Congratulations, you’re pregnant! You’ve reached an exciting new stage in your life, and you probably want to shout your news from the rooftops. It’s completely understandable to be thrilled and overwhelmed about what the future holds at this early point in your pregnancy journey, but the best thing you can do to care for your growing baby right now is to take better care of yourself.
Here are a few areas you can focus on to become more emotionally and physically prepared for the months ahead.
Learn what to expect during your first antenatal appointment
Your first antenatal appointment will generally happen when you reach the six-to-eight-week mark. If going to the doctor makes you anxious, then knowing what to expect should help settle your nerves. During this appointment, your GP will confirm that you’re pregnant before taking a thorough health history, checking your blood pressure, height and weight, and performing a physical and pelvic exam. They will also organise some routine tests, like a blood test.i Use this appointment as an opportunity to discuss everything related to your antenatal care, from how many visits you will have to where you would like to give birth. If you want to continue your care with a midwife or obstetrician, then this is also the time to get a referral.
Allow yourself to sleep more
You’re inevitably going to be sluggish during your first trimester. Your hormones are surging, you’re starting to develop the placenta that supplies your baby with nutrients, and your heart is pumping extra hard to accommodate the new life in your womb. While it might go against all your instincts, give yourself permission to slow down and rest more. Try taking short naps during the day or going to bed earlier at night so you can snatch an extra hour or two of sleep. If you find yourself droopy-eyed when you need to work, then eat snacks that are rich in protein, like yoghurt or peanut butter, to give yourself a quick boost. Your energy will likely spring back during your second trimester, though it’s also normal to feel tired again in your third trimester as your body prepares for birth.
Eat a healthier diet and resist (most) of those cravings
Many women experience food cravings while pregnant, though doctors don’t really know why. It’s thought hormonal changes could play a roleii, because they can affect the way foods taste, making certain meals more appealing than they were before. Whatever the reason, it’s important not to overdo it with those high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat items, and to ensure you’re eating a balanced diet containing the appropriate combination of fruits and vegetables, wholemeal starchy foods (such as rice, bread and pasta), lean proteins and dairy to support your baby’s growth. It can often be tough to get your recommended daily intake of nutrients like folic acid and iodine through diet alone, which is why many women take a daily pregnancy multivitamin like Natalis. Folic acid is particularly important in your first trimester because it helps your baby’s nervous system develop.
Explore different ways to relieve your morning sickness
As you may have discovered by now, morning sickness is rarely just relegated to the mornings. While not all women are affected by it, this unfortunate malady is common in women who are pregnant for the first time due to rising hormones. Different women find relief with different remedies, so experiment with a few methods to see what works for you. Healthdirect Australiaiii recommends options such as eating dry biscuits and sipping a glass of water before getting out of bed in the morning, eating frequent small meals throughout the day, and taking ginger tablets (ginger has long been touted as a remedy for reducing nausea. Stephen Raymond, a specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania, told the ABCiv that ginger can alleviate morning sickness symptoms for about 80 per cent of women). If your morning sickness is particularly severe, however, ask your GP about safe anti-nausea medications.
Start documenting your pregnancy journey
While you might want to wait until the 12-week mark to share your news with loved ones, you’re probably bursting at the seams with unexpressed thoughts and feelings. It can be affirming to reflect on this life-defining moment in a pregnancy journal. You can use it to jot down your hopes and dreams about parenthood, key details about appointments, and scraps of wisdom you learn over time. It’s also somewhere you can store keepsakes like ultrasounds and pregnancy announcements. It will be a sweet memento to bring out during your child’s 21st!
Plan your big announcement
Deciding exactly how you’re going to break the news will help you become even more excited about the months ahead. While you might like to tell those close to you in a more personal way, you can have a lot of fun with the announcement to your outer circle with a photoshoot or social media blast. We love this list of creative and funny pregnancy announcements from Bored Panda, where couples have tried everything from faux movie posters to getting the family pet in on the action.
Keep yourself in shape
It’s encouraged to continue exercising when pregnant, as long as you recognise your limits and discuss it with your healthcare professional. Experts on Pregnancy, Birth & Babyv suggest that 30 minutes of exercise every day can help alleviate common pregnancy aches and pains while also strengthening your muscles so that you’re better able to carry the weight of your growing belly. According to Diabetes NSWvi, maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight can also greatly reduce your risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, though it’s important to note that there are several factors that can contribute towards this type of diabetes and exercise is only one preventative measure. Swimming, walking and prenatal yoga are excellent low-impact exercise options. Just make sure you always have a bottle of water handy to keep yourself hydrated. It’s easier to become dehydrated when you’re pregnant because of morning sickness, how often you need to pee and how much fluid your body needs to develop the amniotic sac that protects your baby. Doctors on the Better Health Channelvii recommend you drink about nine cups of water a day to make up for those lost fluids.
Try meditating to relax your mind
Women who participated in a Murdoch Children’s Research Institute studyviii all agreed that learning meditation techniques helped them feel significantly less stressed about their pregnancies. It’s a wonderful way to clear your mind, reduce your blood pressure and put yourself in the moment during what can be an emotional time. Prenatal stress can also affect foetal development, so it will benefit your baby’s health if you take 10 minutes to slow down and focus on your breathing over a cup of tea in the morning, in the car before work or before going to bed at night. Free guided meditation apps such as Insight Timer or Smiling Mind will get you started with exercises to help you sleep and ambient music to help you relax.
Seek out support if you need it
If you’re feeling anxious or depressed about your pregnancy, it can help to talk with someone who understands. That might be your partner, a parent, or a close friend. Or it might be a mental healthcare professional. There is no shame in reaching out to your GP, who can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist who will have specialist knowledge about what you’re going through. If you’d like further information, Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) is full of fantastic support resources and tips on speaking to health professionals about pregnancy. The group also operates Australia’s only national helpline for expecting parents.
Don’t be afraid to ask your most burning questions
Finally, remember that your healthcare professionals are there to put your mind at ease. They understand that this is a nerve-wracking time and that you are full of curiosity about pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn. Don’t be afraid to ask even the most insignificant of questions if you have concerns. The answers can only increase your confidence about impending motherhood.
i Pregnancy: an overview (Raising Children)
ii Food cravings during pregnancy (Pregnancy, Birth & Baby)
iii Morning sickness (Healthdirect Australia)
iv Morning sickness: what works? (ABC Health and Wellbeing feature)
v Exercising during pregnancy (Pregnancy, Birth & Baby)
vi Gestational diabetes (Diabetes NSW)
vii Water – a vital nutrient (Better Health Channel)
viii The potential benefits of mindfulness meditation in pregnancy (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)