Before deciding to become a parent, top tips
Let me start by saying that life has a funny and beautiful way of surprising us sometimes, so if you were like 50% of our population and had an unplanned surprise pregnancy, then hey! Congrats baby mama!
If you are in the other 50% and are planning your pregnancy, then I hope you find these tips helpful. As a midwife, my recommendation is always to seek professional help from a midwife, fertility specialist, GP etc. before falling pregnant.
Making the decision to have a baby is a big deal, co-creating a human I mean, WOW! There are so many exciting things to look forward to along the way. I hope this will help you bring your baby into the world as healthy as can be, and allow you the chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Move those muscles!
Beginning or maintain an appropriate exercise program will ensure your body is in optimal shape to house your little one. If you are not yet pregnant this is the perfect time to build your fitness while becoming physically stronger. Exercising for 30 minutes per day HUGELY benefits you and baby, research: one study. These benefits include healthy weight gain, lower risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and perinatal depression. This transfers to birth, allowing for less intervention and can mean a quicker recovery.
Eating a healthy, wholesome diet is essential both before and during pregnancy. Avoid processed, sodium-filled, fatty and or fried foods, or foods that contain preservatives. Sticking to fresh, raw when possible, fruits and vegetables and eating pesticide-free in the form of organic whenever you are able, will ensure the best nutrition possible (of course we understand the odd pregnancy craving of salty crisps or chocolate ice-cream). If you aren’t entirely sure what eating well for you means, chat with a health professional.
Healthy Relationship Building
Before you start planning a pregnancy, it is ideal to ensure you and your partner have communicated and are on the same page. Work together to develop a strong relationship, because taking on the responsibility of a baby is life-changing and can take some time to adjust to for both of you. You have a lot less time for each other and of course A LOT less sleep, something you both need to be aware of. Having a baby can also allow you to fall in love all over again, as you are now a bigger family unit.
Blood-work to Ensure Healthy Nutrient Levels
Having blood work before actually trying to conceive will allow you to be aware of areas you may need to focus on, such as upping your folic acid levels. Did you know that by having adequate folate / folic acid in your diet before conception you lower the chance significantly of neural tube and spinal defects of your baby?
Start by taking a good prenatal vitamin that includes iron, folic acid, B12, and the essential nutrients you will need to help that beautiful baby grow, and to also ensure you have all you need before it’s time to welcome baby. The baby will receive the nutrients he or she needs regardless, but it will deplete your nutrient stores – which is why prenatal vitamins are so essential. It’s also a good idea to take prenatal vitamins with food, as they may upset your stomach.
Iron deficiency during pregnancy can be common (in my experience as a midwife). Boosting your iron levels before you are pregnant can be a game-changer for you and your babe, especially in relation to your energy levels. As your blood volumes increase dramatically in pregnancy, your hemoglobin (iron levels) drop lower. Hemoglobin is the red blood cells that carry oxygen to your tissues and baby so as you can imagine, it plays a very important role. Iron-rich foods are a great way to increase your hemoglobin levels, but you may also need to supplement them.
Try to Stay Calm and Stress-Free
Trying to maintain a mostly stress-free lifestyle (as stress-free as possible) will enable your pregnancy to be as healthy and calm as possible. Stress can have a major impact on both your mentality and your physical well being. Try meditation, relaxing bubble baths, calming music or yoga to calm your body and mind. Perhaps some lifestyle changes may need to happen before pregnancy – remember you do you, mama!
Couples Vacay aka Babymoon
Take a fun couples-only vacation to enjoy special time together doing the things you love. This will be a fond memory to look back on once your baby is here and vacations are a bit more difficult to come by. Also, take this time to ask each other those hard questions such as – Will we co-sleep? Will we raise the baby in a religious home? Will we raise the baby vegan? Will we share the load equally? – having these conversations upfront allows you to align as a couple.
Spend time educating yourself on all the possibilities of pregnancy. You might have a plan in mind of how you expect your birth to go, but with pregnancy, nothing is ever set in stone. Be sure to read up on c-sections, potential complications, and some of the scarier things such as preeclampsia so you know what to look out for. A great resource to look into is What To Expect While Expecting, which is a guidebook to pregnancy. Taking antenatal classes when you are pregnant is a great (and I think essential) part of becoming parents. Learn about everything you can, because education is extremely powerful when raising a human the best way possible.
As a midwife, I also LOVE Ina May Gaskin and all of her pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding books. Get reading mamas and papas!
Written by midwife Aliza Carr, from Bumpnbub.
Let us know what other tips you would recommend!