Top 10 tips for early pregnancy
1. Consider taking Vitamins.
Don't worry if you feel like you missed the boat on taking your pregnancy vitamins, just take them as soon as you know you're pregnant. Leave behind trying to be the perfect Mum - it isn't possible! Just start to grow your love for your baby and do the best you can in the circumstances you find yourself in. Some pregnancies are a big surprise with no time to plan and that's been true since the human race began! Incidentally, some women find that the supplements can increase their nausea. If your pregnancy nausea is quite bad, it may be worth experimenting with some different brands or just stripping right back to only the NHS recommended supplements.
2. Don't stress if you were partying hard when your baby was conceived. When I worked on the NCT Pregnancy and Birth helpline, this was such a common call. Women in tears because their baby had been conceived on a boozy night out and they were now concerned for their baby's health. The advice on pregnancy and alcohol is very cautionary at the moment due to the results of small research studies. Larger studies are needed and in the meantime, the advice is for pregnant women to steer clear of alcohol in pregnancy. In reality, it's unlikely that one night of drinking is going to harm the baby. There's a reassuring article here. And if you're interested in doing some simple things to lead a healthier lifestyle that's great for pregnancy, have a read of this article.
3. You're not alone with worries about getting to 12 weeks. Whether your pregnancy is a surprise, thoroughly planned or is after years of trying and maybe through IVF; getting to the magic 12 weeks and seeing that first scan is a huge milestone and many of us worry that we won't get there, especially if there's been previous loss for us or for family members close to us. I wish I had advice for how to take this worry away, but I can't, it can be nerve racking. Know that the odds are in your favour (80- 90% of pregnancies in women under the age of 40y are successful*); and that there is nothing you can do to affect this. Obviously avoiding very high risk situations is important - a female
firefighter avoiding inhaling toxic fumes in a disaster scene, for example - but every day running for the bus etc.., won't make any difference. You can pay for an early scan; even at 6 weeks you may see a little jelly bean with a teeny, flickering heart beat. Some people feel that its best not to have any unnecessary scans in case there are unknown side effects. You can read about the pros and cons of extra scanning here.
*Figures from Tommy's
4. Manage Pregnancy Nausea & Sickness. Try to avoid getting hungry. It can really help in managing pregnancy nausea. Eating little and often can be very helpful. There are lots of natural remedies out there, it can be nice to try them, as you feel like you're doing something, but not many women find them that effective. Maternity Therapist Catherine Tugnait of PamperMums reminds us that having lots of pregnancy symptoms may indicate high hormone levels and that's a good
thing (though it can be hard to appreciate that at the time!). Therapies like reflexology can be enjoyable and relaxing which, in itself, could help in managing symptoms. Always consult a pregnancy qualified therapist. If your nausea and vomiting becomes severe, don't hesitate to seek help from your GP or Midwife. A small proportion of women develop Hyperemesis of pregnancy which is a very severe form of pregnancy sickness and requires monitoring and, often, treatment. There is more information here.
5. Get a Baby on Board Badge. It's almost a rite of passage for women in and around London to get their Baby on Board Badge. Order yours here. You just fill in the online form and the badge is delivered to your door in a plain envelope, no need to prove the pregnancy. It can be really hard in the early weeks to want to order a badge for fear of jinxing things! Even the least superstitious of us can succumb in pregnancy to this kind of thinking. You also may not want to advertise your pregnancy at work yet. If you feel comfortable to order it, you could keep the badge in your pocket and only use it on those commutes where you really feel rough.
6. Manage your commute to and from work. You may need to allow extra time in the morning so you don't exacerbate feelings of dizziness or sickness. Extra time will mean you don't have to rush, which would put added demands on your already hard working body. You might want to be able to pull over or get off trains for a breather if you feel unwell. It can be really frightening to faint. If you start to feel very hot and nauseous, these can be early warnings of a faint. You're not making a fuss; it's better to alert a fellow passenger or driver and get yourself sat down; even if it's on the floor! It's better than falling. Many women find that nibbling on dry crackers or dried fruit can help them to manage nausea and dizziness in the morning, as well as sipping water or ginger tea. If you can, try to eat and drink something before you leave. If you can adjust your start or finish times, you may be able to avoid rush hours which could make the journey less crowded and hectic and possibly shorter.
7. Managing at work when no one knows. It's so hard when you feel exhausted and sick, but no-one knows yet; and your just not ready to tell. If you can, confide in one or two trustworthy people. At least they can be supportive or sympathetic, even if they can't get you out of long, boring afternoon meetings where you can't stop yawning and your boss keeps frowning at you! Some people think the pregnancy hormones slow a woman down and detox her body as a way of prioritising the baby; and that this accounts for the tiredness and nausea. Although I'm not aware of any research that supports that, it can be a consolation to imagine there's a good reason behind how you're feeling. If you can, take some time off, even if it's just the odd afternoon. Find a reason to work from home. Book some Mondays or Fridays off to lengthen your weekend/shorten your working week; or days either side of your normal days off if you do shift work. Can you adjust your start or end time? Can you find ways to sit instead of stand? Go easy on yourself, push deadlines away and delegate where you can. If there's any way to nap, or at least lie down - at any time - then do it. It's just a few weeks until, hopefully, you're feeling much better and everyone knows about the pregnancy and can cut you some slack. Women often start to feel better somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks.
8. Pregnancy, work, safety and your rights. It's important to consider this early on. You may not want to tell anyone yet, but does your work require you to be exposed to X-rays, solvents, risk of falls and so on which may affect your baby? It may be wise to tell someone in authority, in confidence. You are entitled to a health and safety assessment; time off for antenatal appointments and care; and you have a lot of protected rights as a pregnant woman at work; including if the pregnancy makes you ill. Do take time, even early on, to consider your rights. There's many helpful websites out there, here's one.
9. Try to imagine caring a bit less about work. Many women love their job, or at least care very much that they do a good job. You may have worked for years to get where you are and may have a plan in mind for how to return and not affect promotion prospects, after the baby is born. When work has been our focus for so long, it can be really hard to imagine that we won't care about it quite so much after the baby is born. But I've heard the vast majority of women (and men), say that they
feel differently about work after they have their baby. Their focus and priorities change. If work was slightly less important to you, where might you cut yourself some slack in your job? What parts of your job could you afford to let go of without causing issues? I've yet to hear a Mum say she wished she'd worked harder and longer during pregnancy; but I've heard many who said they wished they hadn't pushed themselves so hard.
10. Plan to finish work earlier rather than later. It seems strange to think about the end of pregnancy when you're at the beginning but it's worth starting to manage your expectations. Many women understandably want to work as long as possible to maximise time off after the birth. Similar to the comments above, I've yet to hear a woman say she finished work too soon, but
I've heard so many who said they wished they'd stopped sooner. Resting at the end of the pregnancy and preparing physically and emotionally for your baby are great gifts to give yourself, your partner/family and your little one. You can always change your mind if you feel amazing towards the end of your pregnancy, building in flexibility to your end date is important; however, it can bring you a lot of stress if you suddenly need to finish earlier and colleagues/managers have done little to arrange your replacement. Giving work an earlier date, with the proviso that you may work longer, might ensure everything is in place sooner and give you a big reduction in stress at the end of your pregnancy.
.......I know, I know...I said 10 things.......but.....find ways to slow down and enjoy moments of pregnancy if you can. This is a great skill in life (I'm still learning it!). In the early days and weeks of pregnancy we may feel that we can't truly relax until the 12 week scan, But then, when the scan is done, we may be waiting for sickness and tiredness to wears off buefore we begin to enjoy it....but then......
There are always challenges where pregnancies and babies are concerned. We might find ourselves always looking ahead to an easier time and then missing some potentially amazing moments where we are.
Sometimes just enjoying the moment can be helpful. I don't want to pretend that there aren't some pregnancy challenges where this might be impossible. I get that there are, I really do. But for many pregnancies, there are moments where the exhaustion, sickness and worry eases, where we catch ourselves resting a hand on our belly, where we get butterflies at the thought of the little person in there.
Every day is another day with our baby
and we can try to find moments of celebration,
One day at a time.