A-Z of pregnancy: What you need to know
From crazy cravings to itchy skin, Rebecca Howard Dennis guides you through the whole nine months
Specifically, swollen ankles. While not every mum-to-be is affected by it, oedema – as it's also known – is pretty common and is caused by your body holding more water than usual. That said, if your hands, face or feet swell up suddenly, contact your midwife or doctor immediately as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a condition that can be serious for both you and your baby.
B. Belting up
Standard seatbelts that cross your bump are a potential hazard if you're in an accident, but up to now there's been no safe alternative. But thanks to the PiXie Pregnancy Seatbelt Harness (£199), all that has changed. Holding you by the shoulders and chest, with a lap belt under your bump, it's designed to remove risk of injury to your baby in a collision and to increase your driving comfort. And it's RSGB (that's Road Safety Great Britain) recommended.
The fact of the matter is, no one really understands the science behind pregnancy cravings or why they strike up to an estimated 50 per cent of expectant mums. Some say it's extreme hormonal changes playing havoc with our sense of taste and smell; others maintain that it's a response to a nutritional deficiency – craving chocolate for example can be a response to low magnesium levels. But while most cravings can be (sensibly) indulged, if you're desperate for non- foodstuffs such as limescale, coal and even cigarette butts (yes, really) you could be suffering from a condition called pica, often linked to iron deficiency, that your doctor should be made aware of.
There are no official guidelines, but it's suggested that pregnant women up their water intake to around two and a half litres a day to help account for the necessary increase in blood volume, amniotic fluid and foetal circulation. While 20 per cent can come from food, the rest is best sourced from caffeine-free beverages. Try swapping your regular cuppa or can of cola for coconut water, the latest super-drink that's packed with good-for-you-and-baby electrolytes, more potassium than a banana and zero fat or cholesterol.
Now, we've all heard that analogy – you know, the one about squeezing something the size of a melon out of something the size of... well, you get the idea. To help reduce the chances of tearing or needing an episiotomy, consider investing in an Epi-No, a device that significantly reduces the likelihood of perineal trauma. Essentially an inflatable balloon that trains the muscles used in delivery, it is best used in the three weeks before your due date and can also help your pelvic floor post-partum.
F. Fourth trimester
This is a recently coined phrase for the first three months after birth when you adjust to life as a mum and your baby adjusts to life outside the womb. Attachment parenting experts such as Susan Brink, author of The Fourth Trimester: Understanding, Protecting and Nurturing an Infant through the First Three Months (£19.95, University of California Press), say babies thrive on consistent loving attention in this crucial period – lots of cuddles, on- demand feeding, and an emphasis on routines, not schedules.
The rule is to keep skincare simple. Consider swapping your usual moisturiser for a super- mild cream like Cetaphil (£10.09). Avoid anything with vitamin A or retinol as they boost cell division and the jury is still out as to whether they affect the foetus. And if that famous pregnancy glow is elusive, try Mamma Mio's facial wash, great for misbehaving skin.
If you get through the full nine months without heartburn or indigestion, count yourself lucky. The latest figures show it affects 22 per cent of mums-to-be in the first trimester, 39 per cent in the second and a whopping 72 per cent in the third. It's often due to the relaxing of muscles in preparation for birth. To help ease it, eat little and often, and make a note of foods that trigger an attack. Papaya is said to be a natural antacid, and Gaviscon tops the polls for the best over-the-counter cure. If it's really bad, ask your doctor or midwife for a prescription medication.
One in four women is affected by itching caused by hormones and your ever-stretching skin. Some mums swear by adding a knotted sock full of oats to their bath water as the oats release soothing proteins. Or simply use a moisturising bath oil.
Pregnancy and, more specifically, delivery nerves are completely normal (having a baby is a life- changing event after all). But if you have a morbid fear of pregnancy and birth, you have tokophobia. Midwives are experts in dispelling fears so let them know as early as possible. Treatment can include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to help change negative thought patterns. For additional suport contact the Birth Trauma Association.
Every expectant mum looks forward to feeling those first kicks and wiggles. In first-time pregnancies, 'quickening' as it's known tends to happen around the 20-week mark, although it can take a while to work out exactly what those initial tiny flutters are. In subsequent pregnancies, most mums report feeling movements earlier, usually any time from 15 weeks. The general rule of thumb is that if you haven't felt your baby move by 24 weeks, then ask your doctor to double-check everything is Ok.
Not a word often associated with pregnancy, but thanks to James Duigan, the man Rosie Huntington- Whitely and Elle Macpherson trust with their fabulous physiques, getting into the best possible shape – whether trying for, carrying or recovering from having a baby – has never been easier. Inspiring rather than intimidating, his tips will help boost your health and wellbeing when it's arguably needed the most.
M. Made by midwives
Finally, treatments for mums created by those in the know. The Natural Birthing Company is the brainchild of two midwives from Nottingham, and their capsule collection of troubleshooting preparations is designed to be your pre- and post pregnancy survival kit. We love Cool It Mama, the reviving aromatherapy spritz, and Bosom Buddies, £29.99, a trio of essential oils – 'Ooh' for engorged breasts, 'Aah!' to help boost milk supply and 'Ouch!' for super-sore nipples.
The National Childbirth Trust offers so much more than the antenatal classes it's famous for, providing a lifeline for families especially during the first two years of a child's life (the most challenging time for parents as well as the most influential on a child's future). They also have an extensive range of parenting and first aid courses, coffee mornings, nearly-new sales and Baby Cafés (a breastfeeding drop-in service). For local activities, visit NCT.
Pain in pregnancy is common but not normal, according to leading London osteopaths Kane and Ross. Sciatica, rib, back, leg and pelvic pain (also known as SPD or symphysis pubis dysfunction) can all be alleviated through osteopathy that uses manipulation of bones, muscles and ligaments. Also a great postnatal aid for mums and newborns, osteopathy is successfully used to treat conditions ranging from colic and reflux to tongue-tie and flat heads. For a nationwide listing of certified practitioners go to osteopathy.org.uk
From chloasma (dark mottling on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip) to the linea nigra (down the middle of your bump), most pigmentation will fade around three months after giving birth. For the one in ten women who don't see an improvement, try dermatologist prescribed skin-lightening such as Obagi.
'Morning' sickness, the ultimate misnomer, as many discover, can actually strike at any time of the day. While eight out of ten women experience some sort of nausea, one in 100 will need hospital treatment and IV fluids. With little known about what causes it, there are no foolproof remedies but old wives' tales include ginger tea (try steeping grated root ginger in boiling water). If you struggle to keep anything down, invest in acupressure wristbands, that claim to provide relief in an impressive five minutes.
R. Rosie Lee
While good old builder's tea might be off the menu for the next nine months (drinking more than two cups of caffeinated tea or coffee a day is believed to increase the risk of low birth weight or even miscarriage), there are plenty of herbal alternatives; just check none of the ingredients are contra-indicated in pregnancy. For advice on baby-mama blends, contact Attic Tea.
With all the potential disturbances to sleep that (especially latestage) pregnancy can bring, we recommend doing everything you can to get a refreshing night's rest.
There are loads of pregnancy pillows to help you get comfy: the Boppy Cuddle Pillow (£27.99, argos.co.uk) is a bestseller. Other tried and trusted tips included soporifi c scented room sprays like Neom's Tranquility, laced with relaxing English lavender, jasmine and sweet basil.
Nothing is more important than you and your baby's wellbeing during pregnancy. Here's a 'what and when' guide to the tests you'll be offered.
✦ After an initial GP appointment to confi rm your pregnancy you can expect antenatal appointments with a midwife every three weeks from 12 weeks on.
✦ An ultrasound scan anywhere between eight and 14 weeks estimates when the baby is due, and another between 18 and 20 weeks will check the baby's physical development.
✦ Expect blood tests at your booking appointment (between eight and 12 weeks) and again at 28 weeks.
✦ If you're considered at risk of gestational diabetes you will also be closely monitored and given an oral glucose tolerance test (or OGTT) at 16 to 18 weeks.
As you start to blossom, super-supportive underpinnings are essential. The perfect combination of comfort and control is key, especially if your pre-pregnancy 'assets' were already impressive. We love Danish-designed Carriwell maternity and nursing lingerie – fuss-free bras and camisoles, bump support bands and post-pregnancy belly binders. Check out their buying guide at carriwell.com for an idea of what to buy when, plus nationwide stockists.
Flying is fine during your first and second trimesters but not recommended during the third. Closer to your due date, you'll need a letter from your doctor clearing you to fly and you must check with your airline as each has its own policy – and has the right to bar you from boarding if they're concerned you're too far along. Our advice is to plan a trip for your second trimester when you're less likely to feel nauseous, pregnancy is established and you'll still be comfortable enough to travel.
W. Weight gain
When A-listers display picture-perfect bumps before miraculously pinging back into shape mere weeks after giving birth, it can be easy to lose all perspective on healthy pregnancy weight gain. So here are the facts. Most women put on between 10kg and 12.5kg, the majority of that after the 20 week mark. As a rule, women with a healthy BMI (18.5-24.9) can expect to gain 11.5-16kg, underweight women will gain 13-18kg, and larger women will put on 7-11.5kg. Aim to increase by no more than half a kilo a week in the final two trimesters and remember that your body only needs an additional 200 calories a day during pregnancy – so eating for two won't wash!
X. X or Y chromosome
For some, finding out the gender of their baby can wait until the delivery room, but for others the suspense is too much. Intended to scan for anomalies, the 20-week ultrasound is also the earliest point that you can choose to fi nd out what you're expecting. Make sure the sonographer carrying out the scan is clear about your needing, or not needing, to know (although some hospitals have a policy of not telling).
Y. Yehudi Gordon
A world authority on natural birth, Dr Yehudi Gordon has spent his career pioneering a holistic approach to pregnancy, labour and delivery. His bestselling Birth and Beyond covers all aspects of fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth and parenthood. It's as close to a 'motherhood manual' as you're gonna get.
Z. Zita West clinic
Whether you've just decided to try for a baby, are having problems starting a family or are actually pregnant, Zita West is a midwife, fertility and pre gnancy coaching expert who can provide emotional and physical support. From comprehensive health screening and assisted fertility treatment options to innovative antenatal care and pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postnatal supplements, the Zita West Clinic is your one-stop shop for a happier, healthier journey towards motherhood. For full details, visit Zita West's website.