Sharing my experience as a mother of two beautiful children, being pregnant is a rich and rewarding time in a woman's life. It’s important to know that your health and wellbeing can affect your baby’s growth. Here are some tips to consider to give yourself the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Tip 1: Pre-pregnancy planning
If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s worth checking in with your GP or obstetrician. This allows your specialist to provide you with the necessary information and advice to aid conception and have a healthy pregnancy.
Making lifestyle changes, learning about improving your diet, exercising regularly, stopping smoking and alcohol to name a few.
Any existing medical conditions are well controlled. It’s important to manage conditions such as diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, epilepsy and other conditions prior to pregnancy so complications are less likely. This also allows changes to medications that may be harmful during pregnancy.
Prenatal blood test to make sure you are up to date with existing vaccinations. E.g. checking your immunity for German measles (Rubella) and chicken pox.
Other vaccinations may be recommended during your pregnancy e.g. flu vaccination due to lower immunity during pregnancy. Getting the flu during your pregnancy may require hospitalisation and even be life threatening.
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination is also recommended for all pregnant women in their third trimester and some of the immunity can be passed on to your baby. We also recommend the vaccine to other caregivers such as your partner, family and friends. Whooping cough is a life threatening disease for young babies.
Tip 2: Folic Acid
All women should take folic acid at least a month before a planned pregnancy and during the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy. Folic acid helps the formation of a normal spinal column, reducing the risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida (a birth defect that can affect the spinal cord).
Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables and other foods fortified with folic acid such as breads and cereals. However, it is recommended that all women planning a pregnancy take supplement containing 0.5mg folic acid. As some women with a higher risk of neural tube defects and diabetes will need a higher dose, it’s advisable to discuss with your obstetrician on the correct dose for your pregnancy.
Tip 3: Eating well, good food!
A balanced diet that includes appropriate portions of a variety of food groups is recommended. This means eating plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, as well as fruit, grain (cereal) foods, lean meat, poultry, fish eggs nuts and dairy products.
Certain foods need to be avoided due to risk of infections to your baby, such as alcohol, caffeine, raw and undercooked foods i.e. sushi, cold meats, soft cheeses and soft serve ice cream.
Where possible, fresh unprocessed food is best as processed foods may have unhealthy additives such as sugar and salt. If you need ideas, head over to the Nutrition Australia website for more information.
Tip 4: Exercise
Exercising regularly (eg. 30 minutes per day) improves fertility and is important for the health of both you and your baby. Exercising and eating well are the best ways to control weight gain throughout your pregnancy and reducing the likelihood of gestational diabetes. It also reduces your risk of miscarriage and other complications
As your body changes during pregnancy, check with your doctor before you begin any exercise routines.
Tip 5: Kegels, Squeezes
Pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that supports a women’s bladder, bowel and uterus. Pelvic floor muscle exercises helps strengthen muscles which help maintain continence and preventing prolapse. They’re also important in preventing injury (likelihood of tearing) during a vaginal delivery.
A physiotherapist can provide exercise guidance suited to you. For more information, this is a great Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise video by a Jean Hailes pelvic floor physiotherapist.
Tip 6: Don’t smoke or drink
Both smoking and drinking can cause have harmful effects on you and your unborn child and their development in the womb, and can lead to complications that can cause miscarriages, premature births, low-weight births, growth defects and other problems during pregnancy and after your baby is born.
Tip 7: Regular antenatal visits
Your pregnancy plan includes regular antenatal visits with your obstetrician, which is important for a happy and healthy pregnancy. As well as getting to know your obstetrician and have the same specialist take care of you before, during and after your pregnancy, it’s important to have checks on you and the baby. These will include your blood pressure and an ultrasound, which checks for:-
Your baby’s heartbeat
Fluid around the baby and the baby’s position
Potential views of your baby’s chubby cheeks and lips!
Measure for baby’s growth
The obstetrician will also feel the baby within your abdomen and may also organise a urine test.
Throughout your pregnancy, your obstetrician can also organise a number of tests to ensure the wellbeing of your baby. This may include ultrasounds, screening tests and genetic tests. There is a lot of information out there and I encourage you to ask as many questions as you like.
For more information, please read this Antenatal Care during Pregnancy article by RANZCOG.
Tip 8: Baby journal and feeling your baby
Keeping a baby journal can be a great and fun way of tracking the development of your baby and pregnancy. You can also notes of any questions for your obstetrician on your next antenatal appointment.
From experience, feeling your baby move and kick for the first can be enjoyable or uncomfortable or both, depending on where they’re kicking. A kick to the ribs can take your breath away! Your baby is always moving but you will generally start feeling fetal movements between 16 - 24 weeks. Every pregnancy is different and your baby will establish a movement pattern that you will learn to recognise. Sometimes, you’ll feel the movements after a drink or a meal or when you are lying on your side.
If you feel your baby hasn’t moved as much as it usually does and are concerned, call your obstetrician for an assessment. If it’s after hours, go to the Emergency Department of your nearest hospital to organise an assessment (I’ve done this in the middle of the night with my second child).
The medical staff will check the baby’s heartbeat with a cardiotocograph (CTG) and may organise an ultrasound to check the fluid around the baby and the blood flow to the baby. This assessment may take a couple hours. Sometimes, depending on the results of the investigations, the baby will need to be born early. It’s always important to get reduced fetal movements checked out to make sure the baby is not in distress. We always welcome mothers to come in and have the baby checked out when you are worried about it’s movements, no matter what time of day it is!
Tip 9: Visit your dentist
A visit to your dentist before you fall pregnant or during the first trimester of your pregnancy is highly recommended to ensure good teeth and mouth health. Infections like gum disease and periodontal disease can lead to development problems for your baby or preterm birth and can even increase their risk of tooth decay later on in life, so dealing with these issues as soon as possible is necessary.
Tip 10: Time for yourself and naps!
Every pregnancy, for a first time mother and for experienced mothers, is uniquely fulfilling and challenging. It’s important to make time for yourself and getting more rest. It’s essential you have sufficient ‘me’ time to stay emotionally and mentally happy and positive. This will translate to a smoother pregnancy.
As a mother of two children, I know having sufficient rest, naps and taking time for myself helped me enjoy my pregnancies.
As a female obstetrician and gynaecologist and having experienced childbirth, I am here to support you throughout your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby.
For more information about our services, please visit our patient resources page for Obstetrics and Gynaecology.