You’ve peed on a stick, or possibly ten. Re-read the instructions thirteen times, checked with your partner or best friend, and yes, you are actually pregnant.
So what the hell happens now?
1. Don’t risk taking folic acid.
I’m betting that although every pregnancy app has told you how important folic acid is in preventing neural tube defects, not one of them has told that you may not be able to process it.
Yet at least 25% of the population have a genetic anomaly which prevents them from processing folic acid.
Pretty shocking, right?
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate (vitamin B9) and at least a quarter of us can’t process it in this unconverted form. So unless you know that you don’t carry the genetic anomaly, you’ll want to take a prenatal which contains the converted form (which we can all process) labelled as folate, 5-mthf, or l-methylfolate. Brands which use the converted form include: Nutri-Advanced, New Chapter and Thorne Pharmaceuticals.
You can read more about the difference between folic acid and folate, and why you might not be able to process folic acid here.
2. Lie about your due date.
This is mega important and one of the first things I mention to clients who’ve just found out they’re preggers.
Alice, the girl you worked with ten years ago that you never really liked but you’re friends with on Facebook. Jenny from the gym that you swapped numbers with when you stupidly thought you could be running buddies. Vivienne, your mum’s slightly nuts friend who makes you cringe all the time. IF THEY FIND OUT YOUR DUE DATE, THEY WILL ALL BE IN TOUCH ON THAT DAY.
“Haven’t heard from you in a while, just wondering if anything’s happened?”
“I’m looking at my calendar and today’s your due date!!! Call me back!”
“You didn’t call me back, is something happening?!”
“Have you had that baby yet?”
Get the picture? Being pestered around your due time is stressful, which can in itself prevent your labour from starting. And that ain’t helpful.
Besides which, let’s consider the following info:
- Less than 5% of babies are born on their due date.
- If you have a menstrual cycle longer than 28 days, or you know you don’t ovulate on day 14, your dates could be out by a little … or a lot.
- In France your due date isn’t based on your 40 week date, it’s your 41 week date.
- Last but not least, most women give birth between 38 and 42 weeks, and there are some who give birth before 38 weeks, and some after 42 weeks. Surprisingly, you are not a bag of microwave popcorn which will pop at 40 weeks.
So how about thinking of your due date as your guess date, or due time.
And all those well-meaning people who want to know when you’re due? Save yourself from a lot of stress and give them a date that’s 2-3 weeks ahead of your guess date.
3. Do what you can to ease constipation.
Now that you’re pregnant, you may find yourself reminiscing over the easily passed poos of your past.
Thanks to the hormone progesterone, your poos may be less frequent than they use to be, and harder to pass.
- Make sure you stay hydrated, you need enough water to float the boat (one of my all time favourite sayings).
- Don’t hold it in, and yes that means even when you’re at work. Holding it in gives your large bowel more time to extract water from your poo, making it drier and harder to pass. Trust me when I say pooing at work is preferable to piles.
- Include plenty of fibre in your diet, that means good old fruit and veg, beans, pulses and cereals. No, not the Coco Pop variety, try some pseudo-cereals such as buckwheat and amaranth.
- Make a chia seed drink to help move things along: 1x jam jar, sprinkle chia in jar until about 3mm deep (possibly 1 or 2 tablespoons depending on size of jam jar), a couple of dashes of vanilla extract (or 1x vanilla pod with seeds scrapped out and added if you have a pod), fill jar to top with coconut milk (not the tinned thick stuff, the milk alternative such as ‘Koko’). Shake regularly for the first 15 mins otherwise it turns into a gloopy mess. Sip throughout the day.
4. Decide what antenatal tests you want to have.
It is routine in the UK for women to be offered an ultrasound scan around the twelve week mark, but it’s your choice whether you opt to have it or not. The scan is used to:
- Confirm pregnancy.
- Establish how far along you are (can be useful if you are unsure of your dates).
- Check if there’s more than one in there.
- Detect if you have a low-lying placenta as placenta previa has implications when it comes to giving birth (though 19 out of 20 placentas will move up as the uterus grows).
- Flag up if there is an increased risk of Down’s Syndrome (although for every 20 cases labelled as “high risk”, 19 will turn out not to be affected, for more information regarding these statistics, please see the Dr. Sarah Buckley link below).
Many couples find that first scan reassuring and some women have told me how beneficial it was in helping them to bond with their baby. If you opt to have the scan, hopefully yours will be too, but it’s worthwhile considering that abnormalities may be picked up, and that they may be a true positive or a false positive. Further tests may then be required, which can lead to difficult decisions.
Some helpful questions for you to ask yourself and discuss with your partner beforehand:
- What will having this scan change?
- If a possible anomaly is flagged up, how do we feel about further testing such as amniocentesis?
- Will the possible presence of an anomaly leave us feeling differently about continuing with this pregnancy?
- If an internal vaginal ultrasound is suggested (if the baby is in a tricky position, for example), do we feel the same way about it as the external abdominal ultrasound?
- How do we feel about students who are being trained in using ultrasound performing our ultrasound, will this mean a longer scan time and do we have concerns about that?
To help you answer these questions, I highly recommend two great articles about ultrasound in pregnancy, one by Dr. Sarah Buckley, and one by Dr. Margaret McCartney.
5. Conquer morning sickness.
In the event of morning sickness, you will try every remedy Google and your Great Aunt Phyllis recommends.
You will inevitably discover that ginger does fuck all.
What does work? Acupuncture (totally safe in the first trimester and throughout your pregnancy), staying hydrated (even if that means taking tiny and very frequent sips), and eating whatever you can (even if it’s only mash potato, yoghurt or pic ‘n’ mix). And rest. Do not underestimate a good nights sleep and adequate rest in the day.
6. Get fishy.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in helping your baby’s brain to develop, and may play a part in the length of your pregnancy as well as preventing depression. Taking a high quality fish oil supplement such as this one is a good idea.
You’ll want to avoid fish like shark (that’s what you get from the chip shop on Friday, right?), marlin, swordfish and raw shellfish. If you enjoy eating tuna, you shouldn’t be eating it more than once a week as it contains high levels of mercury.
Please note, these are simply general NHS recommendations, if you have any questions about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, or want to put together a healthy plan for your pregnancy, I highly recommend naturopath Viv Lord. She’s Uh-May-Zing.
7. Start thinking about what kind of birth you want.
You will hopefully have read about the new NICE guidelines which recommend midwife-led births, either at home or in a birth centre. If you want to explore where you might give birth this questionnaire, created by Which? and Birth Choice, will show what’s available to you based upon your preferences.
Antenatal classes can get booked up early, so start exploring what’s local to you towards the end of your first trimester. One great option is The Calm Birth School, a four-week antenatal video programme designed to take you from freaked out to fearless. The videos are delivered to your inbox every week, so you can view them at a time that suits you. Win.
Hiring independent midwives is a great way to ensure continuity of care throughout your childbirth year. Although you’ll need to pay for their services, they’re worth every penny. You can find out more and see who’s local to you here.
Another great option for support during your pregnancy, birth and post-natal period is a doula, a woman experienced in providing emotional and practical support throughout this time. You can read more about them over at Doula UK, of which I am a proud member.
Need some help?
If you are experiencing pregnancy symptoms and would like to find out if acupuncture can help you, give me a shout and we can set up a time to have a quick chat on the phone. I’d love to help.
Bonus: Right now I’m treating clients in their homes at no extra cost, which means it’s easy for you to have a nap after your treatment.