. All women are different and our bodies (and babies !) need what they need, not necessarily the standard 25-35 lb. A good massage with vitamin E-rich oils (such as wheatgerm) or cocoa butter will help to enhance your skin’s natural elasticity as well as make you feel good. However, these things are mainly hereditary, so if your mum has stretch mark, chances are you’ll get them too.
This a special time to enjoy your body. Soft, curvy and glowing, you should delight in those parts of you that are popping out! You are the embodiment of all things “woman”. For some reason in this society (there are some cultures where big women are a great symbol of status and beauty), woman are made to feel that unless they have the figure of a pre-pubescent boy, they are not conventionally attractive. When we become pregnant and start to flesh out a little, it can be a little disconcerting. Your body may start to remind you of your mother’s! Nipple darkening and enlarging, extra body hair (anywhere!), skin changes (pigmentation, acne, sweat) it can all happen. It usually all changes again postpartum, so it’s easiest to try and remain positive and love your new body, changes and all. As for feeling attractive to your partner, I’ve always believed that if a man is attracted to skinny and/or shapeless women and repelled by curvacious, large (and pregnant! ) women, they are either most likely not heterosexual, (which is fine as long you’re not relying on them for sensual support) or secretly harbour a hatred of women (see Psychology 101- “My Mum was an Evil Monster”). I know that may sound outrageous, but basically, women are supposed to be round and soft and have babies and be squishy. If that’s not attractive to you as a man, how can you truly love women? So enjoy this time, get massages, get photos and don’t sweat the stretch marks (they turn silver postpartum and are comparable with tattoos that represent your special journey to bring your child into the world).
The 40 week pregnancy is divided in to three parts, 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters. These represent different phases of development for you and your baby.
First trimester – From conception to 12 weeks
The time of adjusting to the reality of what is happening! Your body will go through many changes, many unseen, but a few will definitely be noticed! Emotionally you may be all over the place, this is normal as you manufacture different levels of progesterone and oestrogen, so be kind to yourself and remind others to be as well. If you’re pregnancy was planned, this could be a major time of adjustment as your whole life flashes before you and you may feel totally overwhelmed. It is akin I feel with being on a rollercoaster that doesn’t seem to stop and you are not permitted to leave, in other words you have top cope with giving up a little bit of the controls to this amazing event happening inside you. When you come to terms with this, it gets a little smoother and a different set of options and choices are presented to you, this can help you regain some of the control. This is a time for getting your diet in check and making sure you will be in a safe and stable place come the birth. The first 8 weeks of a pregnancy is when the foetal brain and nervous system is developed and avoiding all vices is important. Many women miss this stage of pregnancy altogether, so if you are newly pregnant, you have a great advantage to optimise your health and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy.
Morning Sickness : can range from irritating nausea to violent vomiting. I only ever experienced the former and found the best relief came from eating dry toast or crackers (cream or water). I have recently discovered the theory that morning sickness may be caused by fear, but this is also refuted by plenty of women! Your hormones are having a merry party too, which is commonly blamed for the sickness, but it gave me food for thought. We have compiled a page devoted to Morning Sickness Experiences. If you have any thoughts or experience on this subject, we’d love to hear from you.
“Life before baby” becomes a distant memory……
Especially if you’re expecting your first baby, your life as you know it ends. You hear people all the time that say this, because it’s true. There really is no way to prepare for it either, just accept it and enjoy your new path as a parent. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I moved to the USA with my (American) husband. We lived with his parents on their farm in Kentucky. I didn’t have much else to focus on besides the imminent event and spent my time reading. Book after book I read and read and read, I think some part of me subconsciously knew it might be a long time before I could enjoy a book in peace and quiet again. So my advice is to do that stuff that may be difficult to do after baby comes. Go out to eat, all the time. Read books. Take long baths. Keep a diary (really important when your memory starts to fail due to hormones or whatever causes memory loss in busy mothers). Know that it may be hard in the beginning, getting used to a new daily and nightly rhythm, but that it does get easier. So much pressure is placed on parents to “do the right thing” for their babies, the advice alone can be overwhelming. Make life easy for yourself and go with the flow. Your baby will be happier and more relaxed if you’re not fretting over co-ordinated outfits and “developmental” toys etc. Reciting a special verse each morning or evening can help to relax and reassure when the baby is soon to come (and after). I read about a woman who when she showered every morning would repeat “I am not these responsibilities” and it helped her to remember the person she is and gain perspective on her day.
Second Trimester – 14 weeks to 26 weeks
This is usually the most enjoyable time of pregnancy. Development steadies a little and allows you to feel more comfortable within your body. Your libido may return if it went AWOL during the first trimester and so makes this a favourable time to enjoy your rounding body to it’s fullest. If you experienced morning sickness, it should ease off and disappear now. Your baby’s development is still rapid and you will start to feel it’s activity with gentle kicks. Your baby has always been jumping around but as baby grows, you will now feel each other. Now is the time to assess your wardrobe and buy those comfortable but supportive nursing bras and maternity jeans!!! You do not want to wear a thong all the way through your pregnancy, so give in and buy some generously oversized knickers, I know that psychologically it is hard to buy anything bigger than you need it , but the sheer heaven of sliding on knickers that actually cover your belly is something to be experienced!
Third Trimester – 26 weeks to 40 weeks
This is a slowing down time as your baby starts to lay down it’s fat stores and get down to “bulking up”. An important time to watch your diet again to avoid piling on the calories. Eat well, but vary your diet to get the most nutritional benefit.
As the imminence of the birth approaches, you may find you have many urges and impulses to get things in order, but none less powerful than the “nesting instinct”. This in particular has driven me desperate during more than one pregnancy, even when I saw it coming, I knew there was nothing I could do but surrender to it. I have painted my house many colours and felt an urgency to have “everything completed” by my due date. The crazy thing is and this is important to focus on if you are similarly afflicted is that once the baby arrives, it doesn’t matter anymore ! The unfinished spare bedroom can remain unfinished, the kitchen can stay half renovated and it will not matter !!!!! Not that there is much point in me saying this, because if you are in the middle of this “affliction” you will not want to hear that, least of all believe it!
If you are coping better than I did then feel good about that! Look forward to the arrival of your little one, a most exciting time.
If you are nervous about the birthing process and the changes occuring with your pregnant body, using the medatative process of hypnosis may be a great option.
We’re not talking Paul McKenner here – we mean a process that uses relaxation and calming imagery as a tool to send positive messages to our concious and sub-concious self that we can cope splendidly with birthing our babies.
Hypnotherapy classes to help relax and prepare mothers for labour are becoming much more popular. Taken from Natal Hypnotherapy’s Website “Natal Hypnotherapy uses the natural state of Hypnosis and the power of suggestion to enhance your pregnancy and birth experience. By tapping into the subconscious, you can deal with and overcome any fear associated with labour and increase your self confidence and trust in your bodies natural ability to give birth. Using these Natal Hypnotherapy techniques can therefore greatly reduce, if not eliminate the fear and tension which leads to severe pain.
Hypnosis can also work very effectively to overcome morning sickness, to reduce blood pressure, increase vitality and energy during pregnancy, stop heart burn and reduce swelling of your ankles and feet.”
A great tool for a self-empowered pregnancy and confident birth. Many women have testified to the benefits of this therapy which can now be enjoyed on your own terms with the release of the Birth Preparation CD in our Online Shop – produced by Maggie Howell, a qualified hypnotherapist who has uses these relaxation techniques in her Hampshire practice.
Wherever you choose to deliver or whoever provides you care it is a good idea to draw up a Birth Plan.
This is a guideline of the things you do and do not want to happen during your labour and birth.
It really is essential that you discuss your wishes with your caregiver during your pre-natal check ups.
It is generally safe to assume that if you are planning on a hospital birth, you will need to strictly outline your wishes. Present copies of your plan to the head midwife and registrar in advance, as hospital births are more regulated and you may not be the only labouring woman!
Wherever you give birth, make sure your birth assistant/partner is familiar with your choices also, as the time may come when you’re not fully able to express yourself and they can make sure the plan is observed as closely as possible.
Of course, things may occur that cause you to not be able to follow the birth plan as you had wished. Use it as a guideline and don’t be hard on yourself if circumstances prevent it being followed perfectly.
The point of the Birth Plan is to have your wishes respected, presenting your care provider with a copy in advance will allow any conflicts of opinion to arise early enough to hopefully be dealt with!
A sample Birth Plan might include:
- No pain relief to be offered unless I request it.
- I want to move freely around the room when in labour.
- I want to be able to eat or drink if I choose to
- The baby is to be delivered onto my tummy and left to nurse for as long as I choose.
- The umbilical cord is not to be cut until it has stopped pulsating (unless tight around neck, etc)
- My birth partner is allowed with me at all times
- I do not want the injection to clot my blood after delivery
- No vitamin K for the baby
- I do not want an episiotomy
- I want minimal foetal monitoring and examinations if all is progressing well.
- If well, I want the baby to stay with me at all times.
- I would like the lights dimmed after delivery.
This is just an idea of what you may or may not want to have happen. You may not even be sure of what you do/do not what to have happen as you may not be aware of what could happen!
The birth of your child is a once in a lifetime event that can effect you all for ever!! A birth plan may just assist you in getting the birth you want.
This link covers routine and non-routine procedures in delivery and how they could affect your birth,and this link is to an Online Interactive Birth Plan Guide . This is fun and helpful!
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It is through sheer trial and error that I am able to bring you my list of essential items for mother and baby. The harder to find items we are working on providing in our secure online shop:
- 3 comfortable cotton nursing bras in various colours; forget department store standard ones that require four people to latch and unlatch them and only come in white.
The mother of all nursing bras is the Bravado! Bra, now offered in our online shop in a variety of colours and patterns including black and leopard print! This bra looks good and is so adapting to your changing shape, you’ll wear it during pregnancy and for the rest of your life.
- Brushed cotton breast pads; much softer than paper.
Standard high street pads are OK, but then I discovered these fantastic cotton pads again from Bravado!. Besides the environmental benefits, you deserve the comfort of these soft pads, they come in a bag of 10 and have a unique patented design.
- 2 comfy nighties; to live in for the first 2 weeks postpartum.
Savour your “Babymoon” and do nothing except care for yourself and your baby for as long as possible. The “real world” will re-enter your lives soon enough. Besides, people are much less likely to ask or expect you to do anything if you’re “not dressed”!
- Cloth nappies; for baby and you; Lay one over your exposed breast when nursing to soak up leaking milk, you do not want to wear a bra 24 hours a day !
How many you’ll need and what type you’ll want depends on your preferences. Options abound and I’m working on putting together “my favourites” list with suppliers. I’ll update asap.
- Bed guard/rail; for baby’s safety when sleeping with you.
These are available for between £10-£20 at most baby shops.
- Moses basket; for when you’re out of bed so baby stays close to you.
Eliminates the need for expensive and detaching baby monitors.
- Sling or front baby carrier; for work around the house as well as taking baby out.
There are many different styles of baby carriers available on the Internet. It took several purchases before I found a comfortable one. For me, a sling never worked out, but lots of people swear by them. I discovered “The Baby Wrap” which adapts to front and back carrying and doesn’t use the back-breaking shoulder straps (the weight is distributed around your chest and torso). The new model is a little trickier to get the hang of , but I’m working on supplying the “old model” back carrier which is styled on African baby slings. If it wasn’t for mine, I wouldn’t get half the work done that I do, and bulky strollers are no more ! Baby’s love and need to be close to you Your smell, your warmth, you’re voice and heartbeat, all make for a contented baby!
- Car seat; new not used, damage to seats can be invisible.
- Plenty of good food in your cupboards; you don’t even want to think about trips to the supermarket for 3 weeks or more.
- Cotton baby gowns; these are preferable for newborns so that they can feel their legs rub against each other like they did inside you.
The only ones I found where from a major high street chemist, but were uncomfortable and stiff. I am supplying my own design in warm, soft natural brushed cotton in our shop.
- Baby bouncer chair; my babies always spent a lot of time in one when they weren’t in the sling.
- Cloth menstrual pads; less chafing for you, easy to care for.
You deserve the comfort of soft cotton each month too and especially in the tender postpartum period. They come in different sizes and fabrics and are pleasant (dare I say fun?) to use. Obviously much better for the environment, with the elimination of so much pollution caused from standard pad manufacturing and disposal. Also eliminates health risks from Toxic Shock Syndrome, not to mention the money you’ll save. You deserve these!
- Soft cotton cap; to help baby retain body heat.
These are easily made for newborns with an old large soft sock or t-shirt sleeve. Cut so you have a “tube” of the fabric and tie a knot around one end with wool!
That’s really it. Your baby doesn’t want a pyschedelic nursery, a “10-in-1” pram in designer Italian fabric, a mahogany cot complete with clanging musical mobile or co-ordinated furnishings. I know a lot of the time we buy the stuff we do for our own enjoyment and I’ll admit, it is fun buying for your new baby but the truth is, your baby just needs you. Your skin, your milk, your heartbeat, you. You already have everything you need to make this baby happy within you.
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