The Channel Four series One Born Every Minute has recently returned to our screens, exploring the late stages of pregnancy and birth.
So this week’s column gives advice on staying healthy throughout your pregnancy and getting ready for the arrival of your baby.
The most common indication of pregnancy is missing your period.
There are other signs, however, including:
n Morning sickness or general nausea are experienced by many women during the early stages of pregnancy;
n Your breasts may feel tender, as they would during a period;
n An increased vaginal discharge without any soreness or irritation;
n A strange metallic taste in your mouth;
n 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.
If you continue to have these symptoms following a negative test, visit your GP.
You can take a pregnancy test from the first day of a missed period.
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, and then 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.
It’s important to look after yourself while pregnant.
Here are some tips for keeping healthy during pregnancy:
n 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.
n 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.
n 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.
n 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.
n Certain exercises and sports, such as contact sports during the later stages of pregnancy and scuba-diving, should be avoided. There are plenty of exercise classes designed for pregnant women and gentle walking and swimming are good ways of staying fit.
You should talk to your GP about whether or not it is advisable for you to take vitamin supplements.
It’s a good idea to take folic acid tablets, ideally beginning about six months before conception, if your pregnancy is planned.
Try to get as much rest as possible.
If you work, use your lunch break to eat and rest, rather than do errands.
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.