So, you’ve found out you’re expecting. If it was planned, you’re probably experiencing elated joy mixed with euphoric terror. If it wasn’t, well, you may just feel terror.
But one thing’s for certain – you’re suddenly putting your lifestyle under the microscope. Because your body doesn’t just belong to you now; it also belongs to the little life growing inside you.
Look forward, not back
Had a flash-before-your-eyes montage of all of the things you did before you knew you were pregnant? The three bottles of wine; the 2-hour boxing session; the sashimi bento box. Breathe. There’s no point feeling guilty or dwelling on these things. What’s done is done – it’s what you do now that matters.
There are many things that affect your baby’s development. And the good thing is, you have control over a lot of them. However, don’t forget that life’s always unpredictable, and even the healthiest mothers can experience complications. In fact, up to 60% of abnormal conditions in babies are caused by unknown factors. That said, almost 98% of babies are born well and healthy. And that’s a stat worth dwelling on.
Now’s the time to make positive lifestyle changes. But it’s not time to get caught up in ‘must do’s’ and ‘must not do’s’. This simply sets you up for failure. And mum-guilt is a bad headspace to be in – especially before you’ve even had the bub.
Get a little perspective
Welcome to a world where your family, friends, colleagues and possibly even your hairdresser want to give you advice. However well-meaning they may be, remember that you’re probably emotionally vulnerable, and listening to all of the noise can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Some things you may hear:
Follow a perfect diet and stock up on vitamins to avoid problems with your baby’s development.
NEVER have a glass of wine or coffee. And forget about taking paracetamol next time you have a headache.
Not taking folic acid? Oh no, your baby probably has a neural tube defect.
Don’t change the kitty litter without gloves ones, it’s riddled with toxins. In fact, don’t go near it at all.
Cheese is the enemy – even a lick of camembert can give you listeria.
Forget covering your greys. The chemicals at the hair dresser will harm your baby.
You went to the sauna!? That’s a massive no-no.
While a lot of advice is great to follow, striving for perfection is futile. Beyond that, many women find themselves stressed beyond all measure, torturing themselves when they give in to glass of champagne at their friend’s wedding or step on some cat litter.
You, my friend, can only do your best. Remember that there is only a 1.6 to 3% risk of having a bub with a birth defect (and that’s on a worldwide scale). And, trust me, this is more likely because of things far outside of your control.
Focus on these positives
From diet to daily activities, there are simple changes you can make that help your bub’s development.
Eat real food: Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, wholegrain, legumes and lean source son meat help to give your baby a bright start to life. Three other things to aim for are low sugar, higher protein and low GI carbohydrates. It could be eggs, sourdough bread, pasta, chicken, avocados or oats – whatever tickles your tummy (or cravings).
Drink lots of water: Your blood is working hard to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to your baby through the placenta. And increased blood volume requires increased water. H2O is also a miracle worker for all the fun pregnancy symptoms like constipation, UTIs, fatigue, headaches and swelling.
Move often: You may not feel like it, but moderate exercise can help to boost your mood and energy, plus improve your fitness (which is a big help during labor).Other wonderful benefits are enhanced sleep quality, less back pain and speedier postpartum recovery. It doesn’t matter what you do – just move.
Prioritise sleep: Never forget how hard your body’s working during pregnancy. After all, you’re busily creating life while running another. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore tiredness. You may need to adopt napping or wind your bed time forward an hour, but you’ll be doing you and your baby a favour.
Don’t beat yourself up: Pregnancy may be exciting, but it’s also stressful. So be kind to yourself. Have the odd piece of chocolate, enjoy some French fries, or veg in front of the TV for half a day if you need to. Stress isn’t a healthy state to be in. It also helps to make friends with people going through the same journey. They’ll understand, more than anyone, the ups and down you’re experiencing.
Enjoy the ride.