preparing for pregnancy
Posted on / in Pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenthood: Pregnancy Resources 

Every woman should be thinking about her health whether or not she is planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. It’s important to be aware of the resources available to support you in preparing for pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. We’re going to explore the available resources in our next few blog posts, providing tips and directing you to helpful advice, we’ll focus on planning for pregnancy in this post, followed by childbirth and parenthood.

preconception health preparing for pregnancy

Preconception health

If you are thinking about pregnancy, visit your doctor for a preconception consultation. They will provide tailored advice specific to your health. The preconception period (three months prior to pregnancy) is the time to ensure you and your partner are making healthy changes to lower risks involved with pregnancy and childbirth.

A healthy pregnancy begins before you become pregnant. All women can benefit from some basic pre-pregnancy planning.

How long should it take to conceive?

Most healthy, fertile couples achieve a pregnancy within the first 12 months of trying. Every month that a couple is trying to get pregnant there is about a 20% chance of being successful. Unprotected sexual intercourse about three times a week prior to and at ovulation time maximises the chance of conception.

Factors such as age, health and family and personal medical history can also affect your likeliness to conceive. Women over 35 can take twice as long to conceive. If you’re unable to conceive after a full year of trying, it’s a good idea to consult a fertility specialist.

preparing for pregnancy folic acidFolic acid

If you and your partner are planning to conceive, according to Health Direct, you should start taking folic acid before you get pregnant.

Folate and folic acid are important for pregnancy since they can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folate is a B group vitamin needed for healthy growth and development.

The following are good sources of natural folate:

  • vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, English spinach, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnip, sweet corn, zucchini)

  • fruit (avocado, grapefruit, orange)

  • legumes (chickpeas, soya beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, lentils, haricot beans)

  • eggs

  • nuts

  • juices (many apple and orange juices)

Folic acid supplements are available in Australia over the counter from pharmacies and through your doctor. Some women will need more folate than others, talk to your doctor to determine the right dose of folic acid for you.

diet preparing for pregnancyWatching what you eat

If you and your partner are preparing for pregnancy, you should look at your diet and see where you may be able to make healthier food choices. Eating more healthy foods will help with your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol while pregnant can be harmful to your unborn baby. There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy; therefore, for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option. Learn more here.

Smoking

Quitting smoking before pregnancy is the single most effective means of protecting your baby and yourself from the development of serious complications during pregnancy. By quitting smoking you are more likely to conceive naturally and without delay, less likely to suffer a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and less likely to deliver your baby prematurely.

It’s not just mothers-to-be, but their partners who should quit smoking.

Women who smoke can have:

  • difficulty in conceiving

  • early onset of menopause

  • higher risk of cervical and vulvar cancer

Men who smoke may have:

  • trouble getting and maintaining an erection

  • lower sperm count

  • damage to DNA in sperm causing health problems in your baby.

mental wellbeing health preparing for pregnancyMental Wellbeing

Trying for a baby can be an anxious time for many reasons. Taking care of your mental wellbeing is important now and during pregnancy. Again, discuss this with your doctor for professional advice and support.

How to look after your mental health during preconception and pregnancy

There are some things you can do to help take care of your emotional health as you try to conceive and during pregnancy. These include:

  • being active/exercising

  • eating regular, healthy meals

  • being honest about your feelings

  • talking to someone you feel you can trust – your partner, a family member or a friend

  • accepting help if it’s offered to you, ask for help if you need it

  • finding ways to relax

  • not expecting too much of yourself – be realistic about what you can do and rest when you need to.

Create a Pregnancy and Post-birth Wellbeing Plan to help look after yourself and be prepared for after the birth using this online Wellbeing Plan.

Help and support for mental wellbeing

If you’re concerned about your mental health and wellbeing:

 

Family Planning NSW Checklist for Preconception Health:

• See your doctor for routine blood tests and a health check

• Stop smoking

• Stop alcohol and other social drugs

• Reduce caffeine intake

• Review current medications

• Follow a healthy diet

• Take folic acid for at least 1 month before conception and for the first three months of pregnancy

• Take iodine supplementation pre pregnancy, in pregnancy and when breastfeeding

• Develop a good exercise routine

• Ensure rubella and varicella immunity

• Have a Pap test

• Eat freshly cooked and freshly prepared food

• Consider family history and genetic counselling • Consider health insurance cover

• Visit the dentist

 

Download the checklist here

preparing for pregnancyPregnancy

Finding out that you are pregnant, whether or not you’ve been trying, can be a surprise! A missed period is often the first clue that a woman might be pregnant. Symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and breast tenderness, can occur even before a missed period. Many women first use home pregnancy tests (HPT) to find out. Your doctor also can test you.

Stages of Pregnancy

Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, counting from the first day of your last normal period. The weeks are grouped into three trimesters.

First trimester (week 1–week 12)

During the first trimester, your body undergoes many changes. Hormonal changes affect almost every organ system in your body. These changes can trigger symptoms even in the very first weeks of pregnancy. Your period stopping is a clear sign that you are pregnant. Other changes may include:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Tender, swollen breasts. Your nipples might also stick out.

  • Upset stomach with or without throwing up (morning sickness)

  • Cravings or distaste for certain foods

  • Mood swings

  • Constipation (trouble having bowel movements)

  • Need to pass urine more often

  • Headache

  • Heartburn

  • Weight gain or loss

As your body changes, you might need to make changes to your daily routine, such as going to bed earlier or eating frequent, small meals. Fortunately, most of these discomforts will go away as your pregnancy progresses. And some women might not feel any discomfort at all! If you have been pregnant before, you might feel differently this time around. Just as each woman is different, so is each pregnancy.

Second trimester (week 13–week 28)

Most women find the second trimester of pregnancy easier than the first. But it is just as important to stay informed about your pregnancy during these months.

You might notice that symptoms like nausea and fatigue are going away. But other new, more noticeable changes to your body are now happening. Your abdomen will expand as the baby continues to grow. And before this trimester is over, you will feel your baby beginning to move!

As your body changes to make room for your growing baby, you may have:

  • Body aches, such as back, abdomen, groin, or thigh pain

  • Stretch marks on your abdomen, breasts, thighs, or buttocks

  • Darkening of the skin around your nipples

  • A line on the skin running from belly button to pubic hairline

  • Patches of darker skin, usually over the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. Patches often match on both sides of the face. This is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy.

  • Numb or tingling hands, called carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Itching on the abdomen, palms, and soles of the feet. (Call your doctor if you have nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice or fatigue combined with itching. These can be signs of a serious liver problem.)

  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. (If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.)

Third trimester (week 29–week 40)

You’re in the home stretch! Some of the same discomforts you had in your second trimester will continue. Plus, many women find breathing difficult and notice they have to go to the bathroom even more often. This is because the baby is getting bigger and it is putting more pressure on your organs. Don’t worry, your baby is fine and these problems will lessen once you give birth.

Some new body changes you might notice in the third trimester include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Heartburn

  • Swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face. (If you notice any sudden or extreme swelling or if you gain a lot of weight really quickly, call your doctor right away. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.)

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Tender breasts, which may leak a watery pre-milk called colostrum (kuh-LOSS-struhm)

  • Your belly button may stick out

  • Trouble sleeping

  • The baby “dropping”, or moving lower in your abdomen

  • Contractions, which can be a sign of real or false labor

As you near your due date, your cervix becomes thinner and softer (called effacing). This is a normal, natural process that helps the birth canal (vagina) to open during the birthing process. Your doctor will check your progress with a vaginal exam as you near your due date. Get excited — the final countdown has begun!

 

For information on checkups, screening and scans during your pregnancy, visit Health Direct.

For information on staying healthy and safe during your pregnancy, visit Women’s Health.

 

Resources for pregnancy:

Resources specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

Multicultural resources

Mental health resources, referral and advice

Sources of reliable online health information

 

References:

Australian Government Department of Health. (2019). Preparing for pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. [online] Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/pregnancy-care-guidelines/part-b-core-practices-in-pregnancy-care/preparing-for-pregnancy-childbirth-and-parenthood [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].

Family Planning NSW. (2019). Pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.fpnsw.org.au/health-information/individuals/pregnancy [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

Healthline. (2019). How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant: A Fertility Timeline. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-pregnant [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

Pregnancybirthbaby.org.au. (2019). Planning for your pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/planning-for-your-pregnancy [Accessed 30 Jul. 2019].

Tommy’s. (2019). Your Wellbeing Plan. [online] Available at: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/health-professionals/free-pregnancy-resources/pregnancy-and-post-birth-wellbeing-plan [Accessed 1 Aug. 2019].

womenshealth.gov. (2019). Preconception health | Womenshealth.gov. [online] Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-get-pregnant/preconception-health [Accessed 1 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Healthy Pregnancy Tips From the CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGvr4S33tW4 [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Planning a pregnancy – Tommy’s. [online] Available at: https://youtu.be/PcKcX4yXTl0 [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

 

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