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Managing your stress during your pregnancy

Posted on 16 March 2015 by Amber

 

 

Managing stress during pregnancy

For most mums-to-be, pregnancy is a happy and exciting time.  However, for some, pregnancy can be a source of stress and anxiety.  We all know about the importance of physical health during pregnancy, but we can be less likely to consider the effects of emotional health.

Experiencing occasional stress and anxiety during pregnancy is very normal, and for many women, these feelings will come and go.  However, for around 15% or pregnant women, it can be more serious, and potentially harmful.

Rest assured that most women will go onto have a healthy pregnancy and baby even if they’re stressed. 

But if you’re feeling stressed and anxious all the time, don’t struggle on alone, ask your doctor or midwife for help.  There’s some evidence that continuous high levels of stress may have adverse effects on your baby.  It’s thought that the stress hormone, cortisol, can cross the placenta and impact the baby’s brain development.  High levels of chronic stress can also increase your chance of premature labour or a low birth weight baby.

Whist you mustn’t feel guilty or be hard on yourself, trying to overcome your stress or seeking help if you need to, will be beneficial for both you and your baby.

Here are some positive steps you can take to reduce your stress during pregnancy:

Talk about it
Sharing your concerns and feelings with your partner, friends, or family will help relieve some of your anxiety.  Don’t bottle things up.  Turning to others for support and sharing your concerns can really help you feel better. 

If you have worries about your baby’s wellbeing, or a personal matter, you can always turn to your caregiver.  There are many resources out there, so if you are honest about how you feel, you are more likely to get the support you need.

Talking to other mums-to-be can be another excellent source of support, as they’re probably experiencing the same anxieties as you are.  There are plenty of antenatal, exercises or mum-to-be classes available, where you can meet others in the same position as you.

Rest and relaxation
Make slowing down a priority.  You need to be kind to yourself and allow time to rest without feeling guilty.  Treat yourself to some ‘you’ time and put your feet up, have a long bath, or read a good book.  If you feel exhausted, go to bed early or take a nap if you can.  Growing a baby is tiring work and it’s important to listen to your body and get all the rest you need.

Complementary therapies are another great way to unwind.  Reflexology or massage in particular can be a wonderful way to de-stress.  Many spa and beauty salons provide pregnancy treatments, but if you don’t want to put money aside, you can always ask your partner or a close friend or family member to give you a back, neck or foot massage.

Deep-breathing exercises, yoga, or stretching are wonderful to relieve built up stress and tension.  You can teach yourself meditation, breathing exercises and visualisation techniques, they’re free, and you can do them anywhere.  These are ways of relaxing by concentrating your mind on one thing and they’re often used in yoga.

Try to find a pregnancy yoga class near you.  However, if you can’t join a class for whatever reason, there are many pregnancy yoga DVDs available, allowing you to practice in the comfort of your own home.

Look after yourself
If you’re used to caring for others, give your all at work, or find it hard to say “no”, making yourself a priority may seem unnatural, or even selfish.  But looking after yourself is an essential part of looking after your baby.  Now’s as good a time as any to get rid of the notion that you can do it all.  Practice saying “no” and get used to the idea of asking your friends and family for help. 

Take good care of your body and your mental health will improve too.  Do your best to eat healthy food, drink plenty of water and take regular gentle exercise such as walking or swimming. 

Laughter is one of the body’s best ways of relaxing, so meet up with friends, go out for a meal or watch a film at the cinema.

Pregnancy is also a great time to treat yourself to all the treatments you don’t normally splash out on or have time for.  If your bump gets too big to paint your toe nails, have a pedicure, or create your own pampering session at home if you’re saving money.

Prepare for the birth
If the prospect of giving birth is worrying you, learning more about what happens during labour can make you feel more in control and less anxious.  Understanding the process, stages of labour and most importantly, your choices, can put your mind at rest.

Being prepared can really help relieve stress.  Antenatal classes are a great way of being well informed, and if you’re having your baby at a hospital or birth centre, you may be able to have a tour of the delivery suite, or an online tour should be available.  Having a birth plan written up is also one less thing to worry about. 

Speak to your midwife about your worries.  Most likely they are completely normal and you won’t be the only woman having had the same anxieties.  If your fear of birth is so overwhelming, the right support may help you overcome your doubts.  Hypnobirthing is also a great way of feeling positive about the birth.

Money worries
Times are financially difficult for many people at the moment, and with a baby on the way, it can cause considerable stress for some.  But try not to worry; a baby doesn’t actually need that much in the early stages.  Try and write a list of the essential things you really need and stick to it.  You’ll also probably be pleasantly surprised by how much you can borrow, or get things in great condition second hand.

Make sure you know about your entitlements regarding maternity pay, and you may also be entitled to other supplementary benefits too.  Speak to your midwife as they may be able to help you with equipment grants or pointing you in the direction of Charities that will give you good quality cots and prams for example.

What if your stress continues?
If you’re extremely anxious, feel unable to cope or manage your stress, or have a specific reason to be concerned about your baby’s health, consult with your care giver.  They may be able to recommend some professional counselling.  Some women can also experience depression during pregnancy, and this can be treated, so talking to your doctor or midwife can really help.

 

 

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Not eating for two, staying healthy for two!

Posted on 8 February 2012 by Helen

Hello again,

Looking after yourself during your pregnancy is important for you and will also give your baby the best start in life. I believe, and I hope you will all agree, that making sure your diet is as good as it can be makes good sense at this special time, to optimise your own health and also that of your growing baby. 

During pregnancy, you should eat as wide a variety of different foods as possible to make sure you get all the nourishment you both need. Where there might be concerns that dietary intake might not be enough to meet requirements then supplements are recommended. This is considered to be the case with folic acid which is so important in the early stages of pregnancy, and vitamin D supplements are recommended nowadays too. Speak to your doctor if you want more information on vitamin supplements, or if it’s easier then the NHS website is really helpful. 

For advice on healthy eating during pregnancy, rather than me listing it all out here, can I ask you to visit the HiPP website.

Here you will find lots of valuable information about your pregnancy diet, foods to avoid, recipes to try and what to do if you have concerns about food allergies. And if you have any questions that you can’t find answers for, you can always ask either me or one of my colleagues and we will be more than happy to help if we can.

Good luck with your pregnancy.

Until next time...
Helen

 

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Hints and tips on changing from breast to bottle feeding your baby

Posted on 23 November 2010 by Helen

Hi again.

Breastfeeding is best, few people will dispute this fact. But, it isn’t always possible or desirable. Some can’t or choose not to breastfeed their baby from the start, whereas others start breastfeeding but then for one reason or another need to switch over to the bottle, either totally or partially. Whatever choice you make, it makes sense to discuss your feeding options with a health visitor or breastfeeding counsellor who is trained to give support and handy advice.

So, if you find yourself in the position of needing to switch over from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, perhaps because you’re returning to work, do I have any hints or tips to help make the changeover easier?

1. Start to introduce a bottle a few weeks ahead – just in case it takes a while for your baby to get used to it
2. Decide whether you are going to give your baby expressed breastmilk or formula, and if you go for the latter, decide which formula you want to use.  Sometimes babies take to the bottle better if it contains the familiar taste of your breastmilk at first, before moving onto a formula a bit later
3. Make sure the milk you’re offering is warm
4. Choose the perfect time to try the bottle, when baby is alert and slightly hungry (don’t wait until your baby is really hungry as they won’t be in the mood for trying something new if they are), and you are relaxed and not in a rush
5. Hold your baby so they are turned away from you so they are not trying to find your nipple
6. Stay calm and reassuring; try not to show any frustration you might feel if it doesn’t work out straightaway
7. Perhaps ask your partner or someone else close to the baby to give the bottle rather than you if they seem reluctant to take the bottle from you

For more information and tips, visit the HiPP Baby Club.

Have you tried to switch over from breast to bottle? What were your experiences? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,
Helen

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How much fruit and veg should baby eat a day?

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Helen

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Hi again!

I often get asked “how much fruit and veg should my baby be having a day?” For adults and older children the message is pretty clear and can be seen everywhere – on supermarket shelves, food labels, TV and magazine adverts, healthy eating literature, websites (see below) – eat 5 portions a day, each portion being 80g.

Visit the NHS website - 5 a day

Although fruits and vegetables are staple foods during weaning and it’s hard to imagine most babies not getting enough, as yet health departments in the UK haven’t quantified the recommended fruit and veg intakes for babies and so parents often don’t know whether their little ones are getting enough.

Fruit and veg are full of lots of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre, and to make sure your baby benefits from the full array of nutrients these foods have to offer it makes good sense to include lots of different types - a mix of green vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, green beans), yellow or orange vegetables (e.g. carrots, squash, swede, sweet potato), and fruits (e.g. apricots, mangoes, bananas, peaches).  Include some fruit and veg at every meal if possible, and aim for 5 servings a day, but don’t worry if some days, especially at the start of weaning, this is less.

With regards to portion sizes for babies, official advice only says that the amount is smaller than the adult recommendation of 80g, but how much smaller? The Caroline Walker Trust has recently published advice on portion sizes for toddlers aged 1-4 years and they quote 40g fruit/veg as a portion.  They are publishing advice on infant portion sizes later in the year but until this is available, my thinking is that 30-35g makes a sensible portion size.  This equates to approximately half a small pear, apple, banana or peach; one small plum; one small carrot or parsnip; 3 cauliflower florets; 1 tablespoon peas.  Most HiPP Organic baby foods contain 1-2 fruit or veg portions per jar or pot, so they can really help boost fruit and veg intakes.

Let me know whether you think your baby is getting enough.......

Best wishes - Helen

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Pregnancy and healthy eating

Posted on 4 August 2010 by Helen

Hi Everyone.   

I’m really getting quite excited about this new blog of mine! It was great to hear back from you all about your own experiences on the last post and I’m hoping I can pass onto you all some really useful nutritional advice!

As I mentioned to you in my last post, we recently did a survey with the HiPP Baby Club members and one of the first questions we asked pregnant mothers was ‘Are you following any guidelines on what you should eat during pregnancy?’ Half of the respondents said they have only followed some of the guidelines and have been quite relaxed about their diets, whilst just over a quarter said they have followed their natural instincts on what they should be eating. This left less than a quarter saying they have followed the guidelines religiously. This got me thinking, are health professionals like myself and the Government overloading mums-to-be with advice on what to eat/not to eat during pregnancy and if we were to prioritise, what are the most important bits of dietary advice for pregnant mums?

I believe, and I’m sure you will all agree, that as a parent the most important thing always is to make sure your baby is safe. For this reason I would say that you should definitely follow the advice to avoid certain foods on food safety grounds e.g. raw meat/eggs, unpasteurised cheese, certain fish. Why not download a copy of our Foods to avoid card from our Baby Club that gives a ready-reckoner on what foods you should not eat during your pregnancy.

On top of that, I would definitely recommend that mums-to-be should eat as wide a variety of different foods as possible to make sure they get all the nourishment mum and baby needs. And of course, there are folic acid supplements that are so important in the early stages of pregnancy, vitamin D supplements important for some........so the list goes on! 

But remember the advice that is given is based on the most up-to-date knowledge and as a health professional I hope you mums feel able to take on board as much of this advice as possible, for your own benefit and to help ensure your baby can get the best start in life as possible.

Let me know what you think – are health professionals like me and the Government giving the best dietary advice to pregnant mums?

Best wishes - Helen

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