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We speak to a midwife on the best things you can do in the lead up to birth.

NSW Government
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Pregnancy is an exciting time for new mums, but it can be difficult to know what are the best ways to look after yourself and your baby during this time.

We sat down with Kate Williams, a midwife from the Royal Women’s Hospital in Sydney with over 10 years’ experience, to talk about the best things you can do in the lead up to birth.

Listen to your body.

Our bodies change during pregnancy, and so too does the amount of strain and pressure they can take. “During pregnancy, we try to keep up with full time work, social commitments, housework, and every other type of pressure that we women place on ourselves. But we so often forget that growing a baby is actually a big job” says Williams. “It’s okay to feel tired and to slow down, so make sure you listen to your body and get plenty of rest during this period.”

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You need to listen to your body. Image: iStock.

Get a flu vaccination.

As pregnant women are a high risk medical group, the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your baby from the disease.

“The annual flu shot is highly recommended for pregnant women, as it is the best protection against the flu virus, which can be very dangerous for those in high risk health groups,” says Williams. “As a pregnant woman, your immunity is naturally much lower than usual, so if you catch a bad strain of the flu, it can lead to premature labour, and in some extreme cases, death. These risks are heightened if you have other underlying medical conditions.”

“Also, if a pregnant woman has the flu shot, it means that her immunity is passed onto her baby, and is the best way to protect bubs under the age of six months old from the disease.”

The flu shot is safe and free for pregnant women, and is easily organised through your GP.

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Talk to your GP today. Image: iStock.

“Also talk to your doctor today about getting free whooping cough vaccine in your third trimester. The immunity you get from the whooping cough vaccine fades over time so you need to be vaccinated during each pregnancy at around 28 weeks.”

Maintain a balanced diet.

A balanced diet is the key to a happy, healthy life, and pregnancy is no exception. Sure, there are a list of foods and drinks that you should avoid during pregnancy – such as sushi, raw eggs and alcohol, to name a few – but did you know why it’s especially important to eat well during this time?

“Due to the hormonal changes happening in the body during pregnancy, it’s very common to experience constipation. Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables will help you get all the fibre you need to keep you regular, as will drinking plenty of water,” advises Williams.

“Your gut is also a major source of your immunity, so make sure you look after it by eating healthy.”

Increase your iron intake.

Iron deficiency is common in many women, but can become exacerbated in pregnant woman. Williams explains:

“When you’re pregnant, the volume of fluid in your body doubles, and as a result, your nutrients become diluted, so it’s especially important to watch your nutritional intake during this time.”

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Increase your iron intake. Image: iStock.

“Further, as you will experience a loss of blood during and after birth, preparing your iron stores can help curb the side effects of this, as well as aid a healthy recovery and breast milk production. Think of it this way: if you’re running a marathon, you’d prepare your body with the energy it needs to get through it. Labour is no different.”

Exercise regularly.

Labour is physically demanding, so being fit will help you get through it all that much easier. “There are certain types of exercises that can also help alleviate the pain of pregnancy,” says Williams, “I always recommend swimming to patients who are experiencing back pain, as the no-gravity water environment will take the pressure off your spine and give you a great cardio workout.”

“Pelvic floor exercises will help strengthen up your pelvic muscles, which will help with pushing out your baby, as will yoga, which is also great for mental health and mindfulness.”

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Yoga is great for your body and mind. Image via iStock.

Avoid places and people that are prone to disease.

This one’s pretty straight forward: you don’t want to get yourself into situations that are unhygienic at the best of times, let alone when you’re with child and your immunity is already low, so it might be best to avoid breeding grounds of disease. Think hospitals visiting sick friends and family, or primary schools during flu season – it’s just not worth risking it.

What are the best things you think should be done before birth?