When it comes to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, everyone has an opinion on what a woman should and shouldn’t be doing.
Traditionally, this is the period before a couple officially announces their incoming baby, but it’s also one riddled with worry as mums-to-be try to wade through reams of information – and misinformation – to give their bub the best start.
How much should you exercise? What should you be eating? What should you NOT be eating? Is it time to take a break from the booze? Is coffee okay?
It’s hard to de-stress when your mind is buzzing from so many questions.
So, in the interests of keeping things simple, we’ve put together a definitive list of first trimester do’s and don’ts.
- Check that you're actually pregnant. It might seem obvious, but home pregnancy tests can be unreliable, so it might be worth a visit to your GP, just to be sure.
- Start taking your prenatal vitamins. Many women commence taking folic acid to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida while they're trying to conceive, but if you weren't planning to fall pregnant or simply didn't make it to the chemist before conception, starting as soon as possible is generally advisable. A regular iron supplement is also a good idea.
- Sort out your plans. What are your workplace's maternity leave requirements? Where will you have the birth? Who do you want to deliver your baby? If you'd don't have one already, the first trimester is the time to decide on a pregnancy specialist or a midwife. Asking friends or family for recommendations is a good idea and most people aim to have their first prenatal appointment booked for the eight-week mark.
- Exercise regularly. Undertaking a low-intensity exercise, such as walking, throughout your pregnancy will reduce the likelihood of needing a caesarean, as well as having a heavy infant. Plus, it will help you deal with the existential crises that is preparing to have a baby.
- Start monitoring your diet. Now is the time to make sure you're eating a good mix of foods, and enough of the right ones. Intake of raw and undercooked meat is a strict no-no during your pregnancy, and you can wave goodbye to soft cheese, seafood and raw eggs as they may have harmful bacteria and parasites. The occasional piece of cake, though, is fine.
- Drink more water and less caffeine. Water. Water. Water. It's important to stay properly hydrated. A coffee or two won't hurt, but limiting your caffeine intake is recommended as high levels of caffiene have been linked to miscarriage, low birth weight and even stillbirth.
- Sleep more. An early night is a good way to offset some of the yuckier pregnancy side effects you're probably experiencing and early in your pregnancy is the perfect time to nail a sleep routine. And as every mum will tell you, taking the opportunity to sleep while you can is an excellent idea.
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- Smoke. The terrible effects of smoking on unborn children are well established. It's time to to ditch the cigarettes for good. Visit your doctor or pharmacist for help quitting if you need.
- Drink alcohol (sorry). There's a lot of contradictory advice when it comes to expectant mothers and booze, but the safest bet is to steer clear of alcohol from day one because that way you know for sure.
- Take over-the-counter medications. It's important to check if the medicine you're putting into your body will harm your baby. If you take a regular prescription drug, like an anti-depressant or a sleeping pill, check it with your GP if you're able to continue taking them, as they may want to replace it with a milder version. It's also a good idea to avoid over-counter-medications like analgesics.
- Take up a fad diet. Eating a healthy diet is advised when pregnant, but an overly restrictive change may cause a harmful deficiency of iron, folic acid or other important vitamins and minerals. So don't go Paleo, baiscally.
- Get in the hot tub. Hot tubs and saunas have been linked to miscarriage because they raise your core body temperature and can cause dehydration. Sigh.
So, what have we learned? The first trimester is a good time to set yourself up for the rest of your pregnancy. Get into good routines, speak with your doctor, plan your final 24-weeks and sleep like a newborn baby is soon to enter your house.
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