Useful information

Infant and Children's Health

Newborn Hearing
Newborns can hear immediately upon birth and are able to distinguish their mother’s voice above all else. If your baby does not seem to react to your voice or does not startle with a loud noise, be sure to tell your paediatrician.

Stimulating your baby’s senses
Believe it or not your baby will learn a lot in their first year of life.

One way you can help them learn is to provide stimulation for them in different forms.

This can be done in a variety of ways such as stimulating their vision and hearing or through touch and movement.

Remember to spend some time every day working to help your baby explore the world around them.

Stimulating your baby’s vision
Here are a few ways to help stimulate your baby’s vision:

  • Make eye contact with your baby during times when their eyes are open. Look them right in the eye. They recognize faces very early in life, especially yours!
    This helps them develop their memory.
  • Use a mirror to let your baby stare at his or herself. They will enjoy looking at “another” baby and watching the movements it makes.
  • Stick out your tongue for your baby or make funny faces. Starting at 2 days old newborns can begin to mimic simple facial movements as they begin to develop problem solving skills.
  • Hold up two pictures for your baby to look at. They should be similar, but with some sort of difference between the two – maybe one has a house and the other doesn’t. Even young babies will look back and forth between the two to try and figure out the difference between them. This can help them develop letter recognition and reading skills later.

Stimulate your baby with laughing and singing
Laughing and singing are great ways to stimulate your baby and have fun at the same time.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find ways to get your baby laughing. This can be through methods like gentle tickling, blowing on their arms and tummy, or making funny faces. As they get older you can joke around more too. Laughter is great for babies!
  • Sing song to your baby. Learn as many as you can or make up your own words to songs you already know.
  • Play music to your baby. This can be Bach or Mozart or even the Beatles. Learning music rhythms may help them learn math skills later on.
  • Talk away. In other words, have a silly, fun conversation with your baby. Chat away and pause at places where your baby would speak in the conversation. As your baby grows, they will learn   to start chatting to fill in the spaces you leave. Be sure to make eye contact and smile a lot!
  • Play peek-a-boo, it’s great for getting babies to giggle and laugh – it also teaches them that objects can disappear and then come back.

Physical activities for your baby
As your baby gets older and is more mobile encourage physical activities that can help with motor skills, coordination and problem-solving.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Turn yourself into a playground by lying on the floor and letting your baby crawl all over you. This will help boost their problem-solving skills and coordination.
  • Teach them to move to music. You can teach them to do the twist, twist and shout or even twirl like a ballerina. This helps them develop skills like balance and coordination as well as a sense of rhythm.
  • Create an obstacle course by laying toys, boxes or sofa cushions on the floor and then show your baby how to crawl over and around or under the items. This helps with problem-solving, strength and coordination.
  • Play pick up by allowing them to drop toys or pieces of wadded up paper off their highchair into a bucket or other safe container. This helps them learn and explore the laws of gravity.

The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Milestones: 1-3 months
Milestones for months 1 to 3 include:

  • Ability to raise head and chest when laying on stomach
  • Stretches arms out and kicks when laying on back
  • Smiles purposefully
  • Enjoys playing with other people
  • Can follow a moving object with eyes
  • Ability to open and shut hands and bring hands to mouth
  • Ability to grasp and shake a toy
  • Communication includes facial expressions and body movement, coo’s and babbles
  • Begins to imitate some sounds and expressions
  • Begins to recognize toys and people from a distance
  • Hand-eye coordination improving

Milestones: 4-7 months
Milestones for months 4 to 7 include:

  • Uses hands and mouth to explore
  • Can find a partially hidden object
  • Attempts to get objects that are out of their reach
  • Can roll from back to tummy and tummy to back
  • Can sit by self for a short time, with or without hands and sit in a highchair
  • Ability to transfer toys between hands, point and reach for objects
  • Communication includes using more variety of sounds and pitches; uses sound to reflect moods, babbles to get attention and can imitate sounds better
  • Play becomes more intentional

Milestones: 8-12 months
Milestones for months 8 to 12 include:

  • Can move to a sitting position and crawling position on his/her own
  • Crawling
  • Sitting independently
  • Pull up, stand and walk while holding onto furniture; may even take a few steps independently
  • Grasp objects with thumb and first finger; can finger feed themselves
  • Place toys into containers and take them out; find toys that are hidden
  • Communication includes saying mama and dada, oh-oh, shaking head yes or no and imitating other sounds; may even say their first word
  • Uncomfortable around strangers and cries when mom or dad leaves

The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Growing children
Children grow and learn at their own pace. It is normal for your child to be ahead in one area, but behind in another.  Learning what is normal for each age group can help you feel comfortable with where your child is at and spot any problems early on.

Milestones: age 2
Milestones for age 2 include:

  • Walking by themselves; this usually takes place between 9-17 months with the average being 14 months
  • Running: about 6 months after learning to walk
  • Climbing stairs and onto furniture
  • Kicking a ball
  • Ability to scribble with crayons, pencils or markers
  • Imaginative or make-believe play
  • Communication includes using real words by 15-18 months and simple phrases by 18-24 months

Milestones: age 3
Milestones for age 3 include:

  • Improved balance: can stand on one foot for a short time, can petal a tricycle and can walk upstairs without holding the railing
  • All baby teeth have come through
  • Potty trained during the day
  • 20/30 vision
  • Communication includes increased vocabulary (hundreds of words), uses short sentences, uses plurals and pronouns and asks many questions
  • Can dress self with exception of laces, buttons, etc.
  • Knows their name, age and gender
  • Learns to share

Milestones: age 4
Milestones for age 4 include:

  • Hops on one foot well
  • Throws a ball overhand well
  • Uses scissors to cut out a picture
  • Communication includes increased vocabulary (thousands of words), uses longer sentences, uses past tense and asks even more questions than ever
  • Learns simple songs
  • Starting to understand time better

Milestones: age 5
Milestones for age 5 include:

  • 20/20 vision
  • Increased coordination: skipping, jumping and hopping well
  • Learning to use writing utensils well
  • Communications includes increased vocabulary (over 2000 words), uses sentences with 5 or more words and uses all parts of speech
  • Knows the primary colours
  • Learning to understand math
  • Learning to behave with more responsibility and less aggression

The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Keeping your school-aged child healthy
Keeping your school-aged child healthy and free of sickness can be tricky.  Here are some simple ways you can keep your child and family healthy:

  • Wash your hands frequently- always wash before eating and after using the bathroom, blowing your nose/coughing or playing outside
  • Wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”
  • Keep hand sanitizer on hand
  • Cover your mouth, preferably with a tissue, when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid putting your hands near your eyes or mouth
  • Stay away from sick people when possible
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks or personal items with friends
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Stay up on immunizations and get your annual flu vaccination

First menstrual period
For many girls their period is between 3 and 7 days and can range from a very heavy or very light flow. The colour may look either a little brownish or red. Don’t be alarmed if you see small clots or pieces of tissue in your menstrual blood; this is a normal part of having a period.

Some girls start puberty at the age 8 years old, other may start later, all the way to the age of 13 or 14. Each girls body is designed different so don’t feel like something is wrong if you start puberty a little later than your friends.

A good sign that you may be starting your period for the first time is if you notice a white, mucus discharge coming from your vagina. This normally happens up to 6 months before you actually start your period and it ranges from girl to girl.

The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

The first year: how can I help?
There are many ways you can help your baby grow and learn during their first year of life.
Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Love, hold and care for your baby
  • Respond to your babies needs and cries
  • Talk, read and play with your baby
  • Daily tummy time
  • Set limits and redirect their attention when needed- they are too young to understand good and bad at this age.

Years 1 to 2: how can I help?
There are many ways you can help your 1 to 2-year-old grow and learn.
Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Be patient!
  • Give your child plenty of rest and quiet time
  • Allow safe and appropriate independence

School-aged children: how can I help?
School-aged children are learning to think more logically, but they still need a lot of direction from their parents.
Here are some ideas to help your school-aged child:

  • Let them learn from their accomplishments and mistakes, but continue to provide unconditional support and direction
  • Use firm and consistent rules explained simply, clearly and gently
  • Self-esteem is fragile at this age: be encouraging and positive
  • Involvement in sports can be a great way to stay healthy and promote activity, not exercise
  • If your child is dealing with bullying, listen to their fears and create a concrete plan to stop the bullying immediately.  Talking to their teachers and the school can be very instrumental
  • Sex education begins in elementary school; use your child’s cue to determine what they should know and when

Fever reduction
If your child is suffering from a fever give them cool water and light juices (with little sugar) to help prevent dehydration.

Use a lukewarm wet towel or a washcloth to dab your child’s forehead and/or the soles of their feet.

Do not overdress your child in too much clothing while they have a fever. Most heat is lost through the skin – if your child it too bundled up it could keep their body heat in causing their fever to rise.

Seek immediate medical attention if your child’s fever is above 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit).

Bicycle helmet tips
Always wear your helmet when you ride your bike even if it’s only for a short distance! Every year, thousands of kids go to the hospital because of bike injuries; some injuries are very serious.

If you don’t like your bike helmet, try putting some cool stickers on it to make it look just the way you like it.

Make sure to do the following when putting on your helmet:

  • Wear the helmet flat on the top of your head
  • Fasten the chin strap right below your chin
  • Make sure the helmet is tight enough that it doesn’t rock back and forth or side to side

If a helmet has been in a collision where the inner lining had to absorb the shock, buy a new one. Even though the damage may not be seen, the inner lining may not be able to handle the force of another blow

Children and nutrition
When preparing meals for your family, include a variety of foods from the five major food groups found on the food pyramid.
Here’s some recommendations:

  • Vegetables: 3-5 servings per day (Serving size examples: 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, ¾ cup of vegetable juice or ½ cup of chopped or cooked vegetables)
  • Fruits: 2-4 servings per day (Serving size examples: ½ cup sliced fruit, ¾ cup fruit juice or medium-sized whole fruit)
  • Bread, cereal or pasta: 6-11 servings per day (Serving size examples: 1 slice of bread, ½ cup rice or pasta or 1 ounce of cereal)
  • Protein: 2-3 servings per day (Serving size examples: 50 grams or 2 ounces of cooked lean meat/poultry/fish, ½ cup cooked beans, 1 egg or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter)
  • Dairy: 2-3 servings per day (Serving size examples: 1 cup low-fat milk or yogurt, 25 grams or 1 ounces of cheese)

Children and fitness
With childhood obesity on the rise and children spending more and more time in front of the TV, it’s important to make physical activity a regular part of your family time.  By making physical activity a priority in your family, you are setting your children up to have healthy habits for life.  Help your children see exercise as fun.

Focus on finding fun activities rather than on exercise. Some ideas to get your children moving:

  • Find activities your child finds fun
  • Find activities that are age-appropriate
  • Limit screen time (TV, mobile phones, laptops, tablets or game consoles) to no more than 1 to 2 combined hours a day; avoid TVs in children’s bedrooms
  • Make time for play and activities; establishing a routine will make it easier to stick to
  • Aim to do fun activities with your children 30 minutes 3 times a week
  • Walk or bike wherever you can
  • Do household chores as a family and make it fun; try dancing to music, picking up toys as fast as possible or having kids run and jump into a pile of raked leaves or snow

Choosing healthy snacks
Children are active and for most, occasional snacks can help them get their daily nutritional requirements.  Here’s some important things to keep in mind with snacks:

  • Snacks should not affect regular meals; be careful not to give them too close to meals
  • Children will reach for the easiest foods to reach; put healthy choices in easy to reach areas and avoid buying junk food
  • Your food choices affect what your children eat; choose healthy snacks for yourself
  • Involve children in cooking; teach them about healthy and less healthy foods
  • What you teach your child now will last a lifetime; teach a life of healthy eating

Healthy snack options

  • Vegetables, with or without low fat dip
  • Fruit
  • Trail mix: low-sugar cereal, dried fruit, nuts and mini chocolate chips
  • Crackers and peanut butter or hummus
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Nuts
  • Sandwiches made with whole-grain bread

Birth Control

Side effects of birth control pills
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you have just started taking birth control pills you may experience a headache, dizziness, breast tenderness, nausea, breakthrough bleeding, mood changes or other side effects. Be patient, these side effects often go away after a few months. If they don’t you may want to talk to your doctor about your options.

Some positive effects of taking birth control are lighter (and sometimes fewer) periods, milder menstrual cramps, and improved acne. Consult your doctor if you have questions about what type of birth control is right for you.

Women’s Nutrition

Unsaturated fats: the good, the bad and the ugly
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

There are two types of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are found in most vegetable oils, flaxseeds and walnuts as well as in fatty fish such as salmon, and mackerel. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olives, avocados, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and olive, canola, and peanut oils. Both kinds of unsaturated fats may help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.

The bad fats, saturated and fatty acid fats should only be eaten on occasion.

Lactose intolerant: the solution for getting your daily calcium intake
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Lactose Intolerant? Scared of not getting enough calcium? Don’t worry; you can get calcium from eating foods that don’t contain lactose.

These foods contain calcium, but are dairy free:
Broccoli
Leafy greens
Canned salmon &sardines with edible bones
Almonds
Oranges
Pinto Beans
Tofu and soymilk
Calcium-fortified breads
Calcium fortified juices.

Risks in Women

Urinary tract infections
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you are experiencing a burning sensation when you urinate, or feeling the need for frequent urination, leaking a little urine or cloudy, dark, smelly or bloody urine you may have a urinary tract infection.

To avoid getting a urinary tract infection:

  • Drink plenty of water to flush out bacteria
  • Don’t hold your urine when you need to go
  • Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement
  • Try to urinate after having sex to wash away bacteria
  • Do not use feminine hygiene sprays and douches, which may irritate the urethra and possibly begin a case of urinary tract infection
  • Try vitamin C supplements which increase the acidity level of your urine which helps decrease bacteria
  • Wear cotton panties or underwear

Breast cancer prevention
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Although you should have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every 1 to 2 years if you are 40 and older, there are ways to examine your breasts in between visits. This helps you become familiar with your breasts and breast tissue, so you are more likely to notice any changes over time. Women may start doing self-breast exams any time after the age of 20. Here are the steps:

  • Look at your breasts in the mirror for any abnormal changes in colour, size or shape.
  • While lying down or taking a shower use the pads of your fingers to press firmly into your breast and move your fingers in a circle around the whole breast. Check for any abnormal lumps or changes.

By limiting the amount of alcohol, you drink, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, and limiting the bad, saturated fats in your diet you may lower your risk of breast cancer.

Heart attack warning signs and prevention
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you feel pressure or tightness in your chest, pain that goes from your chest into your jaw and/or left arm, or shortness of breath, you may be experiencing a heart attack. The most common symptom for both men and women is in fact tightness or pain in your chest; however, women are somewhat more likely to experience other common symptoms, specifically shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, stress and obesity are all risk factors for a heart attack. Quit smoking; exercise and maintain a healthy diet and weight to help decrease the risk.

Also, talk to your doctor about whether aspirin could help reduce your personal risk of a heart attack. Aspirin may help keep your blood from forming clots that could eventually block arteries in the heart, causing a heart attack.

Stroke warning signs
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

A stroke is a blood clot or a break in an artery that interrupts blood flow to part of the brain. Some symptoms of a stroke could be sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; and sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance. If these symptoms occur, get emergency medical help immediately.

Act F.A.S.T if someone you know is experiencing signs and symptoms of a stroke.
F. (Face) Ask the person to smile to see if one side droops.
A. (Arms) Ask the person to raise both arms to see if one drifts downward.
S. (Speech) Ask the person to say a sentence to see if their words are slurred and to see if they have trouble repeating it correctly.
T. (Time) If the person shows any of these symptoms seek medical attention immediately. Time is very important in treating a stroke.

Be sure to note the time of the first symptom. This will help doctors give appropriate treatment.

Osteoporosis prevention
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Osteoporosis involves a decrease in bone density (thickness); it is also associated with weaker muscles and a greater tendency to fall. 1 in every 3 women and 1 in every 5 men will get the disease.

To prevent osteoporosis, make sure you have a sufficient amount of calcium (milk, cheese, sardines, tofu, and dark green vegetables are all rich in calcium) and Vitamin D in your diet. Also, reduce alcohol intake, do not smoke, and exercise at least twice a week to help reduce your risk.

Skin cancer prevention
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

When choosing a sunscreen look for the term “Broad Spectrum”. This means that the product will give you protection against both types of harmful ultraviolet radiation, referred to as UVA and UVB radiation. The Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) recommends that everyone use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, rating of 15 or higher.

Water resistant products are recommended for activities such as swimming. The water will lower the SPF level so you may need to reapply the product more often if you are in the water for long periods of time. You will also need to reapply your sunscreen after you are finished swimming and towel drying.

When choosing a sunscreen look for products that carry the Cancer Association of South Africa’s Seal of Recognition. This seal shows that the product has been fully tested and that the product meets the Cancer Association’s requirements.

Applying sunscreen at least once every hour while you are in the sun is recommended to fully protect you from the damaging rays of the sun.

When you’re out in the sun don’t forget to protect your lips too. Some lip care products have a SPF rating while others may not. Look for those that do and apply frequently while in the sun.

Morning Sickness

Morning sickness remedies
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Relieving morning sickness often takes some trial and error before you find a method that works for you. Here are a few suggestions you can try to see if you find them helpful.

To find relief from a smell that is bothering your stomach try carrying a handkerchief or washcloth with a few drops of an essential oil in it that does not cause nausea, such as lemon. It may relieve morning sickness if you breathe into the handkerchief or washcloth, so you no longer smell the bothersome odour.

Eat smaller meals every two hours or so.

If you have morning sickness try eating cold foods as they have fewer smells that can make you feel sick.

Vitamin B6 and B12 taken regularly as advised by your doctor could help reduce your nausea and/or vomiting due to morning sickness.

Folic acid and pregnancy
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Neural tube defects are birth defects of a baby's brain and spinal cord that occur early in a pregnancy. They can often be prevented when the mother takes folic acid just prior to getting pregnant and through the first part of the pregnancy. Because much of this time period occurs before a woman knows she is pregnant, and 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, it’s recommended that all women of childbearing age have folic acid supplementation.

The recommended amount of folic acid intake is about 400 micrograms (or 0.4 milligrams) for women of childbearing age. For women who have had a pregnancy that resulted in a neural tube defect a higher dose is often recommended. Less folic acid is required at other life stages so check with your doctor to determine your exact needs.

First Trimester
The first trimester (weeks 1 to 12)
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

The first trimester can be a difficult time for many pregnant women.  Some may feel great, while others may feel horrible.  Here are some of the changes you may experience during the first 3 months:

  • Nausea is normal in up to 85% of women; this may or may not include vomiting
  • Light spotting is normal and about 25% experience this during implantation
  • Tender breasts
  • Constipation
  • Increased vaginal discharge that is thin and milky white in colour
  • Increased fatigue
  • Cravings and aversions to certain foods
  • Increased urination
  • Heartburn
  • Mood swings
  • Gaining weight

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Significant bleeding, cramping or sharp abdominal pain
  • Foul-smelling, green or yellow discharge
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Severe dizziness
  • Too much or too little weight gain (more than 3 kg (6.5 lbs.) per month or less than 1 kg (2 lbs.) per month)

Second Trimester

The second trimester (weeks 13 to 27)
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Most women find the second trimester the easiest and most enjoyable.  Usually, morning sickness and fatigue fade and you start feeling like your usual self again.  There are many big changes that occur during these weeks, some of these include:

  • Growing breasts
  • Gum discomfort, swelling or bleeding
  • Increased pressure on back which can cause back pain
  • Nasal congestion and increased nosebleeds
  • Thin, milky white vaginal discharge continues
  • Increased urination, heartburn and constipation continue
  • Increased hair growth of current hair and in new places such as the face, arms or back
  • Headaches
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Flutters of movement can sometimes start to be felt around 20 weeks
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun
  • Stretch marks, spider and varicose veins may show up
  • Brown pigmentation on the face (“mask of pregnancy”) and a darker line down the abdomen (linea nigra, Latin for “black line”) may appear
  • Increased weight gain

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Significant bleeding, cramping or sharp abdominal pain
  • Foul-smelling, green or yellow discharge
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Severe dizziness
  • Too much or too little weight gain (more than 3 kg (6.5 lbs.) per month or less than 4.5 kg (10 lbs.) by 20 weeks)

Third Trimester

The third trimester (weeks 28 to 42)
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

The third trimester can bring some uncomfortable symptoms as you prepare for the birth of your baby.  Here’s what to expect during this time:

  • Back pain
  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Increased breast size
  • Increased discharge from previous months
  • Fatigue
  • Increased urination, heartburn and constipation continues
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling in your feet, ankles and hands
  • Increased weight gain

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Cramping or sharp abdominal pain
  • Foul-smelling, green or yellow discharge
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Severe dizziness
  • Too much or too little weight gain
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Sudden swelling in your feet
  • Contractions that are regular and get closer and closer together and more intense
  • Spotting or any bleeding

Nutrition

Good things to eat
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy pregnancy.  Here are some ways to eat healthy during your pregnancy:

  • Take your prenatal vitamin
  • Eat a variety of foods each day
  • Eat more fibre (pasta, rice, fruits, veggies and cereals)
  • Eat more calcium (at least 4 servings of dairy products, green leafy vegetables, etc.)
  • Eat more iron (red meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables, beans/lentils, dried fruit and iron-enriched cereals and grains)

Bad things to eat
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Just as there are many foods that can help you have a healthy pregnancy, there are also foods that are bad to have during pregnancy.  Some of the foods you should avoid during your pregnancy are:

  • Alcohol
  • No more than 300 mg per day of caffeine
  • Saccharin- an artificial sweetener (found in some baked goods, soft drinks and ice cream)
  • Limit your fat and cholesterol intake
  • Soft cheeses (feta, brie, camembert, Mexican style cheese and any other unpasteurized cheeses)
  • Raw fish
  • Fish containing high levels of mercury (Shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish)

Caring for Baby
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Circumcision care
Newborn circumcision is a surgery that removes the loose skin (foreskin) that covers the end of a baby boy’s penis. It may be done for various reasons and usually heals with 7-10 days. Follow the care instructions you were given by your baby’s doctor. Often times they will recommend that you use a small amount of petroleum jelly on the site at diaper changes to prevent irritation. Contact your baby’s doctor if you see blood or pus around the circumcision or if you smell an odour coming from the site.

Myths about newborns
The following are common myths about newborns:

  • Myth: Don’t touch their “soft spots” – Truth: Known as the fontanels, these areas are a thick protective membrane, not your baby’s brain, so if you happen to touch them gently nothing bad will happen; as with all of your baby, handle that area with gentle loving care.
  • Myth: Baby girls don’t have periods – Truth: Baby girls may have a “mini period” within the first few weeks of life which is the result of the stimulation of their uterus by Mom’s high estrogen levels. If you ever have questions about what’s happening with your baby, contact your doctor.
  • Myth: Babies don’t get acne – Truth: Some newborns will develop acne due to circulating hormones from their mother between 2 weeks and 2 months of age; you don’t need acne creams, just cleanse the area gently.
  • Myth: Babies have flat chests – Truth: Some babies may temporarily have swollen breasts due to their mothers circulating hormones; this can happen to boys and girls.
  • Myth: Sneezing must mean my baby has a cold – Truth: Newborns have tiny noses and often have some congestion, so they may sneeze a lot at first; if they have thick, coloured mucus and are sneezing a lot then they may be developing a cold.

Never hesitate to contact your doctor if you are worried about what’s going on with your baby. No question is ever “dumb” if you are worried.

Bathing your newborn
Your baby doesn’t need a full bath every day, only 3-4 times a week.

When giving them a full bath make sure the water is warm, but not hot, by testing the temperature with your elbow – if it’s too hot for your elbow, it’s too hot for your baby.

Use mild bath soap made specifically for babies – harsh soaps may dry and irritate their skin. Always keep one hand on the baby while they are in the bathwater.

There are some parts of your baby that will need to be washed with mild soap every day, especially their face, chin, neck and bottom.

Do not use soap on their belly button (navel) or on a circumcision until it’s healed. Make sure the room you are in to bathe your baby is warm and free of drafts.

Every baby is different so don’t hesitate to talk with your baby’s doctor if you have any questions about caring for your newborn.

Healthy skin for newborns
You don’t need to use lotion or powder on your baby unless it’s been recommended by their doctor.

Don’t use fabric softener or bleach on their clothes as these can irritate their skin. Use mild detergent to wash their clothes, making sure to wash new clothing before you put it on the baby.

Be careful not to overdress your baby – if you are comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts, your baby will be fine in a t-shirt or short sleeved onesie and a diaper.

Diaper care for your newborn
Periodically check your baby’s diaper to see if it’s wet or soiled.

Change their diaper whenever one becomes wet or soiled.

When changing your baby’s diaper, wash their bottom with mild soap and warm water or use disposable baby wipes.

Be sure to wash your hands each time you finish changing a diaper.

Additional tips for care of newborn
For mouth care, wipe you baby’s gums daily with a clean damp washcloth or an infant toothbrush.

To prevent scratches, keep your baby’s finger and toenails cut short.

Remember that newborns sleep a lot - usually between 16-18 hours a day.

Make sure to schedule your baby’s first check-up as recommended by their doctor – it’s usually recommended between 2-4 weeks of age.

Umbilical cord care
Do not place the baby in bath water until after the umbilical cord stump has fallen off. Keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry – if it becomes soiled you can clean it with a cotton ball, mild soap and water.

Umbilical cord stumps usually fall off about 2-4 weeks after birth – contact your baby’s doctor if this doesn’t happen.

If the umbilical cord stump turns red around the base, bleeds, develops coloured drainage or a bad odour contact your baby’s doctor right away since it could be a sign of an infection.

Contact your baby’s doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s umbilical cord stump.

Teething pain relief
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

To help soothe the pain from teething give your baby a teething ring, a wet washcloth cooled down in the refrigerator, or feed him/her cold foods such as applesauce or yogurt.

You can also talk to your doctor about giving your baby acetaminophen (Tylenol) to ease the pain.

Symptoms you may experience when not breastfeeding
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Your breasts may become sore, engorged or swollen and firm to touch.

You may develop a slight fever.

Your breasts may leak a significant amount of milk.

You may have some cramping of your uterus during this time.

You may have some uterine bleeding during this time.

If you have any concerns or questions about the symptoms you experience during this time contact your doctor for more information.

Care for your breasts when not breastfeeding
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Try ice packs on your breast for 15-20 minutes at a time. If ice doesn't help, try using a warm washcloth on your breasts.

Wear a well-fitting bra that is not too tight. Let your baby nurse at your breasts for a few minutes at a time.

Ask your doctor about methods to help release a small amount of milk from your breasts, which may relieve some of the discomfort.

Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns or you develop chills, or a fever and your breasts are still uncomfortable and swollen after 1-2 days.

Benefits of breastfeeding
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Breastfeeding is a skill and can take time to learn; don’t get discouraged if it’s not easy for you at first.  Breastfeeding educators are available and can be helpful in overcoming some of the hurdles.

Choosing to breastfeed your child provides many benefits for both you and your baby. Some of these include:

  • Decreased likelihood of baby getting sick from infectious diseases or having an ear infection
  • Decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for the mother
  • Aids in faster weight loss for the mother
  • Decreased postpartum bleeding
  • Facilitates in mother-baby bonding
  • Free and environmentally friendly
  • Decreased risk of obesity for the child
  • Breastfeeding is still possible after breast surgeries, piercings and tattoos; talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have

How to breastfeed
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Some simple tips on how to breastfeed:

  • Find a position that is comfortable for both you and the baby; use pillows to support your arms and prop your feet up
  • Feed your baby whenever they seem hungry or show any of the hunger signs- moving head towards your chest, pulling hands near mouth or sucking noises
  • Newborns need to eat at least every 2 to 3 hours; if your baby has been sleeping for 3 to 4 hours, wake them to nurse
  • Wait to introduce a bottle or pacifier until your baby is 2 to 4 weeks old to avoid nipple confusion. Waiting much longer can create problems getting your baby to accept something other than the breast.

Keeping your breasts healthy
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Keeping your breasts healthy during breastfeeding is important.  Here are some things to watch for:

  • Sore nipples are normal at first; use moist warm compresses, nipple creams made for breastfeeding or a bit of fresh breast milk
  • See your doctor if soreness continues or increases, you have a swollen or red breast or if you are running a fever

Newborn sleep
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

It is normal for your newborn baby to wake up every 3-4 hours to be fed. By 4-6 months, your baby may start to sleep for 6-8 hours during the night and only take naps during the day. If your baby is not sleeping through the night, it is okay. All babies are different and require a different amount of sleep and attention.

For safety purposes infants should be put to sleep on their backs on a firm surface, in a non-smoking environment, with no toys or loose bedding. In addition, the room should not be too warm.

If your baby is having trouble sleeping here are some things to try to help them sleep better:

  • If you don’t already have one, establish a bedtime routine which can include feeding your baby right before bedtime to make sure they are completely full when they are going to sleep.
  • Put on a soothing noise maker or white noise machine.
  • Try swaddling your baby (wrapping them tightly in a blanket) to make them feel safe and secure.

Safe sleeping conditions
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

  • Make sure your bassinet or crib and playpen are safety approved - this information should be on the product label.
  • Make sure to use a firm mattress or mattress pad - choose one that fits the crib without a gap between it and the crib frame.
  • Make sure to use a fitted sheet that is the same size as the mattress or mattress pad. Make sure the crib or bassinet is in good shape, without missing slats or gaps that the baby could fit into and become trapped.
  • Do not use pillows, bumper pads or sleep position wedges in the sleep area or crib.
  • Make sure the sleep area is away from heat vents and has a good airflow.
  • Make sure the baby's sleep area stays in a safe temperature range - between 60 - 72 degrees F (15 - 22 degrees C) and not above 75 degrees F (24 degrees C).
  • Never allow anyone to smoke around your baby, this includes in your baby's room or in your house or car.
  • Do not sleep with your baby - always put them in a crib or bassinet - position their crib near your bed if you want them close to you.

Safe sleeping habits
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Always position healthy babies on their backs to sleep. This may lower their risk of developing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and may also help prevent other health problems like ear infections. Never sleep with the baby in your bed – always put them to sleep in a safe place designed for babies, like a bassinet or crib. Never allow older siblings to sleep with your baby. Follow the SIDS prevention information your baby’s doctor gives to you. For example, keep toys, stuffed animals, extra bedding and pillows out of the crib while your baby is sleeping. Make sure the sleep area is a safe temperature - between 60 - 72 degrees F (15 - 22 degrees C) and not above 75 degrees F (24 degrees C). Make sure that your baby is never exposed to cigarette smoke.

Blankets and sleep
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Position the baby with his/her feet near the foot of the crib or bassinet. Using a lightweight blanket, place it across the baby’s chest and just under their arm pits. Securely tuck the blanket along both the sides and the foot of the crib. Only use a fitted bottom sheet that’s made specifically for use in a crib. Whenever possible use a warm sleeper instead of a blanket.

Sleeping environment
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

  • Warm sleepers and onesies can take the place of a blanket and help keep the baby from overheating.
  • Use a room thermometer to keep the room at the right temperature for safe sleep: between 60 - 72 degrees F (15 - 22 degrees C) and not above 75 degrees F (24 degrees C).
  • If you want to decorate your baby's room, use decor that is made to hang on the wall or from the ceiling rather than from the crib itself to ensure your baby has a safe sleeping area.

Safe cribs and playpens to use when traveling
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Make sure the mesh is less than 1/4 inch in size so it's smaller than the buttons on your baby's clothing. Make sure the mesh is in good repair without any tears, holes or loose threads that your baby can get caught on. Make sure the mesh is fully attached to the top rail and bottom of the bed so there are no holes for the baby to get caught in. Make sure there are no bare, missing or loose staples or nails. When in doubt throw it out - don't use cribs or bedding that might pose a risk to your baby. It's your job to keep them safe!

Fire safety for home with newborn
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they have fresh batteries and are in working order – install them in your home if you don’t have them already. Check your fire extinguishers to make sure they are in working order – purchase them if you don’t have one on each floor of your home already. Make sure clothing and bedding meet fire safety standards – information on their fire safety rating should be on labels and tags. Insist that your home be smoke free to prevent your baby’s exposure to second-hand smoke and also as a fire prevention measure since cigarettes are a common cause of home fires. Review or update your fire escape plan to include your new baby – review the plan with everyone in the household. For more information on fire safety visit websites like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Fire safety prevention in home with newborn
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Do a fire safety walk-through of your entire house, check for burnable substances near heat sources, frayed or damaged electrical cords, matches or lighters within reach of children and other situations that may be a fire hazard. Never leave space heaters of any type unattended and turn them off while you are asleep. Never store flammable liquids like paint thinner, charcoal lighter fluid or gasoline in the house and always keep them a safe distance from heat sources. Check all mattresses, bedding and sleep apparel for your baby to make sure they meet fire safety requirements – this information should be on the product label. Early warning of a fire is key to keeping your family safe, so make sure your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers meet local codes and are in working order. Be prepared and have a fire escape plan that is understood by and has been practiced by the entire household, it could save lives in a fire emergency. For more information on fire safety visit websites like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Newborn safety tips
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Never leave your baby alone for even a minute unless they are in a secure place like a crib or playpen. Make sure you follow safe sleep recommendations when putting your baby to bed. When in the car always use a safety approved rear-facing car seat that is specifically made for newborns. Never ever leave your baby alone in a car – be especially careful during warm or cold weather. Always use safety approved car seats, cribs and toys – if they are hand-me-downs or you are buying them used, choose items that still have a safety tag attached and check to make sure they haven’t been recalled. To prevent burns never carry hot liquids or food while you are holding your baby.

Pet safety and newborns
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you have a dog, know that certain breeds may require extra caution with a newborn - German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls account for more than 50% of fatal dog bites. Always closely supervise infants when in the presence of dogs even if they are not one of the above breeds - they may experience jealousy and have other unexpected reactions to a new member of the household. Keep in mind that some pet reptiles can carry infections, like Salmonella, so keep turtles, snakes and lizards away from children under 5 years of age to prevent the spread of infections. Small pets like rodents should be kept away from newborns and infants to prevent bites or the spread of Salmonella and other possible infections. Other issues: Make sure your pet is healthy – take them to the veterinarian for a check-up and any needed vaccinations before the baby is born. Keep your pet’s nails trimmed. For cats and dogs especially, you may need to work to prepare them for the new member of the family – for example, invite friends with babies over if your pets aren’t used to children - supervise their interactions as they learn about these new additions to their world. New situations can be stressful to pets so be patient and understanding with them as they adjust to the changes in their life – scolding and punishment will only add to their stress. There are many things you can do to ensure a smooth transition, so contact your local Humane Society or other animal-focused organization for additional suggestions on preparing your pets for the arrival of your new baby.

Newborns and sun exposure
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

There are different levels of sun exposure from casual exposure while out on a sunny day to intentional full body sunbathing. The amount of exposure possible will depend on your location and the amount of available sun. Short periods of casual exposure are best. Your baby makes vitamin D in their skin through exposure to the sun, so a small amount of daily sun is healthy. Breastfeeding infants get vitamin D either from the sun or their mothers breast milk, whereas most infant formulas contain vitamin D. The most damaging rays of the sun are strongest from 10 am – 3 pm so avoid the sun during those times to limit sun damage to skin. Use sunscreen specially formulated for babies if you expect your baby to be out in the sun for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Buy a carriage or stroller with an adjustable sunshade or umbrella to keep your baby protected when you are out for long periods of time. If you have any questions or concerns talk to your baby’s doctor about what’s right for your baby.

Protect newborn from long-time sun exposure
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Avoid the sun during its peak, which is between 10 am and 3 pm. Have back seat window shades to protect your baby while in the car. Buy a stroller or carriage with an adjustable protective sunshade or umbrella. Keep a sunshade or umbrella with you to use whenever your baby needs protection from the sun. Dress your baby in loose protective clothing when they will be outside for long periods of time, this includes clothing that covers arms and legs, a hat that covers the top of the head and infant sunglasses. Use sunscreen specially formulated for babies if you expect your baby to be out in the sun for longer than 20 minutes at a time. If you have any questions or concerns talk to your baby’s doctor about what’s right for your baby.

Causes of lead poisoning
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Exposure to lead can cause learning disabilities, anaemia, growth problems in infants and children. Infants and children are most exposed to lead by eating paint chips or dirt contaminated with lead.

Lead was an ingredient in paints up until 1977 so you will need to have your house checked for lead contamination if it was built before 1978.

Lead may also be contained in old plumbing so have your plumbing checked for lead if you live in an older home with metal water pipes.

Lead contamination can also enter your living area if someone works in high risk areas like house repair, bullet making, radiator repair, battery manufacture or repair, stained glass that uses lead solder, plumbing, industrial machinery or equipment or the smelting industry – special precautions will need to be taken to prevent exposing your newborn to contamination from people who may carry it in to your home on their shoes, clothing or skin.

Lead can also find its way into your home though imported glazed pottery containing lead, nutritional pills, medicines and home remedies made in some countries, foods canned in some countries outside the States, and some cosmetics like surma or kohl.

Keys can contain small amounts of lead so don’t let your baby chew on them. If you have any questions or concerns about lead exposure and your baby contact your nearest public health department or access websites like the U.S. Centres for Disease Control’s Lead Prevention Tips.

Prevention of lead poisoning
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you live in an older home or have other reasons to suspect you may have lead in your home or water supply, contact your nearest public health department to find out about lead testing and ways to prevent lead exposure.

Think about lead safety in other places your baby will spend a lot of time, like grandparents or babysitters’ homes. Babies and young children should not be present in housing or other structures undergoing renovation if they were built before 1978 since lead may be present in debris and dust from lead paint.

Avoid traditional home remedies and cosmetics that may contain lead.

Make sure all food storage containers, cookware and dishes are lead free. Make sure jewellery and all infant toys are lead free and check lead recall lists since contamination is sometimes identified after you purchase items.

Avoid eating candies imported from Mexico and other countries that have a history of lead contamination in their candy.

Be sure that anyone who works in areas where they may be exposed to lead showers and changes clothes before coming into contact with your baby.

For more information on preventing lead exposure contact your nearest public health department or access websites like the U.S. Centres for Disease Control’s Lead Prevention Tips.

Baby proofing home
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Baby proofing your house can get exhausting. Here are some tips to help ensure your baby’s safety comes first.

  • Crawl through your home to get a baby’s-eye view. Remove anything you see that could be dangerous to your baby.
  • Turn down your hot water heater to approximately 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). This can help to prevent burns.
  • Remove anything from the outside of the refrigerator, such as magnets, that are small enough to choke on.
  • Remove mobiles and other hanging toys from the crib as soon as your child can reach up and touch them.

Exercises to tighten your stomach after birth
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Lie on your back with knees bent and try to hold your belly in. Lift your head and let your chin touch your chest and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then put your head down and relax your muscles. Start with one a day and add one more each day until you build up to a total of 10/day. During the day, try to hold your stomach muscles tight while sitting or walking.

Exercises to strengthen muscles in the birth canal and pelvis
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Sit on the toilet with your legs spread apart. Begin to pass some urine, then tighten or squeeze your pelvic muscles to try and stop the flow of urine. Notice which muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Now that you know which muscles to tighten you can do the exercises any time, whether you are sitting, standing or lying down - just make sure your bladder is empty before you start. For the best results do 10-15 exercises 3-4 times a day.

Mood Swings
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

It’s normal to experience mood swings after pregnancy, so don’t be surprised if you feel fine one minute and become teary the next minute. These mood swings can happen because of changes in hormone levels in your body and as a result of the demands of being a new mother. Over time they should even out and become less severe. However, if you are worried about how you are feeling contact your doctor, a counsellor, minister or close friend or family member for help and support. If you think you may be developing post-partum depression and have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, contact your doctor for help right away.

Feeling happy one minute and crying the next minute. Feeling mildly depressed. Having a hard time concentrating. Loss of appetite. Not being able to sleep even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms are usually mild and go away about 10 days after delivery. If your symptoms become worse or last longer than 10 days contact your doctor right away and seek the additional support of family and friends.

Make sure you get more rest than you have been. Ask friends and family members to help you more with the baby and your other daily tasks. Ask someone you trust to take care of the baby for periods of time so you can take care of yourself. Talk about how you are feeling with someone who is close to you and will listen. Contact your doctor if the mood swings last more than 10 days or seem to get worse rather than better. If you ever feel like you might hurt yourself or the baby call for help right away and get additional support from family and friends.

Pregnancy after pains
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

After pains are normal. They are caused by contractions of your uterus as it shrinks back to its normal, non-pregnant size. They are generally mild after your first pregnancy but may be stronger if you have had two or more pregnancies. The cramping will generally be strongest the first day or two after you have your baby and will start to taper off after that. The cramping may come on while you are breast feeding because it stimulates a hormone called oxytocin that causes contractions.

To help relieve the pain: Empty your bladder often, even if you don't feel the need to go, since a full bladder pushes on your uterus, keeping it from returning to its normal place.  Gently massage your lower belly to see if this helps relieve some of the discomfort.  Try laying face-down with a pillow under your lower belly to see if it helps relieve some of the cramping.  Try taking the pain medication recommended by your doctor at the time you had your baby.  Mild pain relievers like ibuprofen are often helpful.  If the cramping doesn't lessen after a couple of days, or if it becomes severe, contact your doctor to make sure you aren't experiencing something besides after pains.

Post-partum depression
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Extreme feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Sad feelings that last more than 10 days to 2 weeks after your pregnancy is over. Not feeling better after talking about your feelings with family or friends. Feeling totally overwhelmed by the normal activities of daily living. Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. If you experience any of these signs or are concerned that you may have post-partum depression rather than normal mood swings, contact your doctor right away and ask family and friends for more support in caring for your baby. Post-partum depression is treatable.

Although it’s normal for women to experience mood swings after pregnancy, 10-15% of women may experience a more severe condition known as post-partum depression. If you are having symptoms like mood swings, irritability, anger, crying, exhaustion, restlessness, anxiety or insomnia that do not get better over the first few weeks after having your baby, or seem to be getting worse rather than better, contact your doctor right away. Also ask for additional help and support from your family and friends. Post-partum depression is treatable.

Post-partum psychosis
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Hearing voices that aren’t really there. Seeing things that aren’t really there (hallucinations). Becoming detached from reality. Extreme loss of appetite, refusal to eat and sudden weight loss. Extreme anxiety and agitation. Uncontrollable urge to hurt yourself or your baby. If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing these symptoms, consider it a medical emergency. It’s important to get medical help right away. The condition is treatable and it’s important to keep both the mother and the new baby safe.

Caring for your body after pregnancy
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Make a post-partum check-up with your doctor for 2 – 6 weeks after your baby is born. Your doctor will tell you their timeframe. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, be sure to follow the breast care tips you were given by your doctor at delivery. Think about birth control. You can become pregnant again just 2 weeks after giving birth, so it’s never too early to think about using effective birth control. Eat right, rest when the baby is sleeping and find someone to help out when you need an extra pair of hands.

In addition, you may experience some of the following symptoms after your pregnancy:

  • Heavy, bright red bleeding or large clots.  Fever above 100 degrees F (37 degrees C).
  • Painful cramps.
  • Pain when you pee (urinate).
  • Vaginal itching or burning or vaginal drainage with a bad odour.
  • Increasing pain in your stitches (episiotomy).
  • Hard or painful lumps in your breasts.
  • Feelings that you might hurt yourself or your baby.

It will take some time for your body to return to normal but don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about whether symptoms or changes you are experiencing are normal.

Rest and activity information related to self-care
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Don’t try to do too much, instead focus on taking care of yourself and the baby. Take short naps each day and make sure you rest when the baby is sleeping. Get outside for a while every day, even if it’s cold, so you get some fresh air and exercise. If you drive, take at least a week off after you have the baby and do not drive if you feel weak, light-headed, or too tired. Take short walks every day starting with short time periods and slowly work your way up to 30 minutes a day. Avoid heavy work that may make you feel too tired afterward. Talk to your doctor about when it is realistic for you to go back to work.

Sexual intercourse after pregnancy
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

It takes some time for your body to get back to normal after a pregnancy so take some time before you have sex as well. The usual recommendation is that you see your doctor for your first post-pregnancy (post-partum) check-up before you have sexual intercourse. Each woman is different in their needs so listen to your body and communicate your feelings to your partner. Remember that you can get pregnant again soon after the birth of your baby, even if you are breastfeeding, so use effective birth control every time.

Strengthening Mommy-Daddy team
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Teamwork is important and makes the process much easier for everyone, so work out ways to share the load. Know that it’s normal to have worries and fears – many first-time parents feel overwhelmed by the changes and new responsibilities, so talk to each other about your feelings and concerns. Learn from each other – you each come to the role of a parent with different skill sets and backgrounds, so be supportive of your partner and help teach them what you know and be open to learning from them as well. Ask questions, since no one can know everything as new parents – connect with people you know and trust like family, friends and doctors. Do some research if you can’t find someone who is a good resource – make use of places like your local library or trusted internet sites (avoid sites whose information may not be credible – for health information look for certified sites like those with HON certification). Enjoy the moment, because time flies by way to fast when you have a baby – make sure to spend some special time with just the 3 of you every day. Make time for yourselves as a couple – enlist the help of family and friends or find a babysitter so you can continue to build your relationship with each other.

Tips for constipation
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Make sure you get enough fluid by drinking at least 8-12 glasses of liquid a day. This can include water, juice or warm liquid as long as it doesn’t contain caffeine (which can cause your body to eliminate too much water). Make sure you get some exercise, like walking, every day Make sure you get enough fibre in your diet by including whole grains, beans and legumes and fruits and vegetables in your meals Make sure you listen to your body when it tells you to have a bowel movement. Holding back when you have the urge for a bowel movement can make you more constipated If you have stitches, remember that having a bowel movement won’t cause them to break. Be sure to talk with your doctor if your constipation becomes severe and is not relieved by following these tips.

Symptoms of constipation
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If you have severe constipation with abdominal pain. If you have constipation that alternates with diarrhoea. If you pass mucus or blood with your bowel movements. If you have haemorrhoids that cause severe pain or rectal bleeding. By contacting your doctor right away for these symptoms they can help you determine if you need treatment for anything that may be outside the normal range of symptoms.

Tips for self-care after pregnancy
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Make a post-partum check-up with your doctor for 2 – 6 weeks after your baby is born. Your doctor will tell you their timeframe. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, be sure to follow the breast care tips you were given by your doctor at delivery. Think about birth control. You can become pregnant again just 2 weeks after giving birth, so it’s never too early to think about using effective birth control. Eat right, rest when the baby is sleeping and find someone to help out when you need an extra pair of hands. It will take some time for your body to return to normal but don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about whether symptoms or changes you are experiencing are normal.

Signs and symptoms, you may experience during self-care
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Heavy, bright red bleeding or large clots. Fever above 100 degrees F (37 degrees C). Painful cramps. Pain when you pee (urinate).

Vaginal itching or burning or vaginal drainage with a bad odour. Increasing pain in your stitches (episiotomy).

Hard or painful lumps in your breasts. Feelings that you might hurt yourself or your baby.

New Dad's roles
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Know that it’s normal to have fears – there is no simple way to prepare for parenthood and all new parents (yes Moms too!) have some concerns or fears about their new role.

Learn as much as you can about your baby’s daily routine and offer to help out with activities you are comfortable doing.

Make “Daddy Time” a special time every day by spending one-on-one time talking, reading or singing to the baby – work with Mom to build these activities into the daily routine.

Offer to attend your baby’s doctors’ visits whenever possible – it helps you learn about your baby and provides a second set of ears to hear what the doctor has to say.

Be actively involved in providing a safe environment for the baby – help keep an eye out for safety hazards.

Make sure your baby is never exposed to second-hand smoke and has a drug free place to live.

Be gentle with the baby – never shake your baby or toss them in the air.

Be mindful of how you talk and act around the baby – a gentle voice and kind gestures are always best.

Support from Mom to Dad
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Ask Mom to teach you to do things you may not know how to do yet – this way you can help out and support her as you learn about your new baby.

Once you’re comfortable, offer to watch the baby so Mom can get some extra rest – this gives you time with the baby while supporting Mom as well.

Take care of yourself, get regular check-ups and exercise daily – work to stay healthy for the newest member of the family.

Set a good example and keep smoking and drugs out of your baby’s home.

Talk with Mom about how she feels about herself after her pregnancy – she may need your support and encouragement to resume intimacy and sex since things like her self-image and her body may have changed.

Treat Mom to small gifts and simple gestures that tell her that you care about her – these will help her understand that she is still special to you even if she is feeling tired and her self-image has changed.

Emotional aspects for Dad
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Especially in the first few weeks after birth, use compassion when dealing with both Mom and baby. They both have just been through a difficult experience and your compassion will go a long way in supporting them as they move into the next part of their journey.

You may often find yourself in new and challenging situations where you have the choice to either laugh or cry – choose humour, it helps everyone survive and thrive during challenging times.

Life doesn’t always prepare us for our role as a parent so as a new Dad you will often find yourself in new situations with no rulebook – rise to the occasion by using your creativity and imagination to overcome new challenges.

Remember that patience is a virtue – this is especially true when you have a newborn, so remember to slow down, take a deep breath and relax before you react to trying situations.

Always keep in mind that much of what you are doing in the early days after the birth of your baby is a form of service for both baby and Mom – don’t see it as a negative, rather see it as a time for you to develop a new leadership role as you offer yourself in service to others.

Dad comforting a crying baby
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

As a first step, always make sure your baby has been fed and changed and that they are comfortable – if so then go on to the next steps to soothe them.

Swaddling: holding a baby close can help them feel more secure, so snuggle them in a soft blanket.

Side/Stomach: holding your baby on their side or stomach may help calm them.

Shhh: making this noise often helps sooth your baby.

Sucking: is very comforting for your baby, so if it’s not feeding time, give them a pacifier to suck on.

Swinging: gentle movement is often soothing to a baby, so gently rock them in your arms or put them safely in an infant swing.

Remember that even though it may be frustrating, it’s important for you to be patient and gentle with your baby. Use this time to bond with your baby and allow Mom a much-needed break from her role as a caregiver.

Getting Dad involved
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Talk with Dad about his thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding his role in caring for your newborn – this will help you understand his comfort level.

Get Dad involved in your baby’s care – he may need help in learning how to hold the baby or change diapers so include him in as many of the day-to-day activities as you can.

Have Dad help with a night feeding when possible – if you are breast feeding consider pumping a feeding ahead so he can take one feeding for you during the night. Have him talk, read or sing to the baby every day – build these activities into your baby’s daily routine.

Involve Dad in doctors’ appointments whenever possible.

Ask Dad to help you with household activities so you can rest – he may need you to tell him where you need his help the most.

Engage Dad in baby proofing the house – share your safety measures with him so he can be a partner in creating a safe and smoke-free environment.

Strengthening Mommy-Daddy team
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Teamwork is important and makes the process much easier for everyone, so work out ways to share the load.

Know that it’s normal to have worries and fears – many first-time parents feel overwhelmed by the changes and new responsibilities, so talk to each other about your feelings and concerns.

Learn from each other – you each come to the role of a parent with different skill sets and backgrounds, so be supportive of your partner and help teach them what you know and be open to learning from them as well.

Ask questions, since no one can know everything as new parents – connect with people you know and trust like family, friends and doctors.

Do some research if you can’t find someone who is a good resource – make use of places like your local library or trusted internet sites (avoid sites whose information may not be credible – for health information look for certified sites like those with HON certification).

Enjoy the moment, because time flies by way to fast when you have a baby – make sure to spend some special time with just the 3 of you every day.

Make time for yourselves as a couple – enlist the help of family and friends or find a babysitter so you can continue to build your relationship with each other.

Stimulating your baby's senses
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Believe it or not your baby will learn a lot in their first year of life. One way you can help them learn is to provide stimulation for them in different forms. This can be done in a variety of ways such as stimulating their vision and hearing or through touch and movement. Remember to spend some time every day working to help your baby explore the world around them.

Stimulating your baby's vision
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Make eye contact with your baby during times when their eyes are open. Look them right in the eye. They recognize faces very early in life, especially yours! This helps them develop their memory. Use a mirror to let your baby stare at his or herself. They will enjoy looking at “another” baby and watching the movements it makes.

Stick out your tongue for your baby or make funny faces. Starting at 2 days old newborns can begin to mimic simple facial movements as they begin to develop problem solving skills. Hold up two pictures for your baby to look at. They should be similar, but with some sort of difference between the two – maybe one has a house and the other doesn’t.

Even young babies will look back and forth between the two to try and figure out the difference between them. This can help them develop letter recognition and reading skills later on.

Stimulating your baby with laughing and singing
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Find ways to get your baby laughing. This can be through methods like gentle tickling, blowing on their arms and tummy, or making funny faces.

As they get older you can joke around more too. Laughter is great for babies! Sing songs to your baby.

Learn as many as you can or make up your own words to songs you already know. Play music to your baby. This can be Bach or Mozart or even the Beatles.

Learning music rhythms may help them learn math skills later on. Talk away. In other words, have a silly, fun conversation with your baby.

Chat away and pause at places where your baby would speak in the conversation. As your baby grows, they will learn to start chatting to fill in the spaces you leave.

Be sure to make eye contact and smile a lot! Play peek-a-boo, it’s great for getting babies to giggle and laugh – it also teaches them that objects can disappear and then come back.

Physical activities for your baby
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Turn yourself into a playground by lying on the floor and letting your baby crawl all over you. This will help boost their problem-solving skills and coordination.

Teach them to move to music.

You can teach them to do the twist, twist and shout or even twirl like a ballerina. This helps them develop skills like balance and coordination as well as a sense of rhythm.

Create an obstacle course by laying toys, boxes or sofa cushions on the floor and then show your baby how to crawl over and around or under the items. This helps with problem-solving, strength and coordination.

Play pick-up by allowing them to drop toys or pieces of wadded up paper off their highchair into a bucket or other safe container. This helps them learn and explore the laws of gravity.

Newborn hearing
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Newborns can hear immediately upon birth and are able to distinguish their mother’s voice above all else. If your baby does not seem to react to your voice or does not startle with a loud noise, be sure to tell your paediatrician.

Reasons why your baby is crying
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

If your baby is crying, the first step is trying to figure out the reason.  Some of the most common reasons why a baby is crying are:

  • Hunger is usually the first thing you should think of – they may give other signs first like rooting, fussing, smacking their lips and putting their hands to their lips.
  • A dirty diaper – many infants don’t like a wet or dirty diaper, so changing their diaper when they cry is a simple thing you can do to help calm them.
  • In need of sleep – babies may not just nod off to sleep when they are tired, they may get fussy and cry, so after feeding and changing diapers you may want to try soothing activities like finding a quiet place, holding them close and rocking them to help them get to sleep.
  • Wanting to be held – babies like to be cuddled, so if you have tried all of the above tips without success it could be that your baby just wants you to hold and cuddle them; also talk in a soft voice or sing softly.
  • Tummy troubles – babies can develop gas pains, colic, constipation, milk allergies and other conditions that make them cry; if this happens often talk with your doctor about ways you can soothe their tummy.
  • Needing to burp – a trapped gas bubble in your baby’s stomach can make them uncomfortable, so if they are crying after a feeding, try burping them to see if that helps.

Additional reasons are mentioned in the following tip.

Additional reasons why your baby is crying
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

In addition to the reasons mentioned in the previous tip, the following are reasons why your baby may be crying:

  • Temperature troubles – babies will often cry if they are too cold, this may happen when you are changing them or washing them; it can also happen if they are too hot, though this is less common.
  • Little irritations – babies are very sensitive to small discomforts like a hair wrapped around a finger or toe, scratchy clothing or being placed in the wrong position, so look for little discomforts if the big things don’t appear to be the cause of their distress.
  • Teething – newborns don’t have teeth coming in but sometimes their teeth will move around under the gums causing them discomfort; their teeth won’t usually start to come in until they are about 4-7 months; a cold washcloth and gentle pressure on their gums may be soothing.
  • Over stimulation – newborns can’t always process all the things that are going on around them, so if you think your baby may be suffering from too much stimulation take them to a quiet spot away from bright lights, hold them close and soothe them until they can calm down.
  • Not enough stimulation – some babies are outgoing and like to see what’s going on around them, so if you think this is your baby’s issue try carrying them in a sling, front carrier or backpack so they can get the extra stimulation they need.
  • Not feeling well – if you’ve met all your baby’s basic needs and they are still crying and fussy they could be coming down with something, so keep a close eye on them, check their temperature if you think they might have a fever and contact your doctor if needed.

Things to try to comfort a crying baby
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Sucking is soothing for a baby and can lower their heart rate and relax their stomach, so give them a pacifier or a clean finger to suck on when nothing else seems to stop their crying.

Babies are used to being warm and secure in the womb so when all else fails try imitating that experience by swaddling them and holding them securely or carry them with you in a sling.

Some babies respond well to sound and movement, so try putting on some music and dancing with them – gently of course!

Try white noise – often babies like noises that mimic the whooshing sounds they heard before they were born, so try running the vacuum cleaner, a fan or the water faucet or use a recording of a water fountain, a gurgling stream or waves.

A change of scenery can sometimes help, so dress your baby appropriately and step outside your front door; walk around slowly and talk in a soothing tone.

Get them moving – babies like motion so try carrying them around or take them for a ride in the stroller or the car; sometime this will work when nothing else seems to help.

Massage may be helpful for some babies – don’t worry about knowing the right movements, just try a soft, gentle massage in a warm place free from drafts.

Start all over again – sometimes it’s helpful just to start at the top of the list again; change their diaper, hold them close, feed them if their hungry and see if something works the second time around.

If you ever think your baby is in distress because of a health-related issue don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

No question is ever “dumb” if it involves the wellbeing of your baby!

Feeling frustrated when a baby won't stop crying
The following information is to be used as a guide to and at the discretion of the end-user and should not replace a doctor’s opinion.

Keep in mind that crying won’t hurt your baby, they may just need a release so let them cry.

Put your baby down and let him/her cry for a while - make sure it’s a safe place like a crib or baby swing, they may even cry themselves to sleep.

Call someone whose advice you trust - a friend or relative who has experienced the same thing can be very supportive.

Take a break and let someone you trust take over for you – take a nap, take a walk, or even a hot shower to help you unwind.

Put on some quiet calming music to help you distract yourself. Take some slow deep breaths - deep breathing can help you relax and calm down.

Remind yourself that your baby will outgrow this phase - repeat those words to yourself for reassurance.

Never take out your frustration on your baby - shaking them will only make them more upset and could hurt them.

Remember, if you ever feel like you might hurt yourself or the baby call for help right away and get additional support from family and friends.

Mommy-To-Be Information

Dealing with Postpartum Depression - plus ways to deal with mental health after pregnancy.

As a new mom, the birth of your baby is a beautiful and exciting time, but there is a darker side to childbirth. Postpartum depression affects about 15% of moms after delivery, and while it is a serious disorder it can be overcome through treatment.

What is Postpartum depression?

Feelings of anxiety, sadness and fatigue are common after birth and are often referred to as the ‘baby blues’ and should subside within the first two weeks. However, if these feelings stick around for longer, you could be experiencing postpartum depression.

Restlessness, mood swings, insomnia, irritability, disconnection from your baby and feeling of worthlessness are all red flags for postpartum depression. Some moms feel guilty or ashamed to be feeling this way, however PPD can affect any woman.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, as PDD is treatable through both medicated and unmedicated options.

What should I do if I have the symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

The good news is that PPD is treatable. There are a variety of common types of treatment, which depend on the type and severity of symptoms. Treatment can include counselling, therapy groups, antidepressants and hormone therapy. Self-help groups can be helpful, as it allows you to connect with others who have experienced similar problems and stop feelings of isolation.

Recovery time will also vary from mother to mother, but untreated the disorder will last much longer and can interrupt mother-child bonding. Getting help does not mean you are a bad mother, it is important to reach out if you are feeling depressed.

Postpartum Psychosis

In rare cases moms can develop postpartum psychosis. This should be treated as a medical emergency, and it is essential that you receive help right away.  Symptoms include paranoia, delusion and erratic/disorganised behaviour.       

How to deal with mental health after pregnancy

Your mental health is critical to you and your child’s well-being. If you are worried about PPD it is important to get professional help.

However, you can help your mood by slowly getting back into exercise, setting aside time for yourself and leaning on those around you for support. It is important to stay connected to family and friends so that you don’t feel alone.

Drinking while pregnant - what are the consequences

Drinking during pregnancy is a huge NO, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in. Alcohol causes harm to your unborn baby, and can cause them to have lifelong physical and mental problems.

If you are planning on getting pregnant it is best to avoid alcohol.  But if you didn’t know for the first few weeks and have had a few drinks in this time, while this isn’t ideal it is somewhat common and shouldn’t cause you to panic. However, when you know you are pregnant, stop drinking.

The consequences of drinking while pregnant

If you drink while pregnant, alcohol passes through your umbilical cord to your baby. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as a range of physical, behavioural and intellectual problems. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the most severe among the range of FASDs. 

Kids born with FASD can be born prematurely with birth defects such as a smaller head, low body weight, deformities in their facial features and problems with their joints and heart. Growing up they can have issues with coordination, memory retention, attention, vision and hearing as well as intellectual disabilities.  Some kids are born with problems that are only noticed when they go to school, when learning issues become apparent. There is no cure for FASD and FAS.

Every pregnancy is different, some moms drink very little and their kids end up with severe health problems, whereas others report drinking more and have children with very few problems. If you are struggling to stop drinking it is best to seek professional help

South Africa has the highest prevalence of FAS globally, 14 times higher than the global average. There are a number of local NGOs who focus their efforts on spreading awareness around the condition and programs which speak to pregnant mothers about drinking.

How does my diet affect my pregnancy?

A healthy diet is always important, but during pregnancy you are eating for both you and your baby so it’s critical that you remain healthy. Eating poorly during pregnancy can have a long term impact on your baby's health growing up. So that being said, what foods should you be eating during pregnancy?

If you eat healthily already you won’t need to go onto a special diet during pregnancy, but it’s important to get the right nutrients for you and your baby through a balanced diet. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself hungrier than usual, but even if you are expecting twins you won’t need to eat for two. It is also important to note that weight gain during pregnancy is normal, so don’t be alarmed by this.

Eating schedules differ between moms, however, it is generally recommended that you eat smaller amounts more frequently when pregnant, especially if you are struggling with morning sickness.

What to eat when you're expecting

Fruit and veggies are your friend during pregnancy. Providing much needed vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre which helps with digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Protein is another important nutrient, and you should try to include it in your diet everyday as it helps your baby grow strong. Sources of protein include nuts, beans, pulses, eggs, lean meat and fish. However, raw, cured and uncooked meat are all risky to consume during pregnancy as they can cause toxoplasmosis.

Another important source of energy is carbohydrates, specifically whole grains. They contain vitamin B, fibre and iron, which are all important for the baby’s growth and staying healthy. These include oatmeal, wholewheat pasta and bread, potatoes and maize. If you are suffering from morning sickness, these blander foods fill you and can be eaten little and often. 

Foods that are rich in calcium should also be eaten regularly. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt are all options containing calcium as well as protein and vitamin D. That being said, some cheeses (such as soft cheese like brie) should be avoided as they can contain harmful (although rare) listeria bacteria.

What foods should be avoided during pregnancy

There are certain foods that you should take care to avoid during pregnancy. As mentioned, rare meats and certain cheeses should be avoided. Liver and raw fish (i.e sushi) are also on the to-avoid list. Consuming too much caffeine can also affect the baby negatively. Coffee is the obvious drink to avoid, but be aware that soft drinks, green tea, certain energy drinks and chocolate all contain caffeine.

 

Morning sickness - what to expect and how to deal.

Being pregnant is an exciting time of your life, but it can be a little daunting.  Morning sickness is one of the aspects of pregnancy that can be difficult to deal with. It is estimated that over 70% of women deal with nausea and vomiting to some degree. The name morning sickness is also misleading, as unfortunately you can feel sick anytime of day.

Morning sickness is often one of the first signs of pregnancy, beginning in the first trimester. Unless vomiting is so frequent that it leads to weight loss and dehydration (this is known as  hyperemesis gravidarum), morning sickness is considered a normal (albeit unpleasant) part of pregnancy.

What causes morning sickness?

There is no one cause of morning sickness, and severity varies amongst women, and between pregnancies. Some women deal with feeling nauseous the entire pregnancy, whereas others will find that symptoms abate within the second trimester. Luckily, even though you may be feeling miserable, morning sickness is often seen as a sign of a healthy pregnancy and doesn’t harm your baby.

Morning sickness is thought to be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy, specifically the pregnancy hormone, known as human chorionic gonadotropin.

How to deal with morning sickness?

Unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do to fully alleviate the nausea and vomiting, however, there are things you can do to help fight feeling sick.

Making sure you stay hydrated, eating a bland diet, such as rice, bananas and crackers, as well as eating small amounts frequently are all things that can help quell the queasiness. Try staying away from strong smells and spicy foods, as these can trigger nausea.

If your morning sickness is bad, speak to your doctor, and be sure to consult with them before trying any medication or alternative remedies.

 

Should I be exercising while pregnant, and if so, how much?

For most exercise is a part of life, so it is natural to want to keep active for as long as possible while pregnant. You may wonder how much exercise you can keep doing as your baby develops, and what routine changes you’ll need to make as your baby grows bigger.

If you have a complicated pregnancy or are dealing with a weak cervix, a low placenta or suffering from a heart condition, diabetes or asthma, it is best to consult with a doctor or health professional before putting together a pregnancy exercise plan.

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Improving overall health and wellness, exercise is a vital part of keeping you feeling your best and can help with backache caused by pregnancy, as well as prepare you for labour and delivery.

If you were active before your pregnancy, you should be able to keep training with modifications made to your program. Exercises that are low impact and carry small risk of injury are best and you should be able to remain active until birth.

Exercising during pregnancy can help boost your mood and energy levels, improve muscle tone, strength and lessen back pain. Exercise can also help reduce fatigue and stress, as well as help improve your sleep, all of which helps make your pregnancy easier on your body and mind.

Staying fit can also help shorten your post delivery recovery time, however, getting back into exercise postpartum can be difficult and you should avoid pushing yourself too hard in the beginning.

Exercising during pregnancy isn’t only good for your overall wellness, but studies show that it can also improve your baby’s health.

What type of exercise should I be doing?

During pregnancy it is important to keep tabs on how your body is feeling. If you have been exercising frequently pre-pregnancy it should be fine to continue to do so in moderation, however, if something feels strange or uncomfortable it is best to consult a health practitioner.

Swimming, prenatal yoga and pilates, walking and water aerobics are all exercises that you can focus on during your pregnancy. Water activities are good as they give you buoyancy and put very little strain on your body, especially when you are close to giving birth.

If you were an avid runner before, you should be able to continue into pregnancy with some alterations to your program. 

Exercise to avoid

High impact sports with a risk of falling should be avoided. These include horse riding, mountain biking, downhill skiing. Contact sports, such as rugby, kickboxing and soccer are also preferable to avoid as there is a risk of being hit. Scuba diving is a big no-no as the baby has no protection against decompression sickness.

Why should I breastfeed my baby, and what if this is not an option?

Breastfeeding is important to your baby’s health and is the safest and healthiest thing that you can feed your little one. It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) you should feed your baby exclusively with breastmilk for the first six months. Unfortunately, some moms can’t breastfeed due to medical or health reasons.

Read on if you want to know the benefits of breastfeeding, or if you can’t breastfeed your baby, here are some healthy alternatives.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is the perfect way to get all the nutrients needed to your baby, as well as being a special bonding experience between mom and child. Breast milk is optimally suited to babies providing all the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals, being easily digestible and helping protect your baby by providing important antibodies.

Baby’s who are breastfed have less ear infections, issues with diarrhea and respiratory issues. Benefits of breastfeeding include lowering your baby’s chance of getting infections and breastmilk can also help lower instances of asthma and eczema, and is thought to lower the risk of diabetes as well.

Not only is breastfeeding good for your baby, but it’s also good for you. It helps your bond with your baby as your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus reduce to its pre-pregnancy size as well as lowers stress levels.

And it’s an added bonus is that breast milk is cost effective and easily available. The only thing lacking from breast milk is vitamin D, and you can supplement this to your little one from birth.

What are alternatives if I can’t breastfeed?

Sadly some moms aren’t able to breastfeed their babies due to not having enough breastmilk supply, being on medication that could damage their baby’s health and, infectious diseases such as HIV. Although it's hard not to be able to breastfeed, remember this won’t stop you bonding with or providing nutrients for your baby.

The best alternative to your own breast milk is donated breast milk. However, if you are struggling to find adequate supply you can make use of baby formulas.

In South Africa, the South African Breastmilk Reserve and Milk Matters supports breastfeeding moms through the provision of donated milk.  SABR focuses on helping premature babies under the age of 14 days, and Milk Matters supports babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the Western Cape.

With your due date fast approaching, this is a very exciting, yet stressful time for most moms to be. Here is a great list of what to pack for the big day! Ideally, you should have your bag ready to go by 36 to 37weeks, apart from the last minute grabs such as your tooth brush and phone charger.

Please see our extensive list of the essential items and also items to make you feel more comfortable for mom and baby (and dad, of course!)

Baby

Car seat - Many hospitals won’t let you leave without one. Please make sure you know how to strap baby properly into the seat and the seat is secure in the car. Safety first!

A going home outfit: It's important to keep baby skin to skin (this means no clothes on baby; only a nappy) for as long as possible, as this promotes growth, bonding and a calming period for you and your baby. When it's time to go home, pack different outfits in different sizes as you don't know how big or small baby will be. Aim for an outfit in Newborn sizes, and 0-3 months. Don't forget a beanie or socks if the weather is cold.

Blankets or Muslin wrap to keep baby nice and cosy.

Bottles - If you are going into the hospital knowing you are going to bottle feed, take your bottles with. The hospital usually supplies the formula, but if you have a preferred brand, take some along. If breastfeeding doesn't work for you, don't stress! The nurses will provide the bottles and formula.

Nappies and wipes to keep baby clean and dry. The nurses in the hospital will show you how to change baby if you are a first time mom.

Mom

Your medical aid information, your pre authorization/ doctors forms, your ID card and all other important documents you may need. Keep this safely in a folder all together to avoid any stress.

A robe or dressing gown - This is such a handy item to have to cover up and make you feel comfortable

Pyjama's that button down at the front - If you are breastfeeding it's a lot easier to undo the buttons than lift your top continuously.

Comfortable, soft and loose pants such as lights weight shorts, stretchy leggings or sleep pants are ideal.

Maternity pads and disposable breast pads. Nursing bras are also wonderful and offers great support for breastfeeding moms.

Slippers or slip in shoes. Your feet may be a little swollen after delivery, so don't feel bad leaving the hospital in the snuggest and easiest pair of shoes you can slip into. Slipper socks also work great.

Cotton underwear, preferably in a dark or black colour. One that fits you well but rises above the uterus. This is good for moms who have a caesarean section and natural birth as it offers support and doesn't cause pain along the wound site.

Nipple cream - If you're planning on breastfeeding, your nipples will be happy you are being so proactive.

Toiletries - You will want to brush your hair and have a shower after baby has arrived. Take your shampoo, face cream, lotion and body wash, as well as your toothbrush and toothpaste. Deodorant, lip balm and extra hair ties are also a great items to have on hand.

Cell phone charger - Because your phone will be full of photos of your new addition to your family.

Water bottle and snacks. Take a reusable water bottle as its very important to keep hydrated during and post-delivery. Snack on dried fruit and wine gums to keep your sugar up and to give you energy (with permission from your midwife or doctor of course)

A magazine or book, your laptop or some music. Labour may sometimes become a little long. It’s good to keep busy.

Most hospitals and birthing clinics supply towels, pillows and blankets. If you have a favourite, take yours along to the hospital.

A set of clothes to go home in.

Your make up bag and straightener or curling iron. While you won't be focused on looking great during labour, you may want to take some photos after the birth of your little one. Get someone to help you and make you feel good about yourself (and the great work you've just done!)

Dad/Birthing partner

 Camera - Take photos! Lots of them. This is a great job for dad to do during birth. It will make them feel a lot more involved.

Snacks: Another great job for dad. Full his bag with plenty of snacks and treats that you can both enjoy during your stay.

Comfortable clothes - As he may be sitting with you for quite some time, let him pack some tracksuit pants, t shirts, slippers and hoodies.  Extra underwear is also a winner if he is staying overnight.

Chargers - For phones, laptops and cameras. The longer the wire, the better, as most plug outlets are likely to be far from you.

Toiletries - He may want to freshen up during the course of your stay.

Many private hospitals offer you a baby bag when you are admitted for delivery. This is a great item and will contain most, if not all baby's toiletries such as soap and creams.

If you forget something, it's not the end of the world. The nurses may be able to help or someone can go to the shop for you.

All baby ideally needs is a clean nappy, milk, and most importantly, you.

Important Questions Amongst Pregnant Women

Back pain is a common occurrence during pregnancy and can be frustrating to deal with. Unfortunately, if you have any pre-existing back problems you are more likely to struggle with back pain during your pregnancy.

If you are suffering from back pain during your pregnancy and are wondering what you can do to help reduce it; we explain what causes it and how you can find some relief.

What causes back pain during pregnancy

If you are experiencing back pain during your pregnancy you are probably wondering what is the root cause of it. Generally there are two types of back pain that expecting moms deal with. Pelvic pain, which is felt in the pelvic tailbone area, and lumbar pain which is similar to any lower back pain felt when not pregnant.

There are a few culprits of back pain during pregnancy. Hormones, stress, weight changes and posture are all causes of sore and uncomfortable back.

During your pregnancy, your hormones change. One of them, known as relaxin, softens the joints in the pelvic region. This can directly impact on your back’s ligaments, causing you back pain.

Stress can also cause your back to ache, whether you are pregnant or not. If you are worried about your job, family or pregnancy, you can find that this added anxiety can contribute to back pain. This is due to the fact that anxiety can cause muscle tension, which can then translate into back pain. 

Changes in weight as your baby grows and shifts in your centre of gravity can also be a cause of a sore back. If you're already struggling with poor posture or back ache, then back pain during your pregnancy becomes far more likely.

What can help relieve my back pain?

Completely alleviating your back pain may not be possible, but there are things you can try that could help ease and manage your pain. Avoiding lifting heavy objects, opting for flat, supportive shoes and getting plenty of rest are all things you can try to improve your back ache.

Exercises that help strengthen your glutes and abs can also help relieve back pain. Prenatal yoga and water aerobic classes are examples of gentle exercises which can help strengthen your body.

However, if you are feeling cramps, experiencing vaginal bleeding, feeling feverish, numbness or sporadic pain you should consider consulting with your doctor, as these are all more than just normal pregnancy back pain symptoms.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make about your baby’s birth is whether to have a vaginal birth or a Caesarean section, also known as a c-section. Neither method is objectively better than the other, some moms need to have c-sections for physical or health reasons, or decide that they would rather opt for a c-section for personal reasons.

Focusing on the c-section, we’ll let you know what you can expect when having one and what the average recovery time is. When making this decision you should consult with your health practitioner, but it won’t hurt to know more about what is happening to your body during the process so that you can make the most informed decision for you and your baby.

So what exactly is a c-section?

C-section is the surgical delivery of a baby. During the process you doctors will cut into your abdomen and your uterus and lift your baby out of this. As you are having a major surgery, you’ll typically have an epidural. This way you’re numb, but still awake so you can experience the magic of your baby’s birth.

Both c-sections and vaginal births have their pros and cons. You’re likely to take longer to recover from a c-section birth and you’ll probably feel pain in the incision area for a few weeks. As it’s a surgery, there’s a risk of damage to surround organs, infection and excessive bleeding. Make sure to consult with professionals about what works best for you and your baby before making a choice.

When is a c-section necessary?

Some moms elect to have c-sections before the time, whilst others may need to have an emergency c-section due to complications that arise during birth. If you are expecting twins, have high blood pressure, diabetes or have an infectious disease, such as HIV or genital herpes you’ll schedule your c-section ahead of time.

Unplanned c-sections are necessary if your labour doesn’t start or stalls, if you become too exhausted or your baby goes into distress, if the umbilical cord slips into the birth canal before the baby (as there is a risk of the baby’s air supply being cut off) or if your uterus ruptures.

How long will I take to recover from a c-section?

Don’t expect too much of yourself after having a c-section, you’ll typically spend around 3 to 4 days in hospital and take about 4 to 6 weeks recovery time at home before you start feeling normal again. Some moms experience muscle or incision pain for a few months following the c -section. 

Your baby’s health during your pregnancy solely depends on you - what and when you consume is important to both of you. Intermittent fasting is a diet that many turn to to lose weight and improve health. This is a time restricted form of fasting and you may wonder if it’s healthy to keep up this kind of eating while trying to get pregnant or when you are pregnant.

Is it safe to fast while I am pregnant?

Fasting during your pregnancy is not recommended. While there is research that shows this may be a good way to help with weight loss and potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, this is not ideal when your body needs more calories than normal. 

While pregnant your nutritional focus should be to make sure that your baby is getting all the right vitamins and minerals. While in the initial stages of pregnancy you might not need more calories than normal, as your pregnancy progresses you will need to eat more - making fasting a less viable option.

However, if you are struggling with morning sickness (most prevalent in the first trimester), you’ll find that eating bland foods little and often can help ease the nausea, which isn’t compatible with fasting for hours at a time. Not only will snacking help keep the nausea at bay, but it’ll also keep your blood sugar stable.

While there aren’t studies that look at intermittent fasting throughout pregnancy, it has been found that moms-to-be with lower glucose levels had lower fetal movement, which can be a warning sign of potential issues during your pregnancy.

Can I start intermittent fasting straight after birth?

If you’ve decided to eat regularly during your pregnancy, you may wonder if you can return to your old lifestyle after having your baby. However, while you are breastfeeding it’s best to stick to a regular eating schedule. Even after birth your body will be needing extra calories for breastfeeding - restricting these can lead to reduced milk supply and lo

Gestational diabetes is higher than normal blood sugar (glucose) levels, diabetes, which is first diagnosed during pregnancy. During your pregnancy it is important that you monitor your blood sugar levels, exercise and eat healthy to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. 

Getting diabetes during your pregnancy doesn’t mean that you’ve had it before or will have it afterwards, but unfortunately, if you’ve had gestational diabetes during your pregnancy you’ll be a higher risk of getting diabetes type 2 after having your baby.

How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?

Generally, moms with gestational diabetes won’t notice that they have it as symptoms are so mild. Being thirstier than normal, or needing to urinate more, are often put down to normal pregnancy and not symptoms of an issue.

Because of this it’s important that you get your blood sugar tested regularly. Gestational diabetes is caused by changing hormone levels affecting the way that your body processes blood sugar, meaning that your blood sugar levels rise and you get diabetes.

How can I avoid gestational diabetes?

While it’s not entirely clear while some moms get diabetes and others don’t, factors such as excessive weight before pregnancy, diabetes in the immediate family and lack of physical activity are all things which increase your risk.

Healthy life choices are the best prevention. Even if you do experience gestational diabetes, being healthy can stop you getting gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes afterwards. Eating healthy (cutting out bad sugars and focusing on veggies, whole grains and good proteins), staying active and losing unnecessary weight are all good lifestyle choices that won’t just help with diabetes, but other health problems too!

Can gestational diabetes affect my baby?

Typically, moms who have gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies - getting the right treatment can make all the difference. However, gestational diabetes can lead to problems such as your baby growing too big (and you needing a c-section to deliver), premature birth or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) at birth.

If you struggle with gestational diabetes, you are at risk of preeclampsia and type 2 diabetes. This is why managing the condition is critical to both you and your baby’s well being.

Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure (the pressure of your blood on the walls of your blood vessels) during the later part of pregnancy, as opposed to chronic hypertension which is high blood pressure outside of pregnancy. Hypertension affects about 6 - 8 % of pregnant women, and unfortunately can negatively affect you and your baby.

How will I know if I have gestational hypertension?

You are more at risk if you're carrying twins, are overweight, had high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes before becoming pregnant or are older than 40 or younger than 20.
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure in the second half of pregnancy and some moms may not even realise that they have it - which is why regular check ups are important.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure during pregnancy can develop into preeclampsia. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious complications and even death. The most effective treatment of this is delivery of your baby (if possible). Symptoms of preeclampsia include headaches, nausea and excessive protein in your urine, with the most common first sign being a rise in blood pressure.

How can I avoid or treat hypertension?

Although there isn’t anything you can do to prevent hypertension(some variables such as age and number of babies you’re carrying is uncontrollable), you can try to keep yourself (and your baby) as healthy as possible during your pregnancy to help you control your blood pressure. Knowing your blood pressure level before getting pregnant, reducing your salt intake and regular exercise are all things you can do to help stay healthy and aware of your body’s condition. Going for regular checkups during your pregnancy will also help let you catch any problems early.

 

If you’re expecting a baby then you’ll probably know that you’ll have a choice between a home or hospital birth. If a home birth is something you’re considering it’s important that you weigh up the relative pros and cons. A home birth means you’ll be giving birth at home as opposed to the hospital, and if this is something that you are considering it is important that you discuss it with your doctor.

What are the benefits of a home birth?

The first pro of a home birth is that you are at home, in a familiar environment with familiar people or trusted friends. It is only recently that hospital births have become so common, and prior to half way through the 20th century, most births did happen at home .

Another reason why some moms choose to deliver at home is the fact that allows them to give birth with a lesser degree of medical intervention and they have more freedom in the birthing process. After giving birth you are able to be in the comfort of your own home with your new baby and family, another reason why home birth would be chosen over a hospital by moms.

If you think this may be an option for you, you’ll need to find a midwife who has experience with home births so that if any issues should arise, she has a contingency plan to deal with the situation.

The risk depends on your situation. If you are only carrying one baby, don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, haven’t had a previous c-section and live around 15 mins away from the nearest hospital (in case of emergency) you are a more ideal candidate for a home birth. It’s important to weigh in on the possible risks  before deciding if a home birth method is right for you and your baby.

When would the hospital be a better option?

Generally speaking, hospital births are safer because there are always doctors available in the case of an emergency, for instance if the baby becomes blocked in the birthing canal or the mom starts hemorrhaging.

During your home birth, you may need to be transported to the hospital if your labour or birthing process doesn’t go to plan (that’s why it’s important to live close by to one if you choose this option). If your labour is slow, you need pain relief, the baby shows signs of distress or isn’t head first it’s best to be transported to the hospital for medical assistance.

What do you need to prepare for a home birth?

If you are seriously considering a home birth make sure you’ve consulted with your doctor to make sure this is a good option for you and your baby. If it’s something you want to consider, you’ll probably be wondering what you need to prepare for a home birth.

Before getting to the details, you’ll need to choose a midwife or health care professional to assist, create a birthing plan, a well as a plan to prepare for a hospital transfer, should this become needed.

If you still have questions, Home Birth South Africa, which is a website dedicated to home births in South Africa, has many resources you can browse through.

The birth of your baby is a beautiful and special moment in both of your lives. You may be wondering about your newborn’s senses, while they are born with all necessary senses, some are less precise than others and develop as your baby grows.

Physical touch is an important aspect of your child’s growth, coming from your womb, where they are tightly cocooned in your womb. Skin to skin contact offers benefits to both you and your baby, and touch is one of the senses that can help comfort your baby, making them feel more secure and helping strengthen the bond between the two of you.

Why is touch important?

Touch enables your baby to learn more about the world, bond with their mother and learn communication skills, as touch and body language will be the first way that you can ‘speak’ to one another. Breastfeeding is an important part of this, as your baby then spends time in her mother's arms.

The benefits of touch goes beyond the physical. Contact between mom and baby has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which in turn benefits the functioning of the immune system.  Children that are deprived of touch can be more aggressive with other conduct disorder problems.

What is swaddling?

Coming from a tightly packed womb, you’ll find that your baby is comforted by touch and close cuddles. Swaddling your baby in a blanket is also another technique that you can use on young babies to help them feel more secure, as it stops them from upsetting themselves from their own startle reflex. It’s important that your newborn finds their new world a comfortable and soothing place.

Swaddling is an old technique, and beyond helping your little one feel safe and secure, your baby is likely to sleep better and will be kept nice and cosy in their blanket. If you decide to swaddle your baby it’s best to do so from birth, as opposed to introducing it when they are older as this can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Using the proper techniques when swaddling is also important, as incorrect wrapping can lead to issues.

As a new mom, or a potential new mom, you are probably wondering how long your body will take to recover post birth and pregnancy. The postpartum period is generally regarded as the first six weeks after childbirth.

This is an important time for both you and your baby, as you there are lots of emotional and physical adjustments that happen in this period. Recovering from having a baby can be a long process, especially considering that you now have a new baby to look after as well.

What can I expect postpartum?

Postpartum recovery will differ between moms and pregnancies. If you have opted for a vaginal birth, your vagina will hurt postpartum, and recovery can take 3 to 6 weeks depending on if you had an episiotomy or your perineum tore. 

C-section incisions can be painful and you can expect a recovery period of 4 to 6 weeks. Initially you may find moving difficult, but it’s important to move a little bit to avoid blood clots.

Some new moms can experience difficulty urinating, perineal discomfort or soreness, vaginal bleeding, contractions, constipation and breast tenderness post birth. During the postpartum period you may also feel irritable, anxious or have sudden mood swings, this is also known as the ‘baby blues’ and is caused by hormonal changes in the first few weeks. However, if this period is extended you could be suffering from postpartum depression, and should speak to your doctor about this.

How can I help my postpartum recovery?

Be aware of pushing yourself to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible, even if you have had an easy pregnancy and birth, your body has still been through an ordeal and you will need time to recover.

Avoid over exercising (even if it’s tempting to get straight back into it!) and trying to socialise too much with friends and family eager to meet the new baby.  Don’t be afraid to ask people for space and to limit your baby’s visitors.

Expecting a baby is an exciting time of your life, and you want to make sure that you do as much as you can to make sure your new child is as healthy as possible. Premature birth is something you want to try to avoid or manage as carefully as possible. In many cases the cause is unknown, and according to The World Health Organisation, one in ten babies are born preterm.

A birth is considered premature when a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. The final few weeks in the womb are important to your baby’s full development, so being born prematurely can lead to longer hospital stays, short term, and long term complications.

Why does it happen?

Some of the more common risk factors which contribute to preterm births are having had a premature birth before, you’re pregnant with twins/multiples or you have issues with your uterus or cervix. However, often the cause of preterm birth often can’t be identified.

Your health is also a factor that impacts on your likelihood to have your baby prematurely. Smoking during your pregnancy (which is not recommended), diabetes, high blood pressure (which can develop into preeclampsia) and being over or under weight are all potential premature birth causes.

To try and avoid preterm birth you can talk to your doctor about any existing health issues, such as depression, diabetes or high blood pressure) before getting pregnant - this way you can manage any problems with a treatment plan. Waiting 12 months between pregnancies and eating healthy (making sure that you get the correct prenatal vitamins needed) can also help prevent premature birth.

What if my baby is born preterm?

If your baby is born prematurely they are at risk for long and short term complications. Many preterm babies lead completely healthy lives, however, the more premature and underdeveloped your baby is when they are born, the more likely they are to have issues.

If your baby is born prematurely they may be put into a neonatal intensive care unit into an incubator. Some babies will spend longer in the unit than others, this all depends on when they are able to live without medical support.

 

Waiting for you baby to arrive is both exciting and nerve wrecking. In order to mentally prepare yourself and your family, you can start getting  your home ready for the newest addition of your household.

The urge to get your home ready for your baby is also known as nesting, and it’ll normally happen near the end of your third trimester. If you are ready to start spring cleaning, here are some tips on how best to organise your home for little one.

Have everything ready for your return from the hospital

When you and your baby return from hospital you’ll probably be feeling tired and sore, so making sure your home is ready before you go into labour is a good idea. Food prep, cleaning and buying home supplies are all things that’ll become more difficult with a newborn. Meal prepping, having a stocked baby changing table and home essentials stock piled will all be things you’ll be glad to have done beforehand.

Baby proofing your home

Baby proofing your home can ideally start up to 3 months before your due date, as this will give you time for any projects that may take slightly longer. Cover all electrical sockets, get safety latches for cabinets and get rid of any loose or dangling cords.

Not only can you take your time prepping your home, but you can also make sure that you are ready with baby essentials, such as a changing table, a baby monitor and newborn baby clothes. All things you don’t want to be looking for postpartum with a baby to look after.

Don’t over do it

Although it can be tempting to go full throttle with home adjustments there are certain things you should avoid to prevent injuring yourself. Don’t move large furniture, as your ligaments and tendons are softened by pregnancy hormones, making a strain or injury more likely. Avoid reaching too high, as this can put strain on your lower back (which may already be achy).

Delegating to your family and friends eager to help will give you the opportunity to rest while making sure that your home is perfect for your newest addition.

 

 

 

If you’re an avid smoker you’re probably wondering if being pregnant means you should wave your smoking habits goodbye. Unfortunately, even if your health isn’t enough for you to stop, your baby's health should be.

What can happen to my baby if I keep smoking?

Smoking during your pregnancy is harmful to your unborn baby. The chemicals in cigarettes are both damaging to you and your baby; nicotine and other harmful poisons increase the risk of health problems for unborn babies.

Second hand smoke, vaping and e-cigarettes are all still damaging to your baby’s health and should also be avoided (or quitted). You may need to designate your house a non-smoking area, and ask any friends and colleges not to smoke around you.

So what exactly does smoking do to your unborn baby? Smoking lowers the amount of oxygen available to your growing baby and nicotine damages the baby’s brain and lungs. Smoking can make it harder to conceive, and if you do fall pregnant, can lead to miscarriages or stillbirth. Babies can be born premature, have a low birth weight, or be born with birth defects. 

Smoking during pregnancy can also affect your baby’s health after they are born, leading to cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, asthma and other respiratory problems and infections.

Help - I am really struggling to quit!

Even if you have decided that quitting is in both of your best interests, this may be easier said than done. If you are pregnant already it is best to quit without using any medication, as this is healthier for you and your baby.

You also won’t be able to transition to vaping or e-cigarettes, as these too, are harmful and usually contain nicotine, which is damaging to health.

In order to quit for good, try avoid the triggers that make you want to smoke, and try find something else that you can do when the craving kicks in. Get the support of your family and friends, or join a stop-smoking group or self help plan. Whatever your plan is to stop, you can be sure that both you and your child’s health will benefit from it.

 

Living in sunny South Africa, worrying about your baby being exposed to the sun’s rays is a valid concern. Too much unprotected time in the sun can be harmful to your baby, leading to painful sunburn and, even skin cancer later in life. Here’s how to prevent and treat sunburn if your little one has spent too long outside.

How to treat sunburn

Babies and toddlers are more sensitive to the sun as they have less developed skin than adults. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to sunburn, however, if your baby has spent too much time in the sun, the reddy, painful burn will only show up a view hours later. Those who have darker complexions tend to be less sun sensitive, however, everyone has some risk of sunburn.

Redness, swelling of  the skin (warmth) and pain are all symptoms of sunburn. If the sunburn has caused fever, chills, blisters and headaches its best to consult your local health practitioner.

You can treat mild sunburn with a cooling bath, moisturiser or aloe gel - all of which will help cool irritated and inflamed skin. Giving your baby extra fluid in the days following the burn should prevent dehydration. It is recommended that you keep your baby out of the sun until the burn has healed.x

Tips for preventing sunburn

Sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm so limit your little one’s sun exposure during this time. When your baby is spending time outdoors in the sun, be sure that they are wearing a hat and sunblock with an SPF of higher than 30, if your baby is older than 6 months (if they are younger you will need to find alternative protection for them).

Try to find sunblock that is formulated for kids (as this will work best for sensitive skin) and do a patch test on their skin before using it. If your child doesn’t like the feel of sunscreen (or is younger than 6 months), sun protective clothing is the better option.

With COVID19 prevalent globally, the thought of your baby catching a cold could be one to send shivers down your spine. But don’t fret, here are the symptoms of the common cold, what is considered normal and what is cause for concern.

What is a cold?

The common cold is caused by a variety of different viruses, and is an infection of the throat and nose. When a baby is born they have a weaker immune system, which develops as they grow older. Understandably though, this makes it easier for them to catch a cold. Babies do build up antibodies when they are exposed to germs, however, it takes 2 to 3 months for their immunity to fully develop.

There are many types of viruses that are the cause of colds, but luckily most colds will help increase your little one's immunity against other another nasty germs. 

What is normal and what can I do to prevent my baby catching a cold?

Unfortunately, as the cold is caused by viruses there is no cure for it, but you can try naturally calm your baby's symptoms. Unfortunately antibiotics won’t work as viruses are the culprit.

It is normal for a cold to last 7 to 10 days. Symptoms include a runny nose, cough and low grade fever. Although alarming, fever is your baby’s natural response to the virus. Don’t give over the counter medication to your baby as these can cause dangerous side effects in young children, but extra fluids, saline spray and air humidifiers are all things you can use to help your baby.

When a cold causes your baby to have trouble breathing, a high fever or dehydration it is time to consult with a doctor. Additionally, if the cold lasts for an extended period of time without getting better it is also best to seek professional help.

Babies often catch the virus from older siblings or daycare, so if you can limit your baby's exposure to other people this will help prevent them picking up unwanted viruses. Ask visitors to wash their hands before touching your little one and make sure to keep the baby’s utensils and towels separate from the rest of the household. Keeping your baby up to date with vaccinations is also a very important action that can help protect your them. 

Veganism is becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle which abstains from the consumption and use of animal products, predominantly for health, and/or ethical reasons. If you’re vegan and are considering pregnancy, or are pregnant, you are probably wondering how to best provide nutrients for your growing baby, and if veganism is still the best option for both of you.

Can I stay vegan while pregnant?

Veganism is often criticised for its lack of certain vitamins and minerals that a typical ‘balanced’ diet contains. Luckily, it is still possible to stick to your vegan diet during pregnancy - you’ll just have to make sure that your growing baby receives the nutrients that she needs.

While pregnant, it’s important to eat foods that contain folic acid (a B vitamin), calcium, vitamin D, iron and protein - you can get this from the food you eat as well as supplements. If you’re wondering where you can find these important nutrients in a plant-based diet, read on.

Citrus fruits, dried beans and leafy green veggies are all foods that include folic acid. Typically dairy is a source of calcium, however, non dairy foods rich in calcium are broccoli and kale.  Vitamin D can be found in mushrooms and fortified products, such as rice milk and soy milk.  Although meat is often seen as a primary source of protein, beans, peas, nuts and seeds are all rich in protein. Potatoes and tofu are also good foods to eat when replacing meat protein, and iron can be found in spinach and beans.

What nutrients are typically lacking in a vegan diet?

As a vegan, there are certain nutrients that you can’t find in plants - during pregnancy it becomes even more important to supplement these. Vitamin B12 (which helps with proper brain development), vitamin D (which aids bone and teeth development), omega 3 fatty acids and iron (you’ll need about twice as much when pregnant) are vitamins and minerals you might need to supplement.

Even if you’re not vegan, making sure your baby gets all the correct nutrients is important and may mean adjusting your diet. If you are planning on sticking to a strict diet plan it’s a good idea to consult with someone knowledgeable first.

As an expecting mom you’ll want to do your best to make sure that your baby is as healthy as possible. What you eat is critical during this time, as everything your baby needs comes from you. Prenatal vitamins are supplements which can be taken during pregnancy which contain needed vitamins and minerals.

What vitamins and minerals are essential and why?

During pregnancy your vitamin and mineral needs will change as you now have a growing baby to provide for. Your food should contain much of the vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy, particularly if you are already following a healthy, balanced diet.

Folic acid and iron are typically found in most prenatal vitamins and are essential in a healthy pregnancy. Folic acids helps to prevent neural tube defects and iron supports healthy growth, helping prevent anemia and  blood (in both mom and baby) carry oxygen

Vitamin D, calcium and iodine are other important nutrients that are needed during pregnancy. Vitamin D aids in the development of the bones, teeth and nervous system, calcium helps bone and teeth development and iodine is important in brain development.

Getting the correct micronutrients is important. Deficiencies can lead to complications such as hypertension and a low birth weight. However, it’s also important not to exceed the healthy amount of certain vitamins and minerals - too much vitamin A, for example, can cause birth defects.

What foods should I be eating?

Prenatal vitamins are a good idea to cover any nutritional gaps you may have, while they may supplement your diet they don’t replace a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, eating correctly also greatly benefits you and your growing baby.

Foods you should try include in your diet are dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, as they contain extra protein and calcium, as well as probiotics. Legumes, such as lentils and soybeans are another good food to include - these contain protein, fibre and folate (which is very important during pregnancy). Sweet potatoes, high in vitamin A and fibre, are another good veggie to add to the shopping list. Eggs, broccoli, lean meat and berries are other wholesome foods you should be including in your diet.

A healthy pregnancy benefits both you and your baby in the long run, not only does it ensure that you deliver a healthy baby, but helps your child throughout adulthood development.

As an expecting mom with a career you may be wondering when the best time would be to stop working and how you can stay comfy and productive when you are still in the workplace. Morning sickness, back pain, frequent bathroom breaks and other pregnancy related symptoms can make working as you used to a more challenging task for you.

It’s important that you calculate the risks that your job could possibly have to you and your baby. For instance if you are working with chemicals, heavy metals or radiation you’ll need to either stop working or take extra precautions. Heavy lifting or labour intensive jobs and lots of travel for work are also jobs that’ll become more difficult as your pregnancy progresses. Desk work and computer work are generally regarded as safe, whereas jobs that require lots of standing will become more difficult in later pregnancy.

Dealing with work and pregnancy

Working can be stressful without having a growing baby in your belly. The physical and emotional changes that you experience can make meeting your body’s and workplaces’s demands a challenging task. However, some moms with healthy pregnancies are able to work almost until they go into labour, how much you can do will depend on your pregnancy.

Morning sickness is something many moms have to deal with. There are ways you can help manage nausea at work. Avoiding dining areas, packing mouthwash and a toothbrush and packing in soothing lemon and ginger are all things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Eating and drinking little and often can also help keep the nausea at bay.

Be sure to dress comfortably, and try to take frequent breaks and walks, as this’ll also help you stay more comfortable.

What rights am I entitled to as an expecting mom in South Africa?

As a pregnant employee, you are probably wondering what rights you’re entitled to. It is a good idea to inform your employee as soon as you can, so that your employer can manage the situation as best as they can (for both of you) - they are required by law to maintain a work environment that is safe for their employees.

As an expecting mom, you will be glad to hear that you’re well protected  under South African law - you may not be discriminated against or dismissed due to your pregnancy. You also have the right to four consecutive months unpaid maternity leave, anytime from four weeks before your expected birth date. Unfortunately employees are not obligated to pay you during this period, however, your job will be kept open for you until your return to work after maternity leave.

Healthy Active Lifestyle while Pregnant

You may be wondering if your morning cuppa is something to be avoided now that you’re pregnant. Generally, caffeine should be avoided during pregnancy, as it can harm your baby. However, you can consume caffeine in small amounts, so you won’t need to go cold turkey on your coffee habit. But how much is too much? And what caffeine high food and drink should you be avoiding?

How does caffeine affect you and your baby?

Too much caffeine can have a negative impact on both you and your baby. If you’ve drunk a lot before getting pregnant you may find adjusting to only one cup a day (or the equivalent) pretty tough. As a stimulant, caffeine has the effect of making you feel more awake and alert, but too much (even before getting pregnant) isn’t good for you.

Caffeine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and leave you feeling fatigued when the stimulant has left your system. Caffeine is also addictive, while it doesn’t cause addiction in the way that drugs do, drinking it often can increase your dependency on it. When you’re pregnant your body will metabolize caffeine at a slower rate.

Some studies have linked increased caffeine intake to miscarriage (although there are conflicting studies on this) as well as low birth weight. Because the risks aren’t fully understood it is best to limit your intake. 

How much is enough?

When you find out you’re pregnant it’s best to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day. This is the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee (filter coffee has more) or 3 to 4 cups of brewed tea. Energy drinks, sodas and chocolate are other sources of caffeine which you should consider.

Remember, caffeine isn’t the only thing in these foods and drinks, energy drinks and sodas have lots of processed sugar, and some energy drinks also contain ginseng, which should be avoided during pregnancy.

 What are alternatives to caffeine?

If you are planning on sticking to as little caffeine as possible per day you’re probably wondering what healthy alternatives there are. Luckily in South Africa, rooibos tea is very popular and perfectly safe to drink. You can swap out filter coffee and flat whites for rooibos tea and red cappuccinos. Decaf coffee is another alternative, but it’s best not to overdo this one as it still has trace amounts of caffeine.

Pregnancy can be a very happy and exciting time of your life, however, it can also be a time that is very difficult for some expecting moms. This is often made more difficult by the fact that many family and friends expect you to be thrilled, and conflicting emotions are often surrounded by guilt. Your mental health is important, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to snap out of it, or soldier on alone.

What is anxiety during pregnancy?

It’s natural for an expecting mom to have worries, this is a new and ever-changing part of your life. However, if your anxiety is ever-present, can’t be controlled easily and impact on your daily life it may be time to seek help.

Worrying is part of being human, and if you have struggled to conceive or have lost a baby before, it’s very understandable that you may worry about your baby’s health. You may also worry about whether you’ll be a good parent or how your family dynamic will change, and these are all normal worries.

But if you find your heart racing, your breathing shallow, obsessively worrying with racing thoughts, feeling restless or struggling to eat or sleep you may have anxiety. Anxiety in pregnancy is fairly normal, and you’re more likely to experience it if you’ve had anxiety in the past, have a high-risk pregnancy or are dealing with huge life stresses.

What can I do about it?

If you think you may have anxiety during your pregnancy, know that you are not alone or abnormal, as many expecting moms have experienced this. If you’re struggling, the best way forward is not put up with it, but to seek help.

Speaking to a psychologist is a good way to start dealing with why you are suffering from anxiety and how you can deal with it. Medication during pregnancy can be tricky but are an option if they’ll benefit you and your babies well being.

Staying active, eating healthy and trying to get enough sleep are also ways in which you can help yourself. Talking to others that have gone through pregnancy, or making sure that you rely on your family and partner for support are also ways in which you cope with your feelings and feel less isolated.

Dealing with pregnancy can be tricky on its own, but when you have a toddler or young kids to look after things can become more difficult. If this is your second pregnancy, you may be struggling with morning sickness, fatigue and a tired achy body and still having to look after another young child. 

You’re probably wondering how to manage, so we’ve put together some useful tips to help you the second time around.

Be patient with them and yourself

It’s important that you’re patient with your child. Initially, they may not understand the pregnancy which can make them act out in confusion. Getting them involved and feeling like a big sibling can help them to feel excited about the new addition to the family.

That being said you should also be patient with yourself. You may be feeling unwell due to your pregnancy, and with looking after another child you may find things falling by the wayside. It’s likely that only you will notice these things, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Playtime for you and them

You might not always be feeling up to playtime with your little one, so this is a good time to encourage them to play independently. This way you free up a little bit more time for yourself while keeping them entertained.

As your pregnancy progresses, play in ways that you can manage. Instead of running around, focus on board games, drawing and puzzles. Allowing a little bit of screen time (even together) is another way you can easily entertain your kids.

Help and schedules

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have a partner, they are the obvious person to lend a hand, but if you are by yourself, either reach out to close family or consider getting paid help for part of the day. 

Another way to find some time for yourself is to nap when your toddler naps. Syncing up your sleep schedules may mean that you find yourself a little bit more rest time for when you’re feeling tired or nauseous. 

Your health during and after your pregnancy is important to both you and your baby. Normally when people think health, assume physical, but your mental health is just as important. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression during your pregnancy, this is known as antenatal depression. You’re probably chalking your mood swings and doubts down to pregnancy hormones, but when should you start to be worried about your mental health during pregnancy?

 What is antenatal depression?

Mood swings during pregnancy are fairly normal, as your body is adjusting to changing hormones. Not only are your body’s hormones changing, but the emotional, physical and psychological changes that you are going through during pregnancy can also be overwhelming.

Most antenatal care focuses on physical health, meaning depression and anxiety are often overlooked during pregnancy. Postnatal depression is far more commonly addressed than prenatal, and it is important that both are equally acknowledged - your mental health is always important.

Antenatal depression is different from mood swings in the way that it is a persistent feeling of sadness or loss. Many of the symptoms of depression are similar to what can normally be experienced during pregnancy, such as fatigue and changes in sleep patterns. However, when you are struggling to function normally day to day, or your symptoms persist for weeks on end, it may be time to find professional help.

What can I do if  I think I have antenatal depression?

If you are worried that your feelings of frustration or sadness are not just normal pregnancy blues, here is what you can do to help yourself. Talking to a professional is always a good first step as they can guide you in a direction that will work best for you and your baby.

You could help yourself feel better by looking after yourself. Eating healthy, exercising and sleeping well are all ways in which you can boost your serotonin levels. Speak to people with similar experiences or open-up to your close friends and family. Building your support network can help you feel less isolated and alone.

As you enter your third trimester you’ll have probably done a fair bit of research on the birth process (if this is your first) and may have a good idea of what you want before, during and after delivery. There are many options and opinions, from whether or not you want pain medication to how many people you would like supporting you. However, trying to keep track of your choices during labour may be tricky, which is why you’d put together a birth plan. So what exactly is it and how do you put one together?

Why should I put together a birth plan?

Your birth plan is your choices or preferences before, during and after labour and delivery. While things may not always go according to plan, having your preferences written down and communicated means you, your midwives and doctor have a more mutual understanding. However, if your pregnancy doesn’t go accordingly, you need to be prepared to make adjustments on the day.

What should be in my birth plan?

Your birth plan is how you’d like everything would go in the best-case scenario. Your birth plan will also have to take into consideration what is available at the hospital or place where you are giving birth.

Some birth plans are very basic, just outlining a simple overview, whereas others may be far more detailed and in-depth. The choice is yours.

Typically a birth plan will include before, during and after labour and birth preferences. Such as who you want to assist you during birth, whether or not you want any pain medication,  you birthing positions, and requests for newborn care, such as skin-to-skin time.

How can I learn more about the birth process?

If you feel like you need to top up your birthing knowledge before putting together a plan they are a few ways you can go about this. Joining antenatal classes are a good way to learn more and to meet other women in your position. Chatting to friends or family who has been through the birthing process themselves is another good way to see what would work best for you. If you and your partner are having a baby together, keep them in the loop as well. Find out what they expect during labour and you can chat about what you want, and what role you see them playing in the process.

Staying active during your pregnancy is another important way of staying healthy. Not only is exercise good for you physically, but it helps relieve stress, improve sleep and boost your mood. However, being pregnant, especially later on in your pregnancy, means that you’ll need to consider what exercise you’re doing. Contact and high-risk sports are a no-no, but if you are looking for a way to stay fit, prenatal yoga and pilates could be your answer.

Why yoga and pilates?

Prenatal yoga and pilates can help you strengthen your body, stop excess weight gain and help prepare your body for childbirth. Both are low impact and can be adjusted to suit you and your growing baby.

During your pregnancy, you may experience backache, aching legs and abdominal pain. Providing nothing serious is wrong, yoga and pilates can help alleviate pain through strengthening your body. Prenatal yoga and pilates classes are specifically tailored to expecting moms, so should be completely safe unless you are recommended otherwise.

Getting ready for birth

Not only can these practices help reduce stress and anxiety, but they can also help you during childbirth. The combo of stretching and strengthening your body should mean that your body is more equipped to deal with the stress of labour and birth. Strong core and pelvic will help support your spine and help you during birth.

Joining prenatal yoga and pilates classes will help you connect with other expecting moms and, a professional can guide you through which poses are best for you throughout your pregnancy. 

Not only can yoga help you physically, but the breathing techniques you’ve learnt can help calm and focus you during labour.

Is there anything I should be cautious of or avoid?

Although good for you, there are still certain yoga and pilates poses and exercises that you should avoid during your pregnancy. If you are new to yoga and pilates,  most studios offer prenatal classes for beginners, and, if you are practising already you can probably continue with most of your practice, just let your instructor know you’re expecting - they can help you modify your routine.

Things to be cautious of are hot yoga, full inversions (poses on your head), deep twists and exercises that cause you to crunch your abdominal cavity.

Your body is in constant flux as your baby develops, meaning some days you’ll feel energised whereas otherwise will leave you feeling drained. Because of this, it’s important that you are aware of how your body is feeling while practising. If you notice anything unusual or painful it’s best to chat with your doctor.

Abdominal separation or diastasis recti is the separation of the two parallel bands of muscle in your belly. This is common in pregnant women, and luckily often heals on its own, or with the help of exercises,  after pregnancy.

This condition is not only experienced by pregnant moms, but also by men, as well as women who’ve never been pregnant. You may be wondering how you’d know if you have abdominal separation,  how to tell if it’s bad and what you can do to help your tummy return to normal.

How do I know if I have diastasis recti?

If your muscles have separated, you may notice a bulge in your abdomen where the two muscles have pulled apart. In addition to this, you may notice a sore lower back, constipation and bloating. Women who are expecting multiples or women who have been pregnant more than once (especially if the pregnancies are close together) are more likely to experience muscle separation.

There is a way you can check if you have diastasis recti yourself. Lie flat on your back and then sit up slightly, engaging your core muscles. Put your fingers just above your belly button on the middle of your stomach. If you feel like the gap between your fingers is more than three fingers, then you probably have diastasis recti. However, this is not an exact science but rather a way to gauge if you may have a problem.

How can I correct my diastasis recti?

If you have a smaller separation, it may go away on its own or with the help of exercises, however, bad cases may need the help of a physio or even surgery.

If you have a gap, chances are it’ll close up one or two months after birth. However, certain exercises may help the gap close up quicker. That being said, be careful of what exercise you do, some fitness practices make it worse. If you are worried about it, it’s best to talk to a health care professional and they can help you make the best choice for you and your body.

Pregnancy, Your body and Your baby

This may be the week that you realise that you’re pregnant. Many women don’t notice so early-on, but if you’ve been trying for a while you may  take a pregnancy test before when your next period was due.

Your body at 4 weeks

Although your body is changing, chances are you may not have noticed just yet - at the end of this week you’ll probably notice (or maybe earlier or later - depending on your menstrual cycle) that you’ve missed your period. This is one of the more obvious pregnancy signs, but your body is changing in other ways as well.

When your fertilised egg implanted into your uterus you may have noticed some cramping and spotting. You may write -off other early pregnancy signs as pre-menstrual changes, however, there are some symptoms that are unique to having a baby. Such as nausea, spotting and cramping, and a raised body temperature.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to quit any unhealthy habits, such as drinking alcohol and caffeine, and smoking. It’s also a good idea to take prenatal supplements if you haven’t started yet. If you're feeling healthy and your pregnancy symptoms are all normal, you’ll only need to schedule an ultrasound at week 8.

Your baby at 4 weeks

Your baby is a tiny mass of cell inside you, roughly the size of a poppy seed, but just because it’s so small doesn’t mean lots isn’t happening. In the next few weeks, this tiny ball of cells will form the neural tube, which is the beginning of the brain and spine.

At this point, the cells that are your baby are dividing up, becoming more defined. Three layers are developing - the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm - and these will later develop to become your baby’s organs and tissues.

 

 

Week five of your pregnancy is the week that many women find out that they are pregnant. You’ll notice the skipped period and your pregnancy test will come out positive, you’ll also start to notice some pregnancy symptoms if you hadn’t already.

Your body at 5 weeks pregnant

This week you’ll notice pregnancy symptoms, and this is just the beginning of a huge number of changes you’ll feel taking place in your body. At this point your pregnancy hormones will probably be affecting you, making you feel nauseous, your breasts tender. You could also be experiencing spotting and cramping, as well as frequent urination and cravings.

The pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), is responsible for many of these changes, and this hormone is why your test shows up positive. Not only will your body physically change, but you’ll probably be dealing with mental changes as well. No only can your changing hormones cause your moods to fluctuate, but finding out you’re pregnant can also be an emotional experience. Remember any emotions are valid, even if you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, as opposed to excited. If you’re struggling it’s important to reach out to those around you or seek professional help. 

Your baby at 5 weeks pregnant

Your baby is now roughly the size of orange or apple seed and her tiny face is already starting to form, even though she looks more like a tadpole than a human. During this time your baby’s neural tube is developing - this will become their spine and brain - which is why folic acid is so important at this point. Folic acid taken daily reduces the risk of spinal tube defects. By 5 weeks your little one’s heart will have also started beating.

If your pregnancy is healthy, you won’t be having an ultrasound before 8 or 9 weeks of pregnancy, so it’ll be a few more weeks before you get to see your baby.

Week 6 of your pregnancy

At week 6 of your pregnancy you’ll most likely know that you’re pregnant now, although some mom’s realise as quickly as 3 weeks or as late as 12. Every week your body is changing to accommodate for your growing little one.

Your body at 6 weeks

6 weeks in and you may be experiencing a range of pregnancy hormones. One of the most common and challenging first trimester pregnancy symptoms is morning sickness, although these waves of nausea can strike at any time. It is important to eat bland foods little and often. Even though this nausea may be uncomfortable to deal with, it’s nothing to worry about unless you can’t keep any food down throughout the day.

Fatigue is another unpleasant aspect of pregnancy that you may have started experiencing in your first trimester. Napping often, letting others take over some of your chores and work, as well as keeping hydrated are ways in which you can help yourself. Your pregnancy fatigue may be worse during your first and third trimesters.

Exercise and a healthy diet are also important (at this point and throughout your pregnancy) and you’ll probably be able to do most of the exercise you’re used to - just stay away from anything heated (such as heated yoga) or high risk.

Your baby at 6 weeks

Your baby is now the size of a pea, still tiny enough that you won’t be able to spot a tell-tale pregnancy bump. Your uterus has begun expanding to accommodate your new baby, and may have started pressing down on your bladder (que the frequent urge to use the bathroom).

Inside you, your baby is starting to look more like a little human, and her eyes, nose, ears as well as limbs have started slowly forming. Liver, kidneys and lungs are also starting to take shape.

By now you probably know that you’re pregnant, but some moms only find out during this week or later. Even if you haven’t started looking outwardly pregnant, there is a good chance you’re definitely feeling it, with the likes of fatigue and morning sickness. Your baby is going rapidly day-to-day, with continued brain and body development for the next 33 weeks. 

Where your body is at 

This week you’ll likely be feeling some or all of the symptoms generally experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s important throughout your pregnancy that you maintain a healthy lifestyle, even if doing so feels tough at times. Eating the correct foods and taking prenatal vitamins will ensure that your baby gets the correct nutrients from you. It is important to remember that during pregnancy your needs will change, so you should keep this in mind when tailoring your diet.

Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies are both serious complications that can happen during early pregnancy. Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of the foetus before week 20, unfortunately, this is not reversible and is usually due to abnormal development. Ectopic pregnancy often shows around 7 weeks and is when the fertilised egg implants outside of the uterus. Unfortunately, neither complication can be reversed, and losing a baby early in pregnancy is likely to be very traumatic for the mom-to-be and family. It’s important that you seek medical and psychological support if you are struggling post ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. 

What your baby is doing 

Your baby is now the size of a blueberry but is shaped more like a tadpole than a human, however, their tail is getting smaller and will soon disappear. At this point, your baby has continued to develop limbs, facial features, spinal cord and lungs, heart and kidney. 

It’s week 8 of your pregnancy and your baby is beginning to look more like a little human. You’ll probably be feeling many of the first-trimester pregnancy symptoms but you shouldn’t be showing just yet, so enjoy your flat figure while it lasts!

Your body at week 8 

Even if you don’t outwardly look pregnant, you’re definitely feeling it. Your first trimester brings morning sickness (not just in the morning!), tender breasts, fatigue, pregnancy cramps and a heightened sense of smell. 

Dealing with morning sickness and fatigue its important that you remember to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Eating well, exercising often and trying to make sure you get enough sleep. It’s important that you take prenatal vitamins during this time as well. 

Where your baby is at 

Your baby is now roughly the size of a bean or a raspberry. They are becoming more distinctly human, developing arms and legs. Their digestive system also develops around this time. If you get an ultrasound you may notice that your baby has a disproportionate body, with a large head - this is because the upper body develops faster than the lower. However, in 32 weeks time, your baby will be a normal-sized little-human.

Things to remember 

Your first prenatal check-up around this time, where you may have blood tests and an early ultrasound to check your baby’s growth and heart rate. If you have lots of questions for your doctor it is a good idea to write them down, so you don’t forget when you arrive - especially if this is your first pregnancy. 

During the first trimester, you are at higher risk for a miscarriage. It is estimated that 1 in 8 women experience miscarriages, often before they realise they are pregnant. Signs of a miscarriage are cramping and pain in the lower back and abdomen, as well as light spotting to heavy bleeding. If you suspect miscarriage, it is important that you contact your doctor so that they can help you during this time. 

At week 9 of your pregnancy, you’re probably more aware than ever of your growing baby inside of you, as the first two months of pregnancy are now behind you. You may be dealing with a variety of different pregnancy symptoms as your baby slowly grows bigger. 

Your baby at week 9 

At 9 weeks in, your baby is looking more human, with mini arms and legs developing, and the tail which was initially present is slowly disappearing. Your baby is now the size of a grape or a cherry and her facial features are also becoming more prominent. At week nine your baby is also becoming more active and beginning to move around. However, you won’t be able to see or feel this just yet - but it’ll be visible on ultrasound. 

If you’re struggling with painful breasts, a maternity or sports bra can offer you more support and help alleviate some of your uncomfortableness. When your body becomes more used to your pregnancy hormones, it’s likely that some of your pain may ease, but throughout your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to find clothes that you feel comfortable in. 

How you’re feeling at 9 weeks

At nine weeks you may be feeling a variety of emotions, alongside the many other pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness, which peaks at around week 9. Your symptoms may be particularly difficult to deal with if you’re still keeping your pregnancy quiet from your colleges and friends, but if you are struggling emotionally open up to your partner or health care provider. 

Things to keep in mind

At this point, it may be a good idea to chat to your doctor about possibly restructuring your exercise routine. It could be a good time to start incorporating prenatal yoga or pilates as these activities help you get ready for labour and childbirth. Staying active is also a great way to keep healthy during your pregnancy, but depending on what activities you did before getting pregnant, you may need to think about adjusting your training program.

At week ten, you are officially a quarter of the way through your 40-week pregnancy with only a few more weeks left of trimester one. In your first trimester, you won’t look it but your body will have gone through many changes to accommodate your growing baby. This trimester its particularly important to keep taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid as your babies spinal tube and organs develop.

Your baby at week 10 

Your little baby is now the size of a strawberry and is now referred to as a fetus and not an embryo.  She is growing rapidly inside you and is slowly started forming bones and ligaments, their little arms and legs are slowly becoming more functional and your baby’s jawbone is also started developing. Nerves are starting to form in their spine and her kidneys are starting to function. 

Your body at week 10 

At week ten your baby bump may be starting to show, but it may be a few weeks before your family and friends notice or you decide to tell anyone. Because of your slowly growing baby belly, it may be a good idea to invest in your first few items of maternity wear, as pants that are too tight around your waist is an added discomfort that you shouldn’t have to deal with. 

You’ll still be managing a variety of pregnancy symptoms, from morning sickness to frequent urination. You may still be struggling with fatigue, but thankfully this pregnancy symptom should lessen in your second trimester. 

Things to keep in mind 

Week ten (between week 10 and 12) is roughly the time that you would choose to have your baby genetically tested. Genetic testing isn’t required but it is a good option to consider so that parents-to-be are alerted to potential genetic disorders before birth. A genetic test is particularly important if you have hereditary genetic problems in your family, or if you and your partners are carriers for a particular disorder. 

You are now almost at the end of trimester one, which is good news as the second trimester is often seen as easier than the first. Both you and your baby will have undergone many changes during these first 11 weeks, and you’ll have gone from a hoping-to-be-mom to an expecting one. Pregnancy has its ups and downs, so it’s important that you look after yourself (and by default your growing baby) at this time. 

How you’ll be feeling at week 11

At week 11 your baby bump may be beginning to show, but don’t worry if your baby bump isn’t showing yet, as this varies from pregnancy to pregnancy. It’s likely that if this is your first pregnancy and you don’t have multi babies inside you, you won’t start showing as quickly. 

If your morning sickness if beginning to ease you may notice that you’re feeling hungrier than normal. If this is the case, make sure that you fuel up on healthy snacks that are nutritious to both you and your growing baby. You may find that your cravings are completely different from what you’d normally eat, and your old favourite food is one you that makes you feel queasy. Hormones, senses that are heightened and a need for comfort food are all reasons behind these strange (but normal) pregnancy cravings and aversions. 

Your baby at week 11

Your baby is now the size of a lime or a fig, and their body is slowly starting to straighten out. At this point, your baby’s hands and feet, as well as their ears, nose and mouth are becoming more developed. Hair follicles are beginning to form, as well as nail beds and their reproductive organs are developing, however, you won’t be able to tell gender via ultrasound just yet. 

This is now the last week of your first trimester, which is week 1 to 12. Your clothes are probably starting to feel a little tighter than they used to, but the good news is that some of the first-trimester pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness and fatigue should be easing up soon. During the first trimester, your baby will have grown from an egg to a fully formed baby (with lots of growing to do) and you’ll have had your first check-up and ultrasound.

Your body at week 12

At week 12 you’ll probably notice that your morning sickness may start to subside. This is because the hCG hormone is starting to level off. However, not all moms are this lucky, as some experience nausea in their second trimester as well, or even throughout their whole pregnancy.

Stomach pain, cramping and constipation are also pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing.  Not all women experience constipation, however, it is fairly common thanks to pregnancy hormones. If you experience sharp or severe pain, it’s important to seek medical help as quickly as possible.

Things to keep in mind

Throughout your pregnancy both your mental and physical wellbeing is important. Many articles on pregnancy neglect to explain the mental challenges that expecting moms can struggle with during this time. Pregnancy hormones, the added stresses of a new life growing inside you and previous or current depression and/or anxiety can mean that you may also struggle with antenatal depression and anxiety.

Tell-tale signs of antenatal depression are feeling sad or anxious all the time, and lack of interest in things that used to.  If you do feel that you’re struggling it’s important that you reach out to a health care provider and rely on family and friends for support. Joining a support group of moms, or moms-to-be in a similar position can also help you feel more at ease.

Where is your baby at in week 12

Your growing baby is now roughly the size of a lime or a plum. At this point all your baby’s important features, body parts and organs are in place, they just have lots of growing and maturing to do. Your baby’s tiny developing bone marrow is starting to make white blood cells and their muscles and nervous system are maturing.

At week 13 of your pregnancy you are now in your second trimester. This trimester is often nicknamed the honeymoon period, as your pregnancy symptoms should have started easing up, and your baby is still small enough that you don’t feel uncomfortable. 

Your body at week 13

At week 13 your energy levels should start increasing, but if your nausea and fatigue don’t disappear just yet - don’t despair, some moms experience these for longer than others. This increase in energy won’t stick around forever, so make the most of this time while you can and tick important to-dos off your list. 

Your blood flow will also increase during this time, and because of this you may see blue streaks under your skin from your veins and experience an increase in libido. 

Your baby at week 13 

Your baby is now the size of a lemon and her body proportion is slowly starting to change, although the head is still the biggest part of the body. Your baby is growing rapidly,  and during this time, her intestines are moving from the umbilical cord into the stomach. Her eyelids are shut to protect the eyes as they develop and her vocal cords are also developing, so that when your baby is born she’ll be able to cry and laugh and eventually say her first word. 

Things to remember in this week 

Around this time is when some people choose to tell family, friends and employers that they’re expecting. You should pick when you feel most comfortable to tell everyone, however, this time is often chosen, as your risk of miscarriage will have decreased and you’ll have had your first pregnancy ultrasound, which should confirm that your baby is healthy.

Week 14 of your pregnancy and you’re in month four of your pregnancy with five to go - almost half way already. Trimester two of pregnancy means you should be feeling renewed levels of energy and you may even notice that your appetite has increased thanks to morning sickness slowly easing up.

Your baby in week 14

Your baby is now the size of a peach, and now often moves her arms and legs - but you won’t be able to feel this yet. If you could see into your belly, you may even notice your little one sucking their thumb!

Around this time the grasp reflex is evolving, and hair growth is starting as follicle under the skin, so that when they’re born your baby should have silky strands of hair. Your little one’s genitals are now also fully developed, but it’ll still be difficult to tell their gender on ultrasound.

Your body in week 14

Luckily during your second trimester you’ll be feeling more yourself, with rising energy levels, breasts that are less tender and dissipating nausea.

You’ll also probably starting to show a bit as well, however, some moms, especially those expecting multiples, may start showing sooner. This is because your uterus is rising out of the pelvic region and into your lower abdomen. During the second trimester you’ll also notice that you’ll start to put on weight, don’t be alarmed by this as it’s completely normal and healthy during a pregnancy.

Things to take note of 

If you found that during your first trimester your pregnancy symptoms meant that you generally stayed away from exercise, embrace your renewed energy levels and start doing gentle exercises such as water aerobics, prenatal exercise classes and gentle walks. This’ll be beneficial to both you and your growing little one.

Congratulations, you and your baby are now at week 15, while your baby still has lots of growing to do, you should make sure that you make the most out of feeling more energetic during trimester two. Join prenatal classes, enjoy walks outside and start planning how you’ll rearrange your house for the arrival of your new bundle of joy.

Your baby at week 15 

Your little one is now roughly the size of an apple or pear, and at this point your baby's ears and eyes are starting to become more developed, and are moving into the correct place on their head. Soon they may even be able to hear the sound of your voice.

During this time their bones and muscles are also getting stronger, not only this but her limbs are getting longer and are able to move. You won’t be able to feel any movement just yet, but it won’t be long!

Your body at week 15

At week 15, your increased energy levels may also mean that you may experience increased libido. Although you may have higher energy levels, you’ll probably also notice that your expanding belly is itchy, thanks to stretching skin.

If you are feeling increasingly hungry, thanks to a reduction in morning sickness, be aware of what you’re putting into your body. Certain foods, such as ripened cheese, can be damaging to your baby. However, the inclusion of healthy snacks can be beneficial to both of you, and by doing research or chatting to a dietician, you can make sure that you include food groups that’ll be nutritious to you and your baby.

Things to keep in mind at week 15

Another pregnancy symptom is sensitive gums and teeth. The reason for this is hormonal changes which increase the blood flow to your gums, making them swell. Not only this but you may be more susceptible to gum disease and pregnancy gingivitis (which about half of all women experience during pregnancy). Because of this it’s important that you look after your teeth and gums, and check in the dentist during your pregnancy.

You are now 4 months pregnant, and have 24 weeks left to go before you birth day, although this may seem far away your baby has done so much growing in these past 16 weeks and still has lots left to do before they are born.

Your body at 16 weeks

Your pregnancy hormones can make your veins stretch, giving you varicose veins. While these distinctive purple lumps are the prettiest sight, generally they are painless and harmless.

Pregnancy brain is another sign of a baby that you may have noticed, many moms-to-be notice they may become more forgetful or inattentive. The exact reason for this isn’t clear, however, stress and having many items on your to-do list could be contributing factors towards this.

You may also notice some pregnancy weight gain (which is normal and nothing to worry about!) and your boobs will have probably gone up a few cup sizes as your body preps for breastfeeding. Be sure to invest in comfortable bras, such as maternity or sports bras, as this can help ease any discomfort.

Your baby at 16 weeks

Your baby is now the size of an avocado. This week may be the one that you first start to notice small kicks from your little on moving around. Another exciting marker of this time is the fact that your baby can start hearing your voice, so make sure you chat to them throughout your day.

This’ll also be roughly the time that their eyes become more sensitive to light, their bones and muscles are hardening and strengthening and their eyebrows, hair and lashes are forming. 

Things to take note of around this time.

During pregnancy you may struggle with constipation. This is a fairly common pregnancy complaint thanks to pregnancy hormones and the extra iron you’re taking in your prenatal vitamins. Eating more fibre, drinking lots of water, and exercise can help keep you regular.  If you’re still struggling, chat to your doctor and they may prescribe stool softeners to help.

Week 17 your baby is getting bigger, and this week they’ll start developing more fatty tissue. You may have started to notice an achy back and pelvis, and getting a good night's sleep may have become increasingly more difficult.

Your body at week 17

At week 17 you may see an increase in your appetite, a far cry from the nausea you experienced in your first trimester. Your breasts are also increasing in size as they prepare for milk production - for some women this growth is more than others.

Your growing baby’s weight can also put added strain onto your spine and pelvis, meaning you could start to experience backache. Prenatal yoga and supportive chairs and shoes, are all ways in which you can help your body feel more comfy.

Your baby at week 17

Your baby is now the size of an onion or orange, and at this time her fatty tissue is starting to form - this will help keep her warm after she’s born. Although the head is still the biggest part of the body, the body proportions are starting to become more even as your pregnancy progresses.

Your baby is now learning to suck, so that when they’re born they can easily feed, although this reflex won’t mature until later in your pregnancy. Around this time, your baby’s finger prints will also form.

Things to remember at week 17

Your pregnancy changes your whole life, including the way you sleep. Even though the position you sleep in is something fairly simple, which you probably hadn’t put much thought into before. As your pregnancy progresses, a good night's sleep is something that may become increasingly difficult.

It’s recommended that you avoid sleeping on your back in your second and third trimester, as your uterus and baby can put pressure on your spine and vena cava. Sleeping on your left side is ideal as this supports optimal circulation. Once your belly gets bigger, you can even look into getting a pregnancy pillow, which offers support for your entire body.

Your pregnancy is starting to become more obvious, and if you’re trying to conceal your bump, you may start finding this more difficult. Inside your body, you may feel your little one moving inside of you - you may even notice that the movements are in response to noises as your baby can start to register sounds.

Your body at week 18

You may have started to notice dizziness when you stand up. To lessen this, get up gently when you stand from sitting or lying down. Your back may be feeling increasingly achey, so avoid doing activities that aggravates it. You may also notice swelling in your hands and feet, as well as increasingly difficulty to get to sleep.

Your baby at week 18

Your baby is now the size of an artichoke or a red bell pepper, and it's around this time you’ll start to notice your baby moving around inside you. You may have noticed this previously, especially if you’ve had a baby before - but this is the time that little one’s movements become more distinct. However, they’ll feel more like a flutter than a strong kick, so don’t be concerned if you’re unsure of what you’re feeling at first.

 Things to remember at week 18

Although pregnancy is a happy and exciting time for many moms-to-be, it can also be very stressful. Antenatal anxiety is both fairly common during pregnancy, especially if your pregnancy is unplanned, you have external stresses such as financial strain, or you experienced depression and anxiety prior to pregnancy.

A bit of worry during this time is normal, as you are going through many new experiences. However, if you feel like your worry is crippling and you can’t enjoy day-to-day life, then you may be experiencing antenatal anxiety. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and seeking medical guidance can help make your pregnancy easier and happier.

At week 19 you’re just one week off being halfway through your pregnancy! Your baby is now the size of a mango, and the exciting news is that you’ll soon find out (if you want to) whether your baby is a boy or a girl.

Your body at week 19

You may have started to notice some pelvic pain and abdominal pain due to your baby’s growth. Your muscles and ligaments are working hard to support your expanding bump and this can cause discomfort. Regular gentle exercise (and if you were fit before your pregnancy, that’s a bonus) can help strengthen the muscles around your back and pelvis which can alleviate discomfort.

Leg cramps are another pregnancy symptom that many expecting moms experience. These frustrating pains can often be experienced near the end of the day. Calf stretches and drinking plenty of water are two ways in which you can help reduce cramps.

Your baby at week 19

Your baby is now the size of a mango, and at this time their skin becomes covered in a greasy, waxy substance called vernix caseosa. This protects the skin from the amniotic fluid in the uterus. Your baby’s first set of teeth are developing (although these won’t be visible for a while after they are born) and hair is starting to appear on their head.

Things to remember at week 19

Around week 19-20 you’ll have a morphology scan which is an ultrasound which examines your baby’s body, the placenta and umbilical cord. The scan is used to check for any structural abnormalities in your baby, but it will also be the first chance you get to see your baby. This scan is also when you’re able to find out your baby’s gender.

Congratulations to you and your baby, you’re officially halfway through your 40 week pregnancy. It’s crazy to think that 20 weeks ago you had your last period, and now a new life is blossoming inside of you - you may even know their gender and are thinking about possible names.

Your baby at week 20

You little one is now roughly the size of a grapefruit or banana, and if you haven’t been able to feel your baby move around, at week 20 things may change. Although your baby still has a fair amount of room inside of you, and you should feel her moving around inside your tummy.Their heart is pumping between 120-160 beats per minute and their senses and reflexes are becoming more developed.

How you’ll feel at week 20

You may have noticed the appearance of a dark vertical line on your belly, this is normal in pregnancy and is known as a linea nigra. This line isn’t a problem and is caused by hormones during pregnancy.

If you’re wanting to travel or are planning to organise a baby nursery in your house, use the time during your second trimester to your advantage, as your pregnancy symptoms won’t be as intense as they were in your first trimester, and your belly won’t be inconveniently big just yet. But that being said keep your needs in mind and don’t push yourself to do something if you aren’t feeling comfortable.

Things to remember at this time

During your pregnancy you may experience lower back pain thanks to your growing baby putting increasing strain on your body. If your pain is unbearable it’s best to seek the advice of your doctor or physio, but if you are managing there are a few things you can do to make your life more comfortable. Practicing prenatal yoga, deep breathing, being aware of your posture and a pregnancy belt are all things which can help ease your tired back.

At week 21 of your pregnancy you’re now just over half to meeting your baby for the first time. You’re still in your third trimester, so take advantage of feeling better with a smaller baby bump while you can.

Your body at week 21 

Typical pregnancy symptoms during this are an achy back, swollen feet, heartburn, hot flashes, forgetfulness (nicknamed ‘baby brain’) and leg cramps. You may have also noticed stretch marks on tummy, breasts, thighs and butt, and this is thanks to your quickly growing tummy and baby.

Headaches during pregnancy are fairly normal, especially if you’re slightly tired or dehydrated. However, if you experience bad headaches for hours on end, or ones that won’t go away, consult your doctor as you may have high blood pressure. This is also known as pre-eclampsia, which is a pregnancy complication characterised by high-blood pressure and protein in your urine.

Your baby at week 21

Your baby is now the length of a banana or a carrot. Around this time your baby will also start sleeping and waking at different times (not necessarily the same as yours though). Your baby is also drinking amniotic fluid, although the placenta is how they receive the majority of their nourishment.

Things to keep in mind at week 21

Braxton Hicks contractions are also known ‘false labour’ and they are your body’s way of preparing you for labour. These contractions are your womb contracting and relaxing and while they can be uncomfortable, they aren’t painful. Braxton Hicks contractions vary in length, and aren’t rhythmic, which is what differentiates them from normal contractions.

There isn’t a treatment for these contractions, but changing your position (if you’re lying down) or taking a relaxing bath or nap can help ease them. If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re having Braxton Hicks contractions or labour contractions, contact your doctor immediately, as you may be going into preterm labour.

Your second trimester has you feeling more yourself, and feeling your growing baby moving inside your tummy is bound to bring a smile to your face. Your body may be feeling some strain as your baby grows in weight and size, and you’ll need to remember to eat healthy in order to ensure that you little one receives all the needed nutrients from you.

Changes to your body at week 22 

Your body may be feeling slightly uncomfortable all round thanks to the changes that pregnancy has had on your body. You may notice your back, pelvis and hips aching, leg and foot cramps, as well as swollen feet. This can be alongside heartburn, constipation (and possible haemorrhoids) as well as stretch marks.

Your baby’s growth at week 22

Your baby is now approximately the size of a coconut and is sleeping in cycles - the time that you don’t feel them moving around will be when they are asleep. At this time your little ones taste buds are developing, and what they find tasty later in life may be influenced by what you’re eating. So try to keep it healthy and to stick to fruit and wholesome veggies.

Their eyes are almost fully developed but lack colour in the iris. Your little one is also becoming more sensitive to outside stimuli, so you may notice that they react to loud noises.

Things to remember at week 22

During your pregnancy, eating healthily is something that is important to keep in mind. Afterall, what you eat is nourishment for your baby. During your second trimester try and eat foods that are rich in protein, calcium and iron. These will help your baby's growth - protein helps in tissue development, calcium helps in the formation of bones and teeth, and iron helps carry oxygen to your developing baby.

Your growing baby is making her presence known, and you may regularly feel little kicks inside you when she is awake. Your body is also starting to take some strain, and you may have uncomfortable feet and back to name a few. While you are excited to meet your little one, you may notice this excitement in strangers who might attempt to touch your baby bump, and this added attention is not necessarily something you’re happy with.

Your body at week 23

At week 23 you may be experiencing a variety of bodily aches and pains as your body takes on the strain of growing and carrying a small human. Leg cramps, swollen feet, bleeding gums and a tired, sore back are unfortunately all normal during pregnancy.

During this time you may also feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Although pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time, it can also be very stressful for moms to be. You may be under financial strain, and you may feel pressure at work to finish up pieces of work before going on maternity leave. All of this is normal, and if you feel like you're not coping well it’s important to speak to a health professional who can help you through this tough time.

Your baby at week 23

Your baby is now the size of a squash and in their 23 week, your baby is now able to survive outside your body if they are born prematurely (although they aren't’ ready to be born yet and have lots of growing to do!). Their lungs are developing and their face is fully formed, it just needs to do some filling out first.

Your baby is also gaining weight each week (they should double in weight in the next 4 weeks), so by the time your baby is born, she’ll be the plump, chubby little one you’re expecting. Their middle ear bone is also hardening, and they are able to hear you talking to them.

Things you should remember at week 23

During your second trimester as your baby bump grows you may experience both wanted and unwanted attention to your baby bump, as well as advice from everyone - from strangers to your mother. Dealing with this added attention can be overwhelming at first, but be sure to state your boundaries clearly if strangers attempt to touch your bump. While some moms-to-be may not mind extra attention, others may not like the invasion of their space when strangers want to touch their growing baby belly.

You’re a good few weeks past half way of your pregnancy, which means you are closer than ever to finally meeting your little one. In terms of months, you’re about 6 months in, which means you only have 3 left to go!

Your Body at Week 24

As you near your third trimester, you may notice that your body is feeling more uncomfortable thanks to your growing baby. Back ache, tired swollen feet, leg cramps and constipation are all pretty common during pregnancy. You’ll also be gaining weight (which is completely normal) and your breasts are also bigger. 

Heartburn may be something that you’re struggling with and this is  normal during pregnancy thanks to hormones and your growing baby taking up space. Your pregnancy hormones are the reason the valve between your stomach and throat doesn’t close as it should, as the hormones relax the tight muscle between your stomach and your esophagus. Your growing uterus can also put pressure on the stomach, making it more likely that acid can spill out.

Your Baby at Week 24

As your baby grows, they are putting on more and more weight, and their muscles are developing and gaining strength - which means their kicks are getting stronger and harder. Your little one also has hair at this point, however, none of it is pigmented yet.

Your baby is pretty active now, and you should feel them move around regularly, however, unless you don’t feel your baby moving around for long periods of time, stillness is nothing to be concerned about.

Things to take note of

While it may seem obvious, eating healthily and frequent exercise are both ways to stay mentally, physically and emotionally happy and healthy during pregnancy. While a few stresses here and there are common, a constant state of worry or sadness is probably a sign of antenatal depression or anxiety. If you feel like you don’t have the energy for small tasks or every small detail of your pregnancy is triggering anxiety, it may be best to both seek the support of those you love, and medical professionals. 

As you enter week 25 of pregnancy, you will be nearing the end of the second trimester and the start of the third. You may find that your rise in energy levels you felt at the beginning of your second trimester is now beginning to drop.

Your baby at week 25

Your baby is now roughly the size of a cauliflower and they are slowly starting to become the chubby baby you’ll expect at birth, as fat is added to their body every day. Your little one is also starting to develop a sense of balance, becoming more aware of what is up and down. Not only this but your baby’s lungs are slowly developing closer to maturity, as blood vessels (caprillirs) grow and they start to practice breathing in amniotic fluid.

Your body at week 25

As your baby grows, it is normal that your back and pelvis may be starting to take some strain. This is also thanks to pregnancy hormones which cause your ligaments to soften. To avoid any injuries, make sure you aren’t tempted to over stretch if you’re doing something such as yoga and don’t lift any heavy objects around the house or office. If your back is feeling sore, gentle exercise in water, such as aqua aerobics, can help alleviate the aching. However, if your back is seriously painful , chat to your doctor about finding a physiotherapist who can help you during this time.

Other common pregnancy symptoms around this time are heartburn, sore feet and ankles, camping in your legs, swollen and bleeding gums, dizziness,  trouble sleeping and stretch marks. Although many aspects of pregnancy (and certainly afterwards) are rewarding, there are also many parts of it which can be uncomfortable.

Things that you should keep in mind

Cravings are a natural part of pregnancy (and these generally peak in your second trimester), and they are the sudden desire to eat a particular kind of food. These can be odd foods and combos that you’ve never had the urge to eat before, and generally these are personal to you. Strange combinations, such as pickles and ice cream, might suddenly be on your most wanted list. Just be aware of what you are consuming, as trying to keep things healthy will be best for your growing baby. Unfortunately big meals can also mean heartburn, so little and often can often be the answer here.

The book:

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Although you are yet to meet your baby, they are slowly taking over your life and you may notice weekly and even daily changes in your body. Some days you’ll feel better than others, and it’s important that you take each day as it comes. Both by taking advantage of your good days, and being gentle on yourself on the bad ones.

How your body may feel during this time

Tiredness, an achy body, a sore mouth and stretch marks are all part of your pregnancy journey. Your belly and breasts are also growing, so make sure that you accommodate your body and dress in clothes that are both supportive and comfy.

Your baby’s growth at week 26

Your little one’s lungs are now working hard, getting ready for the day that she’ll need to start using them. At this time the lungs start to produce surfactant, which’ll make it possible for your baby to breathe at birth. 

Your baby’s suck reflex is  growing stronger (they may even suck their thumb!), and their eyes may open for the first time around now and they’ll start to practice blinking. Not only this, but your little one also has eyelashes that are starting to grow.

Now that your baby can hear you, you can also spend some time talking to them. Research has shown that babies prefer the sound of their mothers voices and you may even notice that they start responding to the sound of your voice, and by late pregnancy they should be able to distinguish between voices.

What you should keep in mind at this time

Something to keep aware of during your pregnancy is the possibility for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, and it’ll go away after birth. However, moms who develop gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after birth. Warning signs are unusual thirst, frequent urination and dizziness, if you feel like you are checking these boxes then it’s important to speak to your doctor about treatment. If treated effectively, there is no reason you shouldn’t have a healthy pregnancy.

Congratulations, you are now in the last week of your second trimester and approaching the third, which will start at the beginning of week 28 -  so you are nearing the final stretch of your pregnancy. You’ll find that you’re probably becoming more used to your little one moving around inside of you and while you may have enjoyed less fatigue during trimester two, this unfortunately may begin to change.

Your baby at week 27

Your baby is starting to pack on the final pounds before birth (which should be in 13 weeks, but not all babies arrive at their due date). Inside of your uterus, your little one will be kicking and grasping, slowly developing their muscle tone before birth. Your baby will also be practicing breathing and swallowing with the amniotic fluid.

Your body at week 27

Haemorrhoids are a common pregnancy, thanks to your uterus becoming larger and putting pressure on your veins. Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus and rectum, and these are both uncomfortable and painful. While these are unwanted, they generally aren’t harmful to you or your growing baby and normally go away after birth.

Other pregnancy symptoms common during this time are leg cramps, aching pelvis and back, heartburn bleeding gums,  constipation, trouble sleeping, frequent urination and stretch marks.

Things to remember at week 27

At week 27, something you can start considering is putting together a birth plan. A birth plan is a written document that communicates your wishes during your pregnancy (think of the ideal way you’d like your birth to go) as when the time comes, you probably won’t be thinking clearly.  There is no right or wrong way to go about doing this - some may be detailed and others just cover the basics, the choice is yours!

Welcome to week 28 of your pregnancy, you are now in your third trimester - the final stretch before birth! Your baby will do lots of growing during this time, and your body may start taking some strain in the final weeks before delivery. You’ll probably be feeling both nervous and excited, soon you’ll be able to take your little one home!

How your body will be feeling at week 28

If you haven’t started experiencing it already, you may notice that back ache and pelvic pain are becoming an issue. This is due to the fact that pregnancy hormones cause your ligaments to loosen, which can cause lower back and pelvic pain. Your changing centre of gravity also puts strain on your back.

Excruciating pain in your pelvic reason is cause for concern and the culprit could be symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). Luckily this isn’t harmful to your baby, but is probably very painful to you. Chat to your doctor if you’re feeling pain that you see as abnormal. They’ll probably recommend a physiotherapist to you as physio can help minimise your pain and improve your muscle function.

Other common week 28 pregnancy symptoms include Braxton-Hicks contractions, frequent urination, swollen ankles and feet, sleeping problems, stretch marks, heartburn and indigestion and constipation.

Your baby at week 28

Your little one is growing fast, and is now the size of a head of lettuce. Around this time your baby will begin to open and close their eyes,  and can sense changes in light. Your baby’s heart rate will have lowered to about 140 bpm (and at birth this will have dropped to around 130 bpm).

If you were to have an ultrasound now you may notice hair on your baby - this is known as lanugo, which is fine hair that grows on babies before birth. This will disappear at birth or shortly afterwards.

Week 29 of your pregnancy and you may notice that your body is taking more strain. Be mindful of this and don’t be afraid to take it easy if needed. Make sure that you’re still eating healthily (and remembering to take your prenatal vitamins) and exercising gently, both are important to your health as well as your growing baby’s. 

Your body at week 29

You are now entering the last phase of your pregnancy, and because of this you may find this very challenging, both physically and mentally.  Your back, pelvis and feet are probably aching, and you’ll experience constipation, frequent urination and shortness of breath.

Your baby at week 29

Your baby is now filling more of your womb, this means that any kicks, which used to be soft and barely notable, may feel more like hard pokes now. Your little one is also growing rapidly, and will probably have doubled in weight before birth.

At this point many of their organs are almost fully developed, meaning they have a good chance of survival if born premature. That being said, their lungs still have lots of developing to do, which is why preemies need help breathing via a ventilator.

Things to remember

If you haven’t already, start planning your maternity leave. In South Africa, moms are entitled to four months of unpaid leave. If you’re still feeling able to work, you’ll probably want to keep most of your leave for after birth, so that you can spend as much time with your growing baby as possible.

Generally speaking, maternity leave begins about a month before birth -  and the good news is dads are now entitled to 10 consecutive days of parental leave. Your employer is obliged to keep your job for you until you return from leave, so you won’t have to worry about losing your job.

You now officially have ten weeks left of your pregnancy, this can be both an exciting and overwhelming realisation, and feelings of anxiety during this time are normal. Your little one’s kicks and growing baby bump are reminders that your due date is increasingly getting closer. 

Your body at week 30

Your back and feet may be increasingly getting more painful as your baby grows in size. Swollen ankles and feet are normal, so remember to give yourself some time to put your feet up and invest in some comfortable footwear. Bloating, constipation and  stretch marks are normal at this point in your pregnancy.

The fatigue you felt in your first trimester may be returning. You could be struggling to sleep at night, which will leave you feeling drained during the day. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at this time, you’ll need extra hands now and after your baby has been born.

Your baby at week 30

As your delivery date grows closer, your baby is constantly growing in size, and at this point she is roughly the size of a cabbage. Your little one is also prepping for the big day and they should have (or will be soon) changed position, facing head down with their face towards your back (known as the occipito-anterior position) - ready to enter the pelvis. This is the ideal position for birth, however it is possible for your baby to be lying another way inside you. Some babies will only turn this way closer to your due date.

Things to keep in mind at week 30

It’s normal to feel anxious about your approaching delivery. Going to antenatal or birth classes can help you feel more prepared for what is to come. Do exercises that can help you prepare your body for what it will go though, certain yoga and pilates positions can strengthen your muscles and help make the process quicker and smoother. If you find that your anxiety is overwhelming, chat to a health professional, as you may be experiencing antenatal anxiety. This is nothing to be ashamed about, and is something that can be managed with the help of professionals. 

Your baby is getting bigger and plumper - looking more like the chubby baby you’ll expect to meet. You may be feeling a dip in your energy levels, thanks to a sore body and a less-than-ideal night's sleep.

Your body at week 31

Your breasts and belly are growing, preparing your body for birth and beyond. Your baby’s kicks may be uncomfortable (yet still a comforting reminder that everything is going well in there) and you may find yourself constantly feeling tired. A good night's sleep may be harder to come by, so it’s important that you eat healthily and exercise as this can help your energy levels. 

Other common pregnancy symptoms are aching and swollen feet, a sore back, constipation, stretch marks and feeling bloated.

Your baby at week 31

Your baby is now roughly the size of a coconut and their bones are slowly hardening. Their skull is soft and made up of unfused bone, so that delivery is easier and brain growth can easily be accommodated.

Your little one will be moving around quite a bit at this point, and you may even start to notice some patterns in their movement. However, if you notice a sudden change or stillness in their movements, it’s important to call your doctor quickly as there may be an issue.

Things to keep in mind at week 31

As your belly grows, you may find sleeping harder as it becomes more difficult to find a good position to lie in. It is recommended that you sleep on your side. In particular the left side is preferable as this allows optimal blood from the inferior vena cava and takes pressure off your organs. However, don’t worry if you lie on your right as well, whatever makes you feel most at ease.  You may feel more comfortable with your knees bent and a pillow tucked between them, and you could pop a pillow under your tummy for added comfort.

You officially have 8 weeks until delivery, but this is likely not to be exact, as many babies aren’t born on their due dates. Your body may be feeling sore and tired, thanks to the strain your growing little one puts on you.

Your body at week 32

As you get closer to delivery day, you may notice more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, which is just your body’s way of preparing for the real-deal. Your feet and ankles may be swollen and your back and pelvis are probably taking strain.

Constipation, shortness of breath, fatigue, a sore mouth and leg cramps are also all common pregnancy symptoms at this time. Look after yourself (and your baby) and don’t be afraid to ask for help or to put your feet up for some well earned rest - growing a baby is hard work!

Your baby at week 32

Your little one is now roughly the size of a melon and they are practicing breathing, sucking and swallowing to prepare their body for the outside world. Your baby is also busy shedding the lanugo, which is the fine hair covering their body. Most of it will be gone by the time they are born, although some babies are born with some lanugo covering parts of their body. Your baby’s finger and toenails are also growing - you may even find them fairly long when they are born.

Things to keep in mind at week 32 of your pregnancy

You may be wondering how realistic your due date is, although pregnancies are 40 weeks long, as little as 5% of moms give birth on their due date. Most women give birth to their babies between week 37 and 42, although about 11% of moms-to-be deliver prematurely. If you don’t go into labour within a week of your due date, you will most likely have a nonstress test which monitors your baby's heart rate and checks they are reacting normally to stimuli. When you hit 42 weeks, your doctor may induce labour.

You now are in your thirty third week of pregnancy, and at the end of this week you’ll only have 7 more left to go (that’s just under two months!). You are probably often thinking of how your life is going to change with the newest addition to your family, and your sore and aching body serves as a constant reminder of what big changes are on their way.

Your body at week 33

Your body may be feeling tired and run down. Pain and discomfort are fairly normal to you, and your body has changed significantly since week 1 of pregnancy. Common pregnancy symptoms at this time are shortness of breath, forgetfulness, constipation, heartburn, leg cramps and a sore back.

Your baby at week 33

Your little one is now developing their own immune system, thanks to the antibodies being passed from you to them - enabling them to fight off germs once they are born.

All five senses have developed now, and your baby can both hear and see (changes in light) in your belly. Their eyes stay open more regularly while awake and they are able to coordinate sucking and swallowing - an important skill to have once born.

Things to keep in mind at week 33

You may notice that you feel irregular contractions from time to time, and these are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. However, it is a good idea to be aware of the difference between Braxton Hicks and the real deal. Braxton Hicks contractions are normally sporadic, irregular and don’t last long periods of time. These false labour pains aren’t painful and they may even stop when you change position or start doing a different activity.

True labour contractions in contrast come in regular intervals and the contractions get stronger and closer together as time passes. The contractions won’t go away if you change your position and the pain from these contractions can be felt throughout your abdomen and lower back.

If you go into labour before 37 weeks this is known as preterm labour. If you think you are going into preterm labour, call your doctor immediately, as they can do alot to delay your delivery.  Treatment for preterm labour isn’t guaranteed to work but it can help you stay pregnant longer - and therefore increase the likelihood that your little one is born healthy and happy.

You have now reached week 34 of your pregnancy. Your birth date is ticking closer and closer, it's less than two months away now. During this week your baby may drop lower into your abdomen, getting ready for the big day.

Your body in week 34

Your body may be feeling the strain of your growing baby. Your breasts are becoming fuller as you approach the final stages of your pregnancy, which could mean they are feeling tender and itchy as the skin stretches. Be sure to invest in a supportive bra to help with the discomfort. Your back and pelvis may also be feeling the strain, and this is generally accompanied by shortness of breath.

Leg cramps, worry about your pregnancy and the frequent urge to use the bathroom can mean that your nights are lacking in sleep, leaving you feeling tired and drained during the day. A pregnancy pillow is one way which can help you feel more comfortable at night. Something else to keep in mind, is to be aware that your pregnancy hormones will have made your ligaments looser and muscles more relaxed, so take care when exercising so as to avoid injury.

Your baby at week 34

Your little one is getting bigger, and is now roughly the size of a melon. The space inside your womb is also getting tighter, and you might see a little hand or foot pushing a bulge into the side of your belly when they kick.

Things for you to keep in mind at week 34

Whether it’s a home birth or hospital that you have chosen, make sure that you feel familiar and comfortable with the process to eliminate any unexpected surprises. If you’ve chosen a hospital, make sure you know which buildings and rooms you need to be in beforehand, and make sure you know where the emergency exit is, just in case. The same goes for the prep of a home birth, ensure that you have a solid back up plan, should anything go wrong during the process.

You are now 5 weeks away from your due date, should everything go according to plan. This can be both an exciting and nerve-wrecking time, especially if this is your first pregnancy and you’ve never experienced birth first hand.

Your body at week 35

At week 35 you’ll probably be feeling tired and heavy - your body will probably be feeling the strain of growing a baby. Frequent urination, lower back and abdominal pain, constipation, Braxton Hicks contractions, tender breasts and trouble sleeping are all normal symptoms at this time.

When your baby moves further down into your pelvis (to get ready for birth) you may notice that your shortness of breath improves. While this may help your breathing, it probably won’t help your frequent need to urinate. Your baby moving down is known as lightening or dropping.

Your baby at week 35

Your baby is now roughly the size of a pineapple or melon, has lungs that are almost developed, and a brain and nervous system that are still developing. The musculoskeletal system and the circulatory system are fully developed at this point, and if your baby was born premature they will have a very good chance of survival. Babies born between 34 and 37 are called late preterm, and while they may look like a smaller full term baby there are some challenges that they’ll face being born earlier.  Your baby will also start to move into position for birth around this time, moving down into your pelvis.

Things to keep in mind at week 35

During the third trimester it is recommended that you go for a group B streptococcus test. Although this is a common bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, it can be harmful to newborns. If your test is negative you won’t need to do anything, however, if you are positive you’ll be given antibiotics during labour which will lower the risk of your baby contracting early-onset GBS.

Congratulations, you’ve almost made it to the last month of pregnancy. This last month you’ll likely feel both excitement and nervousness, and your belly may feel cumbersome as you go about your daily life.

Your body at week 36 of pregnancy

As your uterus takes up more space in your abdomen you’ll find it increasingly difficult to move with ease. This is also likely to be accompanied by an achy back and lower abdomen, leg cramps, Braxton Hicks contractions, constipation and difficulty sleeping.

Your baby at week 36 of pregnancy

Your baby is roughly the size of a large cabbage and is almost the weight they’ll be born at. Not only that, but they are gaining weight, looking more like the chubby baby you’ll meet at birth. Your little one’s kidney and liver are beginning to function normally,  and they’ll also almost be ready to start breathing on their own. At this point your baby should have dropped lower into your pelvis, getting ready for the big day. Although this may allow you to breathe easier, it’ll put more pressure on your bladder.

Things to keep in mind at week 36

Although your belly may be feeling cumbersome it’s still important that you remain active during this time (if you’re feeling up to it) - as little as 20 mins a day is likely to boost your energy levels and help ease some of your pregnancy symptoms. Exercise in the third trimester will have to be more carefully considered than before but it is possible. It’s a good idea to clear what you plan on doing with your doctor first, so that they can chat to you about any potential issues or give advice on what would be best. Walking, swim aerobics, yoga and pilates are all low impact ways to stay fit and healthy.

You are now in the final stretch of pregnancy, and at the end of this week you’ll only have 3 weeks left until your due date. 37 weeks ago you had your last period - a lot has changed since then! Although 40 weeks is the official length of time for pregnancy, many women give birth before or after this time. If your baby is born between week 37 and 38, they are known as early term babies.

Your body at week 37

At this point in your pregnancy you may often feel tired, and this is usually made worse by the fact that you are generally getting a poor night's sleep. Normal pregnancy symptoms are abdominal pressure, the frequent urge to urinate, a sore back and pelvis, Braxton Hicks contractions and stretch marks.

Your baby at week 37

At this point almost all babies will have moved downwards into your pelvis, most commonly they will be in the cephalic presentation, which is head down, facing your spine. There are other positions that you baby can be in, such as cephalic posterior position, which is when they face outwards, or a breech position, which is feet first. If your baby is in an awkward position such as a breech, your baby may be delivered by c-section so as to minimise the risk to you and them.

Things for your to keep in mind at week 37

Around week 37 of pregnancy you may start to experience the urge to organise and clean your house in preparation for your new baby. This is known as nesting and is an instinct shared with many other animals.  Nesting may have you rearranging your household to make it more baby friendly and you may feel the need to limit social interactions. While this most commonly occurs when your delivery date is close, it can happen at any time during your pregnancy - or sometimes not at all.

There are now two weeks left of your official pregnancy span, however, there is even a chance that you may get to meet your little one sooner, as about 5% babies are born before or after their due dates. Your breathing may be feeling easier, as your baby moves lower down into your pelvis. But this can leave you with an increasingly shrinking bladder and smaller tasks that used to feel easy are now more difficult.

Your body at week 38

Don’t be surprised if your nipples start leaking colostrum around this time. You may also be experiencing frequent Braxton Hicks contractions (which will be helping to prepare you for the real deal) and your nesting instincts may have kicked in, leaving you with a strong urge to clean and organise your house. 

Other common pregnancy symptoms at this time are frequent urination and pressure on your pelvis and hips as your baby has dropped lower into your abdomen. You may also be struggling to sleep, have swollen feet and ankles and your vaginal discharge may be tinged pink or brown.

Your baby at week 38

Your little one is almost ready to meet the world! Your baby has probably shed the soft hair, lanugo, which covered their body (although some are born with patches). Although they are mostly fully developed, if born now, they will be considered early term. They are still continuing to add fat on their body, and the brain and nervous system are continually developing.

Things to keep in mind at week 38

One of the questions you may have going through your mind, is how will you be sure that labour has started? Birthing classes are a good way to get to know what to expect, but if you haven’t been able to attend any of those, there are other ways to know that your baby is on its way. Your cervix will start dilating, which your doctor will be able to track in weekly check-ups. You may experience diarrhoea and during labour  you’ll have frequent contractions which will grow stronger over time.

You’re now one week away from week 40 - the final week of your pregnancy. Strange to think back 39 weeks, where you wouldn’t even have known you were pregnant. Lots has changed since then, and a lot will continue to change before and after birth.

Your body at week 39

At this point, you’ll definitely be feeling your pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions, leaking colostrum from your nipples and the frequent urge to urinate may all be part of your daily life. You may be having trouble sleeping, struggling with pelvic and back pain, and your vaginal discharge may be tinged with pink or brown as the blood vessels n your cervix rupture.

It is possible to be diagnosed with preeclampsia in your last weeks of pregnancy. This is high blood pressure in pregnancy and is accompanied by protein in your urine and swelling of the hands and feet. Vomiting, nausea and dizziness are also symptoms you may have preeclampsia, and if you suspect you have it you’ll need to contact your doctor right away.

Your baby at week 39

Your baby is now roughly the size of a honeydew melon and is considered full term if they’re born this week. At this point, their lungs are producing surfactant so that when they take their first breath, the air sacs won’t stick together.

Things you should keep in mind at week 39

You may be wondering if you can still keep doing light exercise, or what you can do to keep active during this time. Exercise in late pregnancy is still doable and is a good idea if you’re feeling up to it. Although you may be worried about damaging your growing baby, exercise during this time is beneficial as it can help strengthen your body for delivery and birth. That being said, it’s important to clarify what you plan on doing with your doctor, and focus on short, low-intensity exercises such as certain yoga and water aerobics.

Congratulations, you’ve reached the milestone that you’ve been counting up to from the beginning. It may feel surreal to think that 40 weeks ago you had your last period and now you’re about to welcome your new baby into your life. The third trimester of your pregnancy may have been fairly difficult, as your baby and belly take up more room, and your body adjusts to accommodate your growing little one.

Your body at week 40

At week 40 your body is ready to give birth after housing and growing your baby for 9 months. So close to birth you may notice changes in your baby’s fetal movement, however, they will still be moving around, so if you notice a big decrease in movement, contact your doctor. Until birth, you’ll experience typical pregnancy symptoms, including leg cramps, back and pelvic pain, trouble sleeping and diarrhoea, which is normal close to birth.

Your baby at week 40

At week 40 your baby is now full-term. When your baby is born you’ll notice that they are covered in a mixture of blood, vernix and amniotic fluid. On average, baby’s at week 40 weigh about 3,5 kg and they’ll be roughly the size of a pumpkin. Even though they are just about to be born, the lungs, liver and brain are still developing.

Things to keep in mind at week 40

Labour can be overwhelming, and it’s important to remember that you can do this. While your doctor will have given you a due date, it is possible that your baby won’t arrive on the dot. So make sure that you keep aware of the signs of labour and have your birth plan, hospital bags and any additional plans ready (such as making sure you have someone to look after your other kids if you have).

Pregnancy Questions

Although most moms pregnancies last 40 weeks (your baby will have spent 38 weeks in your uterus) sometimes birth can begin prematurely. If you go into labour anytime between week 20 and 37 is known as preterm labour. A baby delivered before this is known as miscarrige, and anytime after week 37 is considered normal.

If you suspect you’re going into labour early it’s critical that you contact your doctor as quickly as possible so that they can assist you. Ideally your baby needs to stay in your uterus until full term, but even if your baby is premature (sometimes called a preemie) they can still go on to lead a healthy life.

Here are the signs of preterm labour, how you can try prevent it and what to do if you think that your baby might be coming early.

How to decrease your risk of preterm labour

There are some things that increase your risk of going into premature labour - however, that being said, just because your risk factors are low, you aren’t guaranteed not to go into preterm labour.

Firstly, throughout your pregnancy staying healthy is critical. Smoking, drinking and recreational drug use are all activities that increase your risk of preterm labour (amongst other things). Good nutrition and prenatal care is a key aspect of a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Other risk factors include, having more than one baby in your uterus, short intervals between pregnancies and having had another baby preterm.

There are certain infections and chronic conditions that can also contribute to preterm labour. Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, depression, chronic kidney or heart disease or infections can all lead to preterm labour and birth.

Signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing preterm labour

Controlling what you can, keeping a healthy pregnancy lifestyle and maintaining good prenatal care are not guarantees for your baby’s timely arrival. However, spotting preterm labour early means that you’ll be able to receive treatment as quickly as possible.

Backache and pressure in your lower belly (almost as if your baby is pushing down) as well as bell cramps and contractions are all signs of premature labour. These contractions are different to Braxton Hicks contractions as they are regular.

Other signs include a change in your vaginal discharge to watery or bloody, or even experiencing a gush of fluid from your vagina.

What happens if I go into preterm labour?

If you suspect preterm labour let your doctor know right away. Once you have alerted your doctor they’ll give you medication to stop the birth or slow down your labour. How close you are to your due date will impact on how they decide to treat you. You may be given medication to slow or stop your contractions, as well as medication that will help your babies lungs mature and grow, as if they are born preterm they may not work on their own.

If your baby is born preterm it is likely they’ll need special care from the hospital as they are at higher risk of health complications. However, even if your baby is preemie they can still go on to live a healthy life.

Giving birth to your baby after 9 months can be a relieving, beautiful and exciting experience. Postpartum your body will still be going through adjustments for a while, and as you care for your new baby, you’ll need to remember to take care of yourself as well.

Postpartum bleeding, also known as lochia, is normal after both vaginal and c-section births, however, it is best to know what is and isn’t common in post birth bleeding.

Normal postpartum bleeding

Lochia is similar to menstruation in the way in which it is made up of blood and tissue, it’s just heavier and longer lasting - it should stop between 4 and 6 weeks after giving birth.

Initially, your bleeding will be heavy. This first phase of postpartum bleeding is known as lochia rubra and you’ll experience this in the first 3 to 4 days. Bleeding will be red to reddy brown and you may have small clots.

In the next few days after birth your lochia will decrease in volume. Lochia serosa lasts 4 to 10 days and during this period your blood will darken in colour and become more watery. Blood clots should get smaller and disappear.

Finally you’ll experience lochia alba, which usually lasts about another 1 to 2 weeks, but can be up to 28 days. Discharge will be yellowy white in colour, you may see pinkish or brown stains on some days. There should be no smell other than what you would experience during a normal period - a strong odor can be a sign of an infection.

When to reach out to your doctor

Even though lochia is normal, if you are bleeding heavily this can indicate that you have a postpartum haemorrhage. If your bleeding is heavy a week after birth, you experience fever or chills, a tender abdomen or foul-smelling discharge, you'll need to seek medical assistance.

If you’re expecting your first baby you’ve probably read up a little (or a lot) on pregnancy and birth process. Labour is something you’ve probably wondered about and seeing as every pregnancy is different, many moms experience different labour signs. However, there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for that you are about to meet your new baby soon. 

What to look (or feel) out for 

You may be worried that you won’t distinguish normal late pregnancy signs from the fact that you’ve started labour. Luckily your due date should give you an indication of when you could expect your baby to arrive, but this won’t always be the case. Here are some indicators that your baby is on the way. 

One of the more obvious signs of labour beginning is regular contractions. This will be different to the Braxton Hicks contractions you may have been experiencing leading up to this point. Labour contractions are longer, stronger and more frequent - when they come every 5 minutes you should call your doctor or midwife. 

Another sign your baby is on her way is your cervix dilating or beginning to open. This can start happening in the days or weeks before you deliver. Your baby will also move down into your pelvis during this time - which is known as your baby dropping. 

When your labour begins, the mucus plug which seals your cervix opening comes away. This jelly-like pink mucus is known as a show, and you may notice it when it passes out your vagina. 

Lower back pain, diarrhoea and looser feeling joints are all other signs that your labour may be starting. Another sign is your water breaking, this can happen in a gush but a trickle is more likely, most moms-to-be go into labour within 24 hours of their water breaking. 

Be sure to keep your birth partner in the loop about how you are feeling mentally and physically around the time of your birth. If you are at all worried about your baby or experience anything abnormal be sure to let your doctor know as soon as possible. 

Deciding to become a mom, or even finding out by chance that you’re pregnant can be an exciting time in your life. However, sometimes you will spontaneously lose the embryo before 20 weeks and this is known as a miscarriage. You may be wondering what causes a miscarriage and how to notice the symptoms and signs of one. 

What is a miscarriage and what causes them?

Miscarriages are defined as the spontaneous ending of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. Miscarriages can both be emotionally and physically painful to deal with, but it is thought (according to the NHS) that 1 in 8 pregnancies end in miscarriage, with many happening before a woman notices that she has missed her period (meaning she probably won’t even know that she’s been pregnant. 

American Pregnancy Association (APA) states that the most common cause of miscarriage is an embryo that is genetically abnormal, which can be either genetic or spontaneous. However, miscarriages can be caused by underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or poor lifestyle choices, such as drug use and drinking. Maternal age is also a contributing risk factor, as women over 35 have higher chances of pregnancy loss. 

How do I know if I ‘m having a miscarriage?

Symptoms of a miscarriage can be similar to that of your menstrual period. You may experience cramps and abdominal and back pain, as well as bleeding which can vary from light spotting to heavy discharge. It is normal to have pain and bleeding after a miscarriage, and these period-pain type signs should stop after two weeks. 

If you experience heavy bleeding, fever or chills be sure to seek professional help as you could have an infection. Unfortunately, the miscarriage process can’t be reversed and if you think you are having a miscarriage you should speak to your doctor about how to manage it. 

Can I have a normal pregnancy after having a miscarriage?

Many women may worry that having a miscarriage may affect their chances of getting pregnant again - however, many women have healthy pregnancies after miscarriage. Most doctors recommend waiting a period of time before trying again, so speak to your health care provider about the best way forward. 

Symphysis pubis dysfunction or SPD is pain in your pelvis, which is caused by the relaxing of ligaments in the pelvic bones too early before birth. Many aspects of pregnancy can cause discomfort, and SPD is one of them. Here are the signs of SPD and what you can do if you think you to alleviate your discomfort if you are suffering from it. 

What is SPD and what causes it?

Not all moms-to-be will experience SPD but it is thought to be fairly common in pregnancy. SPD is a pain in the symphysis pubis (which can range from moderate to serve) caused by the relaxing and stretching of the ligaments around the pelvic bone. Pain can be brought on by opening your legs, walking up stairs or even turning over in bed, and this may be accompanied by a clicking/grinding sensation in the pubic area. 

The cause of SPD in pregnancy is the hormone relaxin, aptly named as it relaxes your joints and ligaments to make it easier for your baby to come out at birth. SPD happens when these hormones come into play too early. Not only that but you're shifting centre of as your baby grows, which can cause main in your lower back and pelvis as your body shifts to accommodate your little one. 

What can I do to relieve SPD 

Living with SPD can be uncomfortable at best, so you may be wondering what you can do to help alleviate some pain. Being fit before pregnancy can help, as stronger glute and abdominal muscles can help support your pelvis. Physiotherapy can help manage SPD pain, as a physio will be able to work with you as your pregnancy and pain levels change. Speak to your doctor first, as they may have recommendations for you. Your pelvis should return to normal between 4 and 12 weeks after birth. 

Neonatal jaundice, what is it and what happens if my baby is born with it? 

Jaundice is a yellow discolouration of a baby’s eyes and skin and is fairly common in newborn babies. Although it may be alarming to you to see your newborn baby with a slightly yellowish tint, thankfully, most cases of jaundice are considered normal and will go away on their own. You may be wondering why your baby may be born with this condition, or what treatments are available if your little-one has jaundice - read on, we outline the causes and common treatments thereof. 

Why would my baby have neonatal jaundice? 

Babies are born with neonatal jaundice when they have excess levels of unconjugated bilirubin in their blood. Bilirubin is a yellowy substance which comes from the breakdown of red blood cells, however, baby’s livers sometimes can’t break this substance down fast enough, giving their eyes and skin a yellow tint. 

When your baby is born they will be checked for jaundice, as high levels of bilirubin can lead to more serious problems. A baby is more likely to get neonatal jaundice if they are born premature, have a different blood type to their mother or are being breastfed. Babies who are breastfed can develop jaundice if they don’t get enough breastmilk, due to trouble feeding. 

What happens if my baby has neonatal jaundice?

If your baby has jaundice, this will typically be seen in the second or third day of being born.  Sometimes jaundice will go away on its own and other times it will need to be treated. If your baby is struggling to breastfeed it’s important that he be breastfed more often, or even receive formula as a supplement during this time. 

Phototherapy (light therapy)  can also be used to help your baby. Light can turn the bilirubin into a form that can easily pass out the body. If the jaundice is very bad, your baby may receive a blood transfusion which will quickly lower bilirubin levels. 

Birth injuries

You only want the best for your baby, but sometimes harm comes to them unintentionally. During the birthing process, your baby can experience harm or physical injury; this is known as a birth injury.  Birth injuries are not uncommon, sometimes they are temporary and other times they may affect your baby for a lifetime. But what exactly are birth injuries? And what causes them? 

What are the chances of my baby getting injured during birth?

Birth injuries range from harmless to serve, either quickly healing or causing disability throughout life. Although significant injury or death during the birth process isn’t as likely, birth injuries are not uncommon - according to the Birth Injury Guide, about 29 in 1000 babies suffer a birth injury of some kind.

Why would my baby become injured during the birth process?

There are several reasons why a baby can experience physical trauma during the birthing process.  When you near the end of your pregnancy your baby moves into position for delivery, sometimes babies will move into an abnormal position, such as a breech (feet first), and this can cause them injury when they are born. Other reasons why baby’s may become injured during birth is being abnormally large, the mother’s pelvis is too small, or a long and difficult labour, where the mother’s contractions aren’t strong enough to push her baby out. 

What happens if my baby has a birth injury?

Generally, birth injuries affect the babies head neck and shoulders, as babies are generally born head first. There are a variety of injures that your baby could stain from birth trauma, such as bruising of the scalp, broken bones or brain damage. Sometimes these injuries are temporary and other times they can last a lifetime. Your doctors and midwives will assess the damage to your baby and help you and your baby accordingly. 

Sometimes babies will sustain trauma during birth, and the injury won’t be noticeable until they have started school or being missing developmental milestones, as they struggle to mentally keep up with their peers or grow at what is considered a normal rate. 

Sadly most birth injuries aren’t preventable, but even so, moms whose babies experience birth injuries often feel guilty and angry, as if they are too blame. Although feeling this way is understandable,  this is not the case and if you are feeling this way after your baby has experienced a birth injury it is best to speak to a health professional and reply on your partner, friends and family for support. 

During your pregnancy, you’ll face many decisions with regards to your baby and pregnancy - many of the answers to these questions will be up to your personal preferences. This can make deciding what is best even trickier. One such decision you’ll make is c-sections vs natural births. 

One is not objectively better than the other, and we have focused on the c-section in another article. This time around we’ll focus on vaginal birth, what you can expect and how you’ll feel afterwards. This decision is one that you’ll make with your health care provider and your birth partner, however, the more you know the easier your decision will be, so read on to find out more about vaginal birth. 

What is a vaginal birth and why would I choose it over a c-section?

Naturally you’ll have a vaginal birth, however, if the risks of doing so are high or you’ve previously had a c-section you’ll probably be told that a c-section is the better option of the two. However, vaginal birth is the more natural experience, as you’ll be giving birth in the way in which humans are designed to. 

Although giving birth vaginally can be a long process from labour to delivery (every pregnancy and labour is different so this won’t be the same for everyone) your hospital stay and recovery time will generally be shorter than that of a c-section. Deciding to opt for a vaginal birth also means that you’ll remove the risk of a major surgery. 

Vaginal births are also beneficial to your baby, as their lungs are squeezed during the process, clearing them of any fluid. Babies also receive beneficial bacteria when they are pushed through your birth canal. 

What are the risks involved? 

There are pros and cons to both c-section and vaginal births. With regards to vaginal birth, you may experience tearing in and around the vagina and cervix. In most cases, tears aren’t major and are easy to repair. However, serious tears can affect your bowel and bladder function post birth. 

During pregnancy there is a risk for complications. If this is the case you may need to have an emergency c-section to minimise harm and distress to both you and your baby. 

What is the recovery time afterwards?

One of the pros of vaginal birth is the fact that recovery time is generally quicker than if you had opted for a c-section. However, recovery will still take between 3 and 6 weeks, but can be longer if you had an episiotomy or you tore during birth. 

Your first trimester is from your first week of pregnancy to the end of your 12th week. Your pregnancy is counted as starting from the start of your last period, so your first few weeks of being a mom-to-be, you aren’t actually pregnant. During your first trimester, you’ll experience many pregnancy symptoms as your body adjusts to accommodate your new growing baby - so even if you don’t look outwardly pregnant during this time, you’ll definitely feel it. 

Your body during the first trimester 

During your first few weeks of pregnancy, you won’t even know that you’re pregnant yet, but from implantation onwards, you may start to notice pregnancy symptoms. Generally, moms-to-be will realise they are pregnant when they have missed their first period, which is around week 5. Around this time you may also start noticing a variety of pregnancy symptoms. 

You’ll probably start noticing some or many pregnancy symptoms - which may even be the reason that you realise you’re pregnant. Morning sickness (not only experienced in the morning) is one of the most universal symptom, affecting the majority of women. But pregnancy symptoms aren’t limited to nausea, and you may notice fatigue, cramping, bloating, constipation, mood swings, weight gain, frequent urination and light spotting. 

Your baby during the first trimester 

Your baby will do a lot of growing in the first trimester. From being a fertilized egg implanted into your uterus to growing to roughly the size of a plum with most important organs, features and body parts in place. 

Things to keep in mind during the first trimester

Because you initially won’t know you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea that you start taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and iron when you want to start trying to have a baby. Your baby’s neural tube along their back develops from week five and a daily dose of folic acid can reduce the risk of spinal tube defects. 

First trimester concerns

Two big concerns during the first trimester are miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy if you notice heavier spotting, accompanied by sharp abdominal and back pain it is best to speak to your doctor. While light spotting is normal, heavy bleeding is cause for concern.

If you experience excessive nausea and vomiting, dizziness, high fever or pain during urination you should contact your doctor, as all are signs of something more problematic than typical pregnancy symptoms. 

Your second trimester is from the beginning of week 13 until week 28, during this time your pregnancy will begin to show. However, you should feel like you have more energy than you did in trimester one. This is why this trimester is also nicknamed the honeymoon period of pregnancy - your baby isn’t big enough to make you uncomfortable and your pregnancy hormones should have eased up. 

During this time there are one or two things that you can keep in mind to make the most of this time while you’re feeling better, and to ensure that your baby (and you) are kept healthy and happy. 

Childbirth classes, preparing your mind and body 

Even if this isn’t your first baby, childbirth classes can help prepare you for what is to come. If you’re feeling anxious about labour and birth, these classes will help ease your worries, by informing you what is to come and how best to manage your mind and body coming up to, during birth and after birth. 

Prenatal exercise and a healthy lifestyle

Stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy is important to both you and your baby. What you eat and regular exercise are both ways in which you can provide needed nutrition to your baby and keep yourself healthy. 

Low impact exercise, such yoga, swimming, walking and prenatal pilates can help improve your sleep, and increase your strength and muscle tone. Keeping active can even have the added benefit of helping prepare your body for labour and birth. 

Maternity wear and staying comfortable 

Not only is learning about your pregnancy and staying healthy essential but staying comfortable is also important. The second trimester is generally when your tummy will start looking and feeling bigger,  so invest in some trousers that have more give in the waistline. Luckily certain fashion items, such as flowy dresses and layered knits, may even mean you can still keep using your pre-pregnancy clothes.

Given today’s current global COVID-19 pandemic, worrying about the potentially harmful viruses' effect on your pregnancy and baby is a valid concern. You’re probably wondering the best ways to avoid the virus when pregnant, and what to do if you think you may have caught it.

How can I protect myself and my baby from catching the corona virus?

Protecting yourself from COVID-19 while pregnant, is similar to that of anyone else avoiding the virus. Minimise contact with others through social distancing, frequently wash and sanitise your hands, and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth. Don’t be tempted to skip important prenatal visits in lieu of avoiding the virus - chat to your doctor about the best way forward with regard to this.

Although slightly disappointing, cancelling events such as baby showers is a good idea, as the risk of exposure and infection becomes bigger with larger groups. Being pregnant, it’s a good idea to be extra precautious where possible. However, the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) states that pregnancy doesn’t increase your risk of becoming unwell from coronavirus, and the majority only develop mild to moderate symptoms.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 while pregnant?

If you think you may have COVID-19 or have tested positive for corona the first thing you should do is contact your doctor. However, it’s best to avoid travelling to the doctors office as you may come into contact with someone positive for COVID-19 in these spaces.

As the virus is new, this means that the studies that have been conducted are limited. Because of this it’s essential to follow social distancing guidelines to try and protect yourself, however, if you do contract the virus there is no immediate need for stress, as pregnancy doesn’t increase your risk.

Your second trimester begins in week 13 and ends at week 28. During this time your morning sickness will ease off, and initially your baby will be small enough that your body won’t be in too much discomfort, earning this trimester the nickname of the honeymoon period of pregnancy. During this trimester you’ll probably tell your family, friends and employees you're expecting and your tummy will begin to show - time to upgrade your wardrobe!

Your body during your second trimester

During the second trimester the pregnancy you’ll hopefully notice that your morning sickness is easing up and your energy levels should begin to rise. While you will be feeling better don’t put pressure on yourself to exercise or socialise more than you’re comfortable with.

This trimester your baby bump will go from barely noticeable to one that you may struggle to hide. Embrace your changing body and adapt your exercise plan to accommodate your baby, prenatal yoga and pilates classes are a great way to stay in shape, meet other moms-to-be and prepare for labour and delivery.

A growing belly and breasts, Braxton Hicks contractions and leg cramps are all common pregnancy symptoms you may experience during this trimester. Not only this but you may experience dental issues, sore and swollen feet, and an achy back and/or pelvis.

Your baby’s growth during the second trimester

Your little one does lots of growing during your second trimester, and during this time you’ll begin to feel them moving around inside your belly (this is also known as quickening). Not only this, but during trimester two your baby’s ears develop to the point that they can hear your voice and other external sounds. 

During the second trimester your baby’s eyes and ears become more developed and you’ll soon be able to find out their gender on an ultrasound (if you want to!). Your baby's muscle tone is also improving, they’ll be swallowing amniotic fluid and their sucking reflex will develop - they may even suck their own thumb.

Important things to note during the second trimester

At week 19 to 20 you’ll have an anatomy scan. In this scan your doctor will be able to see how your baby is developing, and if there is anything unusual that would be cause for concern. During this scan the doctors will also be able to tell you the gender of your baby - if you decide to be told you can start thinking of baby names!

This trimester is also a good time to decide how and where you’d like to have your baby. Decide on if you like a hospital or home birth, and start putting together a birth plan.

Your third trimester begins in week 28 and will end when your baby is born, or around week 40. You may be feeling both tired and excited at this time and your body may be taking some strain. Soon you’ll get to meet your little one in person! Make the most of this time by looking after yourself and making sure that you are prepared for both birth, and for afterwards.

Keeping active

Staying active during your pregnancy may become trickier as your baby bump grows, but it’s important that you keep your body healthy. Exercise can not only help you feel better, but can even help prepare you for the big day. That being said, it’s best not to over do it - chat to your doctor about what exercise they think is best for you.

Swimming and water aerobics are two low impact exercises that can help you keep fit. Water will help take the pressure off your tired and achy body and prevents overheating. Prenatal pilates and yoga can help you strengthen your body and can keep you feeling fit before delivery.

Plan your birth

If you haven’t started already, now would be the time to start planning your birth. You and your partner can start putting together a birth plan. This is a document which lays out your wishes during your birth, as when the time comes you probably won’t be in the state of mind to keep track of everything. Your plan can be simple or very detailed, the choice is yours. While your birth plan can guide your delivery, it’s important to remember that things won’t always go to plan.

This is also a good time to book a childbirth class, while not mandatory these are a good idea, especially if this is your first baby. Structure your time around attending, and be aware that while you may learn lots of information from the hospital, the nurses and doctors won’t have lots of time to teach you. This is why classes are a good third trimester go-to, as they will prepare you for labour and delivery. Childbirth classes are also a safe space for you to address any of your fears or worries around your upcoming delivery and can help you feel more comfortable when the time comes.

Get ready for your baby

Last but not least, use your last trimester to prep for your baby. When your baby arrives you won’t have time to buy baby items or look after yourself like you used to. Planning ahead can help reduce stress before and after your baby is born.

Things you can do are prep frozen meals for yourself for when you get home. You can organise your baby’s changing station, crib and car seat so that when you both come home you’re comfortable everything you need is already there. Pack your overnight bag for the hospital before the time, so that when you go into labour you (or your partner) won’t be frantically packing. Go into your birth feeling happy that you’ve prepared enough beforehand - avoid any unnecessary stress on yourself.