Here are some frequently asked questions and answers. For more questions and answers and many more videos covering a range of topics, download the free Baby Buddy App on your phone or tablet or visit Baby :Buddy :on-line.
- 1. What are some of the warning signs that people should be aware of during pregnancy? What should they do if they experience any of them?
- If you are worried about anything during your pregnancy, or you feel that something is not quite right, seek advice from your health professional immediately. All maternity services have 24/7 telephone numbers that you can call in this situation. Your midwife would rather be able to put your mind at rest rather than you miss the opportunity to spot something important. There are a number of specific warning signs that should not be ignored, whatever stage of your pregnancy you are at. These include:
- A change in the baby’s movements Is my baby moving enough?
- Signs of bleeding or watery discharge Is my baby moving enough?
- Significant swelling of the hands, feet and face Pre-eclampsia – the facts
- Excessive itchiness (especially at night) Itching – what does it mean?
- Blurred vision Pre-eclampsia – the facts
- Persistent and severe headache Pre-eclampsia – the facts
- 2. Are there certain things that increase the risk of something going wrong in pregnancy?
- Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs, will increase your risk of stillbirth or neonatal death. By ensuring you lead a healthy lifestyle, before and during your pregnancy, you will give yourself and your baby the best chance of a positive and healthy outcome.
- 3. How can you ensure that any warning signs are detected early?
- If you feel that something is not right at any stage of your pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from a health professional.
You should register your pregnancy as soon as you are aware of it, as this means that you will have the opportunity for regular antenatal check-ups, where a health professional can monitor the health and well-being of both you and your baby and detect any early warning signs.
- 4. Do women have to attend antenatal appointments?
- Attending antenatal appointments from the start of your pregnancy will help to ensure that you receive all the information, clinical advice, care and monitoring that you and your baby need, to help make sure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. Antenatal appointments are also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have, raise any concerns and learn about how your baby is developing. Antenatal visits – what’s the point?
- 5. As well as antenatal appointments, what other steps should a mother-to- be take to be as healthy as possible?
- Ensuring you have the recommended immunisations during pregnancy is important because it will help to protect both you and your baby.
Doing regular exercise. Tips for staying active
Having a healthy diet.
Washing food, general hygiene when eating, touching pets and avoiding people with contagious infection or illness can all help to protect mum and baby during pregnancy.
There are two vaccinations in particular that mums-to-be should consider.
First, the flu jab. All pregnant women are offered this free of charge and they can have it at any stage in their pregnancy. If you contract flu when you are pregnant it can be more of a risk to you than if you were not pregnant, and this will also mean a higher risk of complications for your baby.
The whooping cough vaccine is also offered to all women in the third trimester of their pregnancy. This vaccination will help to protect your baby from whopping cough in the womb and in the first three months of its life.
- 6. Why do some women decline to have these jabs then, given the risks of not having them?
- Women should be provided with accurate information to make an informed choice as to whether to have these immunisations during their pregnancy and based on this information some women may choose not to proceed with them. The risks associated with having the jab are far smaller than the risk of not having it. However, there are some who people don’t like injections, and are worried about feeling sore or unwell after the injection.
- 7. What about other infections?
- When pregnant, you should try and avoid coming into contact with people who might have contagious illnesses such as stomach upsets, chicken pox or scarlet fever.
It is also important that you are strict about your hygiene practices. It is hard to completely avoid common colds but washing your hands after being out or after using the toilet and before preparing and eating food are all sensible and easy ways of helping to avoid germs.
- 8. Are there any other less well known infections that women should be aware of in pregnancy?
- Yes, group B strep. This is a mainly harmless bacteria which is common in women. However, in a small number of cases it can be passed onto the baby at the time of delivery. Your midwife can talk to you at antenatal appointments about the factors which increase the risk of a baby having a group B strep infection.
In addition, having unprotected sex with someone who might have sexual transmitted disease (STD) would mean you were at risk of contracting an STD. This is a risk at any time, of course, but if you contract an STD whilst pregnant, it may impact on your baby too. If you are concerned about contracting an STD you should speak to a health professional.
- 9. What are the best ways of staying healthy during pregnancy?
- Keeping active and eating healthily are especially important during pregnancy. Tips for staying active
You should keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if a health professional advises you to.
If you stay fit and healthy during pregnancy, it can help your pregnancy and birth, as well as helping you regain your shape after your baby is born.
- 10. What about ‘eating for two’? Do you not need to eat more to feed your growing baby?
- Eating for two is a myth. You actually only need an extra 200 calories a day whilst pregnant. This is the equivalent of two slices of wholemeal toast, or a piece of fruit.
You don’t need to go on a special diet, but it’s important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
- 11. Are there any foods that you should avoid during pregnancy?
- Yes, there are certain foods that you should avoid or take care with when you’re pregnant, because they might make you ill or harm your baby. Your midwife or GP will advise you of these at one of your early antenatal appointments. You can find additional information at: web.bestbeginnings.org.uk/web/ask-a-question
- 12. What about alcohol? There are lots of different ideas about whether you should or should not drink aren’t there?
- The safest way to ensure your baby is not at risk from alcohol is to not drink at all throughout your pregnancy. Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink the greater the risk.
There is a whole range of advice and support available to help if you find this a difficult thing to do and your midwife can advise and support you through the process.
Can I drink? The facts
- 13. What about women who find stopping drinking too difficult to manage?
- The best thing is to be open and honest with a health professional that you trust. They will want to help and support you in the best way they can. If you find giving up drinking difficult, there is a range of advice and help available and you should speak to a health professional about what is available in your local area.
Can I drink? The facts
- 14. Is this true of other drugs as well?
- Yes – there advice, support and guidance available for women who are dependent on drugs and discover they are pregnant.
If you regularly use drugs it’s important to tackle this now you’re pregnant. However, it’s best not to stop abruptly without first seeking medical advice as there may be withdrawal problems or other side effects. Being open and honest with a health professional you trust early on in your pregnancy will enable them to get the help and support you need as soon as possible.
- 15. Smoking during pregnancy also has risks too doesn’t it?
- It does. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk to your baby of being stillborn, premature birth and health and developmental problems in childhood and later life.
Smoking narrows the blood vessels meaning less oxygen and nutrients pass to your baby during pregnancy which can affect your baby’s growth. The best thing you can do for the health of your baby is to stop smoking, whatever stage you are at in your pregnancy. A huge amount of free advice is available to help you and those close to you to stop smoking. Your midwife, GP or pharmacist can help you.Can I smoke? The facts
You can also call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 123 1044. It is open 9am-8pm Monday to Friday, and 11am-5pm at weekendsand can offer free help, support and advice on stopping smoking, including when you’re pregnant. It can also give you details of local support services.How I stopped smoking
- 16. What about secondary smoke from those around you?
- Passive smoking can also harm your baby so try and avoid smoky places when pregnant. Encouraging those close to you to stop smoking is best for you and your baby in the longer term as well.
- 17. Clearly pregnancy is an exciting time for most parents-to-be. What about those women who find it harder to cope?
- While pregnancy and having a new baby can be an extremely exciting and happy time for many women and their partners, others find the changes that they and their families go through extremely difficult.
There is help and support available for women who have mental health problems during pregnancy. It’s much more common than people may think with depression during pregnancy affecting around 1 in 8 women. Many women feel more vulnerable and anxious while pregnant and after the birth, and so midwives, GP’s and health visitors should ask women about their mental health during pregnancy and after the birth.
- 18. How do those women with existing mental health conditions deal with pregnancy? Obviously there must be issues around taking medication, for example?
- Having a mental health condition does not mean that you cannot have a healthy and happy pregnancy and postnatal experience.
If you do have a pre-existing, severe mental health problem, you are more likely to become ill during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth than at other times in your life. After giving birth, severe mental health problems may also progress more quickly and be more severe.
Being pregnant does bring with it a number of challenges, in terms of medication and treatment. It’s important to speak to your doctor or midwife when becoming pregnant, as stopping medication could make a mental health condition return or get worse. You should discuss with your doctor the risk of treating or not treating your illness as well as the risks to the developing baby of taking medication.My mental health matters
- 19. What types of mental health problems can women encounter during pregnancy?
- Mental health falls into two categories: those with existing mental health problems and those women who develop mental health issues during or after pregnancy.
Perinatal / post-natal depression:
- Whilst pregnancy and birth can be an extremely exciting and happy time for many women, others find the changes that they and their families go through extremely difficult to cope with.
- A wealth of information and support is available to both women and their families who find the change in their lives challenging to deal with.
- Whilst having a baby can feel lonely and isolating at times, there are plenty of people who can listen, support and help you through your depression / anxiety.
- The most important thing is to not suffer alone: seek help, speak to someone.
Existing mental health conditions:
- Having a mental health condition does not mean that you cannot have a healthy and happy pregnancy or birth.
- Being pregnant does bring with it a number of challenges, in terms of medication and treatment, and physical and hormonal changes to your body. Your midwife and GP can advise and support you to manage these.
- The most important thing is to be open and upfront with your healthcare providers from the moment you know you are pregnant, so they can support and help you through your pregnancy and the post-natal period.
- 20. What is the most important piece of advice to women who might be struggling with their mental health during pregnancy?
- Whilst having a baby can feel lonely and isolating at times, there are people who can listen, support and help you through your anxieties. If you are not comfortable talking with family or friends, then speak to your GP or midwife about how you are feeling. The most important thing is to be open and upfront with your healthcare providers from the moment you know you are pregnant, so they can support and help you through your pregnancy and the post-natal period.
- 21. Once your baby has arrived, that too is a huge period of adjustment for new parents too isn’t it?
- Absolutely. The first few days with your new baby can feel overwhelming, and your emotions can go from extreme joy and love, to sadness and at times despair. This is completely normal.
- 22. What about if these feeling don’t go away?
- If you feel persistently down or anxious, you should not feel afraid to ask for help from a family member, friend or health professional you trust.
Every new parent will have support from their midwife and then health visitor. They can advise you and suggest suitable help.
- 23. Are there any other health concerns new mums should be aware of?
- Every new mum bleeds after the birth of her baby. This is normal and the flow of blood and tissue will be heavier than a normal period – lochia. Clotting occurs in the womb as it gets rid of the lining that has protected your baby during your pregnancy. If you have a clot that is bigger than a 50p however, you should speak to your midwife straight away.
- 24. Is pregnancy painful?
- Some cramping and pain is normal as the womb contracts and the body gets rid of the womb lining. If the pain is very severe though, you should seek medical advice as it could be the sign of infection.
- 25. Are there any other signs to look out for?
- If the discharge or lochia smells strange, if you feel faint or dizzy, or if you develop a fever, you should seek medical help right away.