Your Pregnancy Journey: Everything You Need To Know
Becoming a new mom is as exciting as it is daunting! You have to make numerous decisions before the big arrival. Everything from what colour to make the baby’s room to one of the most important decisions – choosing a name – and of course, everything in between. But it’s the ‘in between’ bit that really counts!
Ensuring that you are armed with the really invaluable information during your pregnancy journey will mean both you and baby are healthy, not only during the nine months, but after birth as well. Moms-to-be can never have too much information to prepare for this magical journey. So ensuring you have gathered enough information to make informed and objective choices is very important.
Take the test
Many women feel convinced that they are pregnant before they have even missed a period; others feel no different at all. So make sure you take a test to confirm. Pregnancy tests can detect a hormone called human chorionic gonadothropin (HCG) in the mother’s urine. There is a wide range of home pregnancy tests available and most of them are more than 99% accurate if used according to instructions. Blood tests detect the same hormone in the blood but they are more reliable than urine tests.
It is extremely important that you also establish your HIV status as soon as you find out you are pregnant to ensure that you are placed on lifelong antiretroviral medication (ARV) to reduce the risk of transferring the virus to the baby. There are different antiretroviral drug treatments available that lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy by 60%.
The importance of the first antenatal visit
Antenatal care is an essential part of the pregnancy and should start when the pregnancy is diagnosed to monitor the pregnancy and troubleshoot any potential problems. Sticking to appointments is essential to determine if the baby is healthy and if the pregnancy is progressing well. And, of course, the absolute best part of an antenatal visit is when hearing the heartbeat and getting a visual ‘sneak peek’ at your growing little one during an ultrasound.
Time to get eating right
While there are always contradicting views around what you can and can’t eat and drink – it’s important to do your homework. There are some foods and drinks that should be totally avoided during pregnancy, some that should only be consumed in moderation and others that you can eat to your heart’s content – specifically those foods that are high in calcium, antioxidants and nutrients. But while you are ‘eating for two’ and the cravings are sure to set in – don’t go overboard as losing the weight post pregnancy can be difficult. Develop a healthy eating plan that includes the intake of vitamins and minerals and helps manage cravings.
Make sure you get:
- Calcium – which helps developing the baby’s bones and teeth
- Vitamin D – which helps with the absorption of calcium
- Iron – is vital for creating the baby’s blood supply
- Vitamin C – improves the uptake of iron from non-meat sources
- Omega 3 fats – are important to ensure optimal brain development of the baby
The nutrition of the mother directly affects the status of the foetus and the emphasis should be on adequate nutrition during pregnancy. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help to give the baby the best possible start in life and improve the mother’s overall wellbeing.
Managing your energy levels
Fatigue is one of the earliest physical symptoms of pregnancy and, as the pregnancy progresses, the discomfort of trying to get comfortable, and frequency of urinating, can interfere with your sleep. Emotionally, you may be fatigued due to emotional stress, emotional mood swings or relationship issues. It is important that you make the most of sleep and recognise your limitations.
Choose a healthy lifestyle
- Stop smoking: The number of women smokers is increasing and the greatest risk of damage to the foetus is during the first trimester. Smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding is bad for both the mother and the foetus.
- Stop drinking alcohol: Heavy and steady alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been correlated not only with a high incidence of newborn mental retardation, but also with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Because it is unknown what the effect of alcohol is on the foetus, it is best to avoid exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.
- Recognise the importance of exercise: Moderate exercise in pregnancy is safe and beneficial, for both the mother and baby. It will help with the discomfort of pregnancy and the hard work of giving birth.
- Remember, sexuality matters! Having safe sex during pregnancy is normal and some women experience a higher libido. During the last months of pregnancy, the lack of sleep and pregnancy discomforts interfere with sexual performance.
- Maintain personal hygiene – the issue that nobody talks about! Personal hygiene is important in pregnancy: The sebaceous and sweat glands become more active so you should take a daily bath or shower.
- Soap should be avoided on the nipples to prevent them from drying out.
- Female douching (rinsing with solutions) is not recommended as it may cause infections.
Plan for the birth
The neverending debate – to go natural or opt for a Caesarian will surely come up. The decision is completely up to you. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different so it’s important to chat to your partner and doctor about what option works best for you. It’s also important to look at getting your affairs in order – documentation to ensure your medical details and paperwork are correctly recorded, your policies are in place and all the admin is done and dusted so that all you need to think about is your soon-to-arrive bundle.
Be product savvy
There are so many products available out there so it’s important to know what you will need and what’s ‘nice-to-have’. Being product savvy means doing your research. Look for products that take the environment into consideration, products that are BPA free and that are designed with your and baby’s comfort in mind. Look for a brand that is globally recognised and innovative with clinically proven solutions and the broadest range of support – right from the start, through every stage and each transition. Products that also work effectively together to promote baby’s wellbeing as well as ones with interchangeable design features mean they can be adapted to meet your baby’s developing needs.
So there you have it – a few key considerations to examine when embarking on the exciting journey of motherhood! It can seem daunting at first, in fact more like an information overload, but arming yourself with as much information as possible is critical at every point. A lack of information can lead to misguided views and choices – so never be too scared to ask!