Expecting a baby?

If you think that you might be pregnant, you’ll find places that offer free pregnancy tests here, and information about your choices too. If you decide to go ahead with the pregnancy, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor’s surgery and arrange an appointment with the midwife. You’ll meet them regularly to monitor your health and the baby’s health, and you can talk through your experience, worries and expectations.

As soon as a woman is pregnant, her whole body starts to change, to prepare for the work ahead. Many women experience symptoms from very early on – tender breasts, sickness and tiredness, needing to pee more often. Some women sail through pregnancy looking fantastic and never having any problems, but they are rare! Most women find that being pregnant affects their emotions, energy levels, skin, hair, bodily functions, feet, sleep, appetite – you name it! emmasdiary.co.uk has a week by week diary of what to expect and how your baby is developing.

Get advice early on about your health and diet, as for example some foods are not recommended for pregnant women (e.g. raw egg, shell fish, nuts and unpasteurised cheese). Alcohol and cigarettes can harm your unborn child, as of course can illegal drugs. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are taking prescription drugs. You should start taking a supplement of folic acid straightaway to reduce the risk of spina bifida.

For more information search www.nhs.uk for ‘healthy pregnancy’. There are also lots of good books and magazines (your local library is a good place to start) that can answer your questions about pregnancy and beyond.

Kyra Women’s Project runs a free course for pregnant women and new mothers that looks at the physical and emotional changes and challenges of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. They also provide support and care, and look at what support networks are available to you.

Your midwife will regularly test your blood and urine and talk to you about other tests on offer. You will be offered a foetal heart monitor from about 14 weeks, where you can listen to your baby’s heartbeat. You’ll also be offered 2 routine scans at hospital. The first, at about 12 weeks, is a ‘dating scan’. At the 20 week scan you should be able to see your baby moving around, and they will check that your baby is developing normally. You can usually find out the sex of your baby at this time, if you wish.

Does it hurt?

No one is going to tell you that having a baby doesn’t hurt, but actually the pain is only a tiny part of what is mostly an amazing experience. If you are prepared for the birth then you will be less scared, more in control of what is happening, and feel less pain.

Talk to your midwife about your fears, and read up in books or magazines. Find out about your options, such as birthing positions and pain relief, what happens if things aren’t going to plan, the hospital staff who may be involved, and what to expect afterwards. It’s a good idea to find out about the labour ward – you can now have a ‘virtual tour’ on DVD. Most women want someone with them apart from hospital staff – family member, friend or partner. Make sure they know as much as possible too so they can support you.

By keeping yourself fit and active throughout pregnancy and eating a healthy diet, you’ll also be keeping your body in good shape for labour. Ignore any horror stories you’re told by friends and family about difficult or painful births. Every woman’s experience of birth is unique.

You may have to be in hospital for a day or two afterwards (unless you have a home birth), so use that time to ask questions of the nursing staff. If you’ve never changed a nappy or bathed a baby, get them to show you how. Also how to dress, handle, feed, burp and soothe a baby.