40 weeks, 40 tips
From Week One (when you won’t even know you’re pregnant!) right through to Week 40, here are useful tips and advice for every stage of pregnancy.
You probably won’t know that you’re pregnant yet, but now is the time to get yourself conception-ready. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or take any drugs, and try to reduce caffeine. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet. Maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI) has benefits for conceptions and for your pregnancy.
Research shows there are some key areas of health women should focus on prior to conception and in the early days of pregnancy. Look for information about iron, vitamins, iodine and folic acid, and get your levels tested to make sure you and your baby are as healthy as you can be.
Tired? Sick? Period late? Sore boobs, or nauseated at the smell of your breakfast? Yes, you just might be pregnant. Wait at least until the first day your period is due to take a home pregnancy test. The test gauges your urine for the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), which is at its highest first thing in the morning. Get a mid-stream urine sample for the most accurate result.
Confirm your pregnancy with a visit to your GP. A blood test is more accurate than a urine test, and your doctor will order a range of other tests at the same time. Referred to as a first antenatal screening, these tests include a complete blood count and testing for various diseases which may affect your pregnancy.
Have a chat to your GP about your options for choosing a lead maternity carer (LMC). You can select a midwife or group of midwives, or choose to be under obstetric care for your pregnancy. At this point, you’ll also start to think about where you’d like to have your baby.
Don’t let the term fool you: Morning sickness can happen any time of the day or night. Getting plenty of rest and eating small snacks like dry crackers regularly can help, as can ginger, lemon, or acupressure wristbands. If you nd yourself losing weight or if you can’t keep anything down, talk to your LMC right away for advice.
Eating as nutritious a diet as possible in early pregnancy is important. But if your constitution is still wobbly, find something healthy that you can eat, and stick with it. Be it green apples, ginger tea, wholegrain toast, or boiled eggs, some people think your body craves what it needs. So as long as it’s healthy, give in to temptation.
Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing, but your pregnant body will love you for it if you can get off that couch. Be sure to keep exercise low-impact because you’re more susceptible to injury right now. Yoga, walking, or swimming are all great options.
Friends may get suspicious if you keep turning down social invitations, but you’re likely to feel more inclined to stay home than face a crowd right now. Remember, real friends support you no matter what’s happening in your life, so it’s okay to take time out to focus on the big changes ahead.
How’s your partner feeling right now? Amid your excitement, nausea, and anticipation, their thoughts may have been drowned out by your own. Take time to communicate and share your feelings before you let the rest of the world in. You’ll need each other more than ever in the months ahead.
If morning sickness is still an unwelcome visitor, explore other remedies. A naturopath may be able to recommend supplements to support your liver and digestive system. Listen to music or watch a laugh-out-loud comedy. If nothing else, these activities can take your mind off the nausea. Remember to contact your LMC if symptoms are really affecting your daily life.
You’ll probably have a noticeable bump by now, and you’ll be reaching for anything in your wardrobe that’s comfortable around your middle. Maternity clothes can be expensive, but you’ll get plenty of wear out of them so don’t be afraid to invest. You can also find great deals on Trade Me or in recycled boutiques and op shops.
Fact: Around 1% of pregnant women experience hyperemesis gravidarum, which is severe morning sickness that causes weight loss, dehydration, and more. Talk to your LMC if you have severe nausea.
It might be time to tell family and friends your exciting news. Along with their congratulations, people will share their advice, whether you want it or not. Smile politely and thank them, but don’t feel obligated to take it if it doesn’t feel right. This is your pregnancy and nobody else’s.
Your baby is now more likely to reach term as you move into the second trimester this week. If you’re suffering morning sickness, this is also likely to ease. Make the most of this trimester by eating better, exercising more, and enjoying the miracle of pregnancy.
Because of your reduced immunity and the increased risk of food-borne illness, it’s recommended that you avoid certain foods while you’re pregnant. These include deli meats, cold pre-cooked meat, pâté, unpasteurised cheese, raw eggs, raw seafood, pre-prepared salads or sandwiches, and soft-serve ice cream. Be scrupulous with hand- washing, and hygiene around food, and reheat leftovers until they’re piping hot.
Taking up pregnancy yoga is a fantastic idea. Gentle on the body, the combination of stretching and deep breathing conditions both body and mind for the amazing task of being pregnant and giving birth. Taking a group class also gives you a great opportunity to meet other mums-to-be.
Antenatal classes can ll up quickly, so check out what’s available in your area and book in now. If taking a class is not your bag, think about finding or forming a pregnancy group in your community or online. Having a support network once your baby arrives may be more important down the track that it seems now.
If you’re finding it hard to sleep, look at sleep inducement and relaxation strategies. Practical measures may help, like reducing your caffeine intake (by avoiding tea, coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate), eating lightly in the evening, and minimising exercise close to bedtime. Deep breathing, massage, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery could also help.
Girl or boy? If you want to nd out the gender of your baby, the anatomical scan you’ll have around now can probably tell you. The scan will also check for anything unusual with your baby’s body. Checking anatomical measurements reassures you and your LMC that your baby is growing well and there are no problems.
You’re halfway there! If you’re experiencing lower back or joint pain from the effects of your burgeoning bump, it’s a good idea to try a pregnancy support belt, or “belly band”. Worn snugly under your bump, these can relieve pain, maintain good muscle tone, reduce abdominal strain, and improve your posture.
Walking is a wonderful way to keep fit during pregnancy. Take some valuable time out, make plans with your partner, or catch up on gossip with a friend, all while getting the gentle exercise you and your baby need. Now might be a good time to invest in new trainers. But be warned! Pregnancy can enlarge your feet.
Your second trimester is a great time to take a “babymoon” holiday if you can. The idea is for you and your partner to get some rest and relaxation, enjoying your last opportunity to chill out before baby arrives. Drink plenty of fluids when travelling by air, and take frequent breaks when travelling by car.
Nesting refers to the hormonal drive you may experience to “prepare the nest” for your baby’s arrival. This might mean a flurry of activity to get your baby’s room ready, an insatiable desire to clean out the cupboards, or an uncontrollable urge to spit-shine the skirting boards. Just take care not to put yourself in physical danger and be wary of strong chemicals.
Hormones are the driving force behind pregnancy. From pimples to fits of rage, from your lush owing locks to breaking down in tears over TV commercials, hormones are to blame. Take this time to read up on natural birth and the preparatory role pregnancy hormones play in a successful birth.
Fact: If you waddle when you walk, it’s nothing to do with how big your belly is. “Pregnancy swagger” is caused by your centre of gravity shifting and your joints relaxing, not your bump size!
Babies develop the ability to hear at around 18 weeks, and by now they will also respond to the sounds they hear. Playing music, singing, and talking to your bump are lovely ways to bond and feel connected to your baby.
You may be advised to take a screening test (called a polycose test) to test for gestational diabetes mellitis (GDM). This is a condition that affects two to 10% of pregnant women, but don’t worry, a diagnosis of GDM can usually be managed through diet. For about half of women diagnosed with GDM, the condition is only temporary.
Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen your pelvic or muscles. Get in the habit of doing these exercises at least a couple of times every day to assist you during labour, ease your baby’s birth, and reduce the likelihood of incontinence after pregnancy.
Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD) is more likely to occur for women who work in hard physical jobs or who have had previous problems with lower back pain or an injury in that area. You may need treatment from a physio or pain relief medication to manage this condition.
What do you really know about breastfeeding? Your body is busy preparing itself to nourish your baby, so take the time now to explore how breastfeeding works, and how you, your baby, and your hormones work together to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Fluid retention can cause swelling in your feet, ankles, and hands. Pressure on the nerves around your wrists caused by this extra fluid may create a tingling or numb sensation called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Because it’s your body’s response to dehydration that causes it to store water and retain fluid, drinking more water can alleviate your symptoms.
You’ll be monitored during your pregnancy for pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition characterised by elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine, and oedema (swelling). Mild pre-eclampsia can be managed, but more serious cases may compromise baby’s development by affecting blood ow to the placenta. Recent research indicates low-dose aspirin and calcium supplements may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
Braxton-Hicks is the name given to practice contractions, sometimes called “false labour”. These stomach “tightenings” are not usually painful, they come and go fairly randomly, and they often disappear when you change your position. While the contractions can thin the cervix and ready your body for labour, they won’t lead you to the delivery suite.
Your pregnancy will reach “term” at 37 weeks, but some women experience pre-term labour prior to this. Pre-term labour does not necessarily mean you’ll have a premature baby. If you experience painful contractions, pelvic pressure, watery discharge, vomiting, bleeding, or reduced foetal movement, then contact your LMC immediately for advice.
Fact: A woman’s uterus expands to over 500 times its normal size during pregnancy
Acupuncture is widely recognised as an alternative therapy with benefits for pregnant women. The discipline focuses on releasing blocked energy centres to prepare both your body and your baby for the birthing process. Acupuncturists also use massage in their treatments, which can be very relaxing at this stage of pregnancy.
The best birth plan may be the one that allows for the birth plan to go out the window once labour starts. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to go through the exercise of writing a birth plan. You’ll focus your ideas about the elements of the birth experience you feel are important, and give your delivery team a guide to your wishes.
There are a tonne of resources online and at your local library to help you choose a name for your baby. Choosing a name is a big deal, but don’t let it overwhelm you. As long as the name you select feels right to you and your partner, it’s the right name for your baby.
You’re officially full term! Be sure you know the signs of labour so you know what you’re experiencing when it begins. Generally speaking, you should wait at home for as long as you can before heading to the hospital, but speak to your LMC if you’re unsure.
Get ready for the hospital by packing a bag. Don’t think you’ll be able to fling a few things together once labour starts. Making sure you’ve got your toothbrush, organising some breastfeeding bras, or packing comfy clothes to wear post-bump will be the last things on your mind when contractions start, but you’ll be glad you thought ahead once your baby is born.
Are you impatient to meet your baby? You’ve come a long way through pregnancy, and while you might nd the last few weeks excruciating, remember that babies arrive in their own good time. Your baby is still preparing for the outside world, with brain and lung development the most crucial final stages of gestation.
This is it: Your last chance to prepare yourself for your baby’s arrival. Put your feet up and take it easy as much as possible. Resist any urge to do much more than sleep, read, watch TV, or chat on the phone. Any day now your baby will be here, and your life will change in unimaginable ways. Enjoy your new baby!
Printed with permission from Pregnancy BUMP&baby magazine (bumpandbaby.co.nz)