Preparing for pregnancy with a healthy diet
Whether you’re planning your first baby or you’re thinking about having another, a healthy diet makes good sense for both you and your partner. Your eating, weight and lifestyle habits have a significant influence on your health, your fertility and once you’ve become pregnant on the growth and development of your unborn baby.
Now is a great time to reassess your diet and to check that you are eating a wide variety of healthy foods. You need to have a good balance between starchy carbohydrate foods; moderate amounts of protein foods; low fat dairy products and plenty of fruits and vegetables. A healthy balanced diet should supply you with all the nutrients you need, but one vitamin that is particularly important pre-conceptually and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is folic acid and so you should take extra folic acid (400mcg/day) in the form of a supplement during this time.
There are also a couple of other nutrients that need special attention at this time. You should make sure you’re eating enough iron-rich foods to build up your body stores in preparation for your pregnancy, so include red meat, fish, poultry, beans, dark green leafy vegetables and wholegrain cereals regularly. Omega 3 fatty acids play a critical role in the development of the brain and nervous system of a baby so it is a good idea to top up your stores of these too by eating two portions of fish per week (at least one of these portions as oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel).
Both you and your partner should reduce your alcohol intakes in line with official recommendations and aim for a healthy weight. Being a healthy body weight can help you to conceive – being very underweight or obese can reduce your chances of conceiving, and being obese while pregnant can increase the risk of complications. And for your partner, it is worth checking the diet contains enough zinc and selenium containing foods as these have been shown to be linked with sperm quality. Lean red meat, wholegrain cereals, seafood and eggs are good sources of these nutrients.
If you want to read more, here are two good links which you may find useful:
Until next time....
Tags: carbohydrates, dairy, healthy, iron, minerals, obesity, pregnant, prepare, preparing for baby to arrive, supplements, vitamins, zinc
It was reported in the news this week that pregnant women who ask for a caesarean delivery should be allowed to have one. You can read the full story on the BBC website.
A vaginal birth is generally safer than a caesarean birth. However, a caesarean section may be needed to save the life of a mum or baby. In these cases, caesarean birth is without question the safest option.
But there are also times when the decision is not so obvious and it will be up to you and your doctor to weigh up the risks and benefits of having a caesarean to decide what's best for you. Although a caesarean is a common procedure, it involves major surgery in your abdominal and pelvic area, and all operations carry risks.
Disadvantages of a caesarean:
- Pain. The main disadvantage is pain after the caesarean. This may last for a few weeks or more after the operation. You will be given medication to help cope with the pain but it will affect your daily activities.
- Infection. Before the operation, you will be offered a single dose of antibiotics, but about 8% of women still go on to get an infection.
- Blood clot. Any surgery carries a risk of developing a blood clot. This can be serious, or even life-threatening, depending on where the clot develops. You will be given blood-thinning drugs and support stockings to improve the blood flow in your legs after the caesarean. You'll also be encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible afterwards. This helps your circulation and reduce your risk of developing a clot.
- Adhesions. These are bands of scar tissue which form as you heal and can make organs in your abdomen stick to each other or to the inside of your abdominal wall. About half of women who have had a caesarean get adhesions, and this can increase with more caesareans. Adhesions can be painful because they limit the movement of your internal organs.
- Infertility. Occasionally, adhesions can lead to problems with fertility, as they can press on or block fallopian tubes. Sometimes women experience unexplained infertility after a caesarean.
- Anaesthetic. Most caesareans are done with an epidural or spinal, which numbs you from the abdominal area down. An epidural or spinal is safer for you and your baby than a general anaesthetic. However, having any anaesthetic involves a small risk. With epidurals and spinals a few women can have; a severe headache (affects about 1% of women); nerve damage. This rarely happens and, if it does, it usually only lasts for a few days or weeks although very rarely it’s permanent.
- Injury to the bladder, to the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder (ureters) or to the bowel.
- Very occasionally, if there are major complications, to protect a woman's health, doctors may have to perform an operation to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).
- A blood transfusion. If you've had a serious complication during the caesarean, you may need a blood transfusion. Some of the rarer complications of a caesarean can be life-threatening. However, the risk of a caesarean proving fatal is extremely small, only one in 12,000.
- Breathing difficulties for the baby. About 35 in every 1,000 babies have breathing problems after a caesarean compared with five in 1,000 babies born vaginally. Breathing problems are more common for premature babies born by caesarean or babies born by a caesarean before labour started.
- About 2% of babies get a nick or cut from the doctor's scalpel.
- Although early postnatal depression is more common in women who've had a caesarean than women who've had a vaginal birth, by two months, the rates are about the same.
- Women who've had a caesarean are less likely to start breastfeeding than women who've had a vaginal birth. However, once you've started, your chances of success are the same as for a woman who's given birth vaginally.
- It can affect future pregnancies. Once you've had one caesarean, you're much more likely to have another caesarean in future pregnancies. Having had a caesarean slightly increases your risk of having a low-lying-placenta (placenta praevia) in future pregnancies. There is a very small risk of the scar on your uterus opening up again in future pregnancies or births. This is called a uterine rupture but is rare and affects 0.5-1% of women in future pregnancies.
Advantage of a caesarean:
- If it’s planned, you will know when your baby will be born.
- Although you'll have a very sore tummy, you won't have some of the discomforts that can result from a vaginal birth, such as pain and bruising and tears and stitches around your vagina.
- Caesarean birth may help protect against the slight risk of urine leaks and in later years, vaginal prolapse. However, other factors such as the number of births, having big babies, having assisted deliveries and obesity also contribute to these conditions. Pregnancy itself is also a risk factor for these conditions as it can weaken your pelvic floor, so you still need to do your pelvic floor exercises!
If you have any questions about either a caesarean or a vaginal birth, don't be afraid to ask your midwife and talk through all of the options with her.
Best wishes - Amber
Is there anything I should do to prepare for labour?
I often get asked what mums should do to prepare for labour so thought it would be useful to share my advice with you all.
Being well informed can really help. Gather as much information as you can. Read books, join an antenatal, hypnosis or exercise class and talk to your health professionals. Many women fear the unknown about labour which can cause anxiety, tension and uses up valuable energy which can make labour more painful and exhausting. If you know what to expect, you can have some idea about what you would like for yourself.
Consider writing a birth plan. For some women it is important to have written personal a birth plan. It can be helpful if you bring your written wishes with you, especially if you have a midwife in labour you’ve not met before. Usually at a glance at a plan, as midwives, we can see what is important to you - it can be difficult to explain what is particularly important to you in between contractions! Many women keep a copy of their plan in their maternity hand held notes. Keeping an open mind is a good idea, as sometimes you might either choose to do things differently or need to if problems occur, but it’s good to have an idea of what you would like / would like to avoid in advance.
Keep a list of important phone numbers in your handbag or near the phone. Include your hospital or midwife, your birth partner or birth companion, and your own hospital reference number available for when you contact the midwife/hospital.
Have your bags ready. Only about 5% of babies actually come on their due date, so it is always a good idea to have your bags packed or homebirth items ready to go.
Stock up at home for when your baby has arrived. You may not want to do much more than rest and care for your baby, so do as much planning as you can in advance. Stock up on basics such as toilet paper, sanitary pads and nappies. If you have a freezer, prepare some meals in advance and freeze them.
Hope this helps.