Especially when you fall pregnant for the first time there are a lot of concerns like:
Am I ready to become a mother?
How will my life change?
Will my baby be healthy?
How can I create a good environment for my baby to grow up in?
It is definitely a time of transition, however with the right support it can be one of the best times in your life.
I often tell people that there is no ideal time there will always be something not quite right or happening at the same time. The beautiful thing is you have a good 9 months to work through whatever presents itself. Its easy to feel overwhelmed however just take it one step at a time. Starting with the first trimester. Once you get that positive pregnancy test you’ll possibly need to change a few lifestyle habits, most of them we are aware of but just to reiterate:
No more alcohol – there hasn’t been a safe level of alcohol established for a pregnancy so the best bet is to steer clear completely
No more smoking – often harder than eliminating alcohol a nicotine addiction has its roots into you physically, mentally & emotionally do whatever it takes to kick the habit as soon as you can, and 1/day is still 1 too many.
No more coffee – this one gets left out in many lists however I’ve included here because caffeine lasts a lot longer in your baby, then it does in you. Constantly exposing your baby to any drug is a bad idea, as it affect their development and neurological function.
These substances can be a big part of our lifestyle before children and when becoming pregnant can mean a change and “giving up” the old to embrace the new. Its normal to feel overwhelmed by these changes and add to this feeling tired, hormonal & emotional, nauseous and bloated. Pregnancy in the first trimester doesn’t always look so great, however it generally passes pretty quickly. Once the second trimester rolls around you’ll be feeling a lot better physically and more connected to your baby with a strong motivation that you’re creating the best possible environment & the best start at life for your little one.
When it comes to food & dietary choices there are some foods that need to be avoided, especially ones that can have a build up of bacteria (namely listeria) this may cause a miscarriage. Bearing this in mind there are many variables that can contribute to a pregnancy miscarrying, its rare for food to be the one & only cause but its better in the first trimester to be aware and careful. The following foods should be avoided once your pregnancy is confirmed:
Soft cheeses like camembert, brie, blue cheese
Raw fish (no more sashimi when having sushi, no more prawns either)
Raw eggs (mainly added to smoothies or when making desserts)
Avoid leftovers that are more than 1 day old
Food that has been heated/cooked and then cooled and reheated lower than the original cooking temperature can harbour a lot of bacteria
Salad bars can be dicey (avoid potato salads & coleslaw)
Deli meats are a big no no including salami, proscuito etc.
So that’s basically everything that you’ll be taking away so lets talk about things to add back in. Firstly I always tell newly pregnant mothers to eat more regularly than usual. I would suggest not leaving any more than 2-3 hours between having something. The more often you eat the more stable your blood sugar levels will remain and its less likely that you’ll experience morning sickness or nausea. A great staple to keep with you at all times in your handbag is a container of nuts & seeds and a piece of fruit. Listen to your body what it wants and what its aversions are. Protein is very important to your developing baby so make sure to include plenty of complete protein sources including:
Grass fed red meat
Organic / hormone free or free range chicken
Fish (smaller are better, salmon, anchovies)
Nuts & seeds
Dairy (milk, hard cheese, yoghurt)
Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans) + grains (rice, oat, barley, rye)
You can very safely stick to a vegetarian diet throughout your pregnancy, but I would suggest discussing a dietary plan with a Naturopath or Nutritionist to ensure that you’re meeting the dietary requirements for your pregnancy.
Ensure that you’re drinking plenty of water and herbal teas are great especially peppermint, ginger, licorice, dandelion these will also contribute to your aim of 2L of water / day. Avoid soft drinks that interfere with your blood sugar levels, as well as leeching minerals from your system.
Exercise is another that I get asked about and generally whilst in your first trimester it’s good to keep exercising at a similar frequency as you were prior to getting pregnant. If you were an avid runner than you can still continue to run in your pregnancy if you feel comfortable to do so. You don’t however want to push yourself too hard during any exercise and get your body overheated with an elevated heart rate as this can cause stress on your system which is not good for your developing baby. Also any exercise which involves a lot of twisting of your mid section isn’t ideal i.e. swimming freestyle, paddleboarding. Great choices for exercise including light jogging, walking, bike riding, swimming (breathe stroke or back stroke), yoga etc. “think gentle”.
So that is diet & lifestyle covered, other things to consider are supplements. It’s important to be on a good pregnancy multivitamin that contains folic acid (ideally you should have been on at least 500mcg of folic acid 3 months prior to conception, if not its ok just start as soon as possible). Usually a good multi should contain a full range of B complex vitamins these are especially important in energy production, your baby is developing at a very rapid rate and using a lot of energy in the process. On top of supplying all that energy for your baby your body also needs to work on processing high levels of pregnancy hormones, again your liver is working very hard to do that and using a lot of energy as a result. It’s very common to feel tired due to these processes but another contributing factor to this tiredness is the high likelihood that you’re not getting enough sleep. During the first trimester (and 3rd) your sleep is usually broken by the need to wake up and relieve your bladder. Hopefully you can get back to sleep fairly quickly, if not you may need to catch up with a nap through the day or go to bed earlier than usual. If you are feeling nauseous through the day it’s a good idea to have a quick snack if you’re up going to the toilet, this again will help to keep your blood sugar levels higher so that you don’t have such a big drop when you wake in the morning. Getting back to supplementation its also a good idea to consume at least 2000mg of fish oil / day as a source of Omega-3 (EPA/DHA), please ensure that the oils have not just been “mercury tested” but had any pollutants purified & removed. Stating that its “mercury tested” can be a bit of a marketing trick, basically its tested but not removed, so if in doubt please ask a Naturopath or Nutritionist at your local health food store or chemist.
Pathology testing with your doctor is important They usually run a number of “standard” tests to ensure that you don’t have HIV, rubella, etc. There are a few others that I think make sense to check on at this time including:
-B12 & Folate
-full blood count (FBC / EFT)
-thyroid function test (TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3) – some of these tests aren’t bulked billed by medicare
Pregnancy is filled with pros & cons and can be a very challenging time, emotionally and physically it’s a big adjustment but remember to remain positive, the rewards at the end are life changing. Make sure you have adequate support during this time in addition to your partner. If you feel like your not coping know that it is perfectly ok to ask for help, its all around you – all you need to do is reach out.