Information on options available to Australian women upon finding out they are pregnant can be found in our brochure on unplanned pregnancy (bottom of this page). Family Planning NT recommends making an appointment with your General Practitioner or Family Planning clinic if you would like information on available options or further support in pregnancy.
Having a healthy pregnancy
DIET: During pregnancy women may gain about 10-15 kg. You do not need to eat special foods nor do you need to “eat for two”. If you are normal weight and are well, just eat a little more, if you are overweight, aim not to gain too much. Dieting during pregnancy is not recommended.
Growing babies require lots of protein, minerals and vitamins. These are best obtained in the mother’s diet from foods such as: lean meat, eggs, cheese, fish, milk (preferably low fat), yogurt, whole grain cereals and bread, fresh fruit and vegetable (especially green leafy vegetable). You may be a strict vegetarian or be on a special diet, which may be inadequate for your baby’s health. Please ask your doctor, midwife or dietician for advice.
Some foods are best taken in small amounts or avoided as they contain a lot of fat and sugar and may lead to gaining excessive weight and other health problems. For example: fried foods, sausages, hamburgers, ice cream, pastries, biscuits, chips, lollies, chocolates and fizzy drinks.
DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: pregnancy women need additional calcium, iron and folate because of the rapid growth of the baby. A folic acid supplement is recommended in early pregnancy to help prevent abnormalities. Some women will also need an iron supplement. Remember to also have lots of low-fat calcium-rich foods in your diet. It is important that your diet is not deficient in iodine. The ocean is the world’s major source of iodine. Select salt-water fish and seafood. If using salt, choose iodised salt.
DENTAL CARE: health teeth and gums are important during pregnancy. Hormonal changes can make pregnancy a common time for tooth decay and gum disease. It is recommended that you have a dental check-up as part of your pregnancy care and brush and floss regularly. Ensure you tell the dentist you are pregnant as x-rays should e avoided.
EXERCISE: moderate exercise is good for you and your baby. Staying fit through pregnancy will help you recover more quickly after the birth. Avoid exhausting or hazardous exercise (especially water skiing) or new athletic training programmes and avoid contact sports after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Swimming and walking are the best exercise for pregnant women. Be careful to avoid ‘overheating’ and dehydration – drink water whilst exercising and exercise during the cooler times of day. Stretching and strengthening exercises such as Yoga may help prevent aches and pains but should be tailored for pregnant women.
ILLNESS: if you are suffering from any illness such as: diabetes, kidney problems, epilepsy, asthma, high blood pressure, etc you should see you doctor for advice. These conditions need to be well controlled during your pregnancy.
LISTERIOSIS: this is a very rare infection. The bacteria which causes the infection may be found in the following foods: pate, smoked seafood, soft cheeses, cooked diced chicken, cold meat products, raw seafood and prepared or stored salads. It would be better to avoid these foods during pregnancy
MEDICATIONS: some medicines can cause abnormalities in the development of the baby and as a general rule all medications should be avoided especially during the first 3 months of pregnancy, if you need to take any medication check with your doctor or pharmacist, if you have a headache PARACETAMOL is safe to take (DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN). If you are currently taking medication for a specific medical condition continue to take the medication and consult your doctor as soon as possible if you are unsure if your medications are safe.
PETS: some pets, especially cats, can carry diseases which can be passed on to the unborn child. Pregnant women should always wash their hands, after handling pets and wear gloves if handling “kitty litter” and when gardening.
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you should check with your employer to ensure you are not working with chemicals or radiation that may harm the baby.
TOBACCO: smoking during pregnancy may cause harm to your baby and affect its health in infancy and later in life. You should therefore aim to stop smoking during the pregnancy. For further information contact The Quit Line (ph: 131484) or talk with your doctor or midwife.
ALCOHOL: alcohol use during pregnancy can result in serious damage to your baby known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. The best option is not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
RECREATIONAL DRUGS: marijuana, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and other drugs should be AVOIDED during pregnancy as they can harm the baby.
TRAVEL: if you are intending to travel to foreign countries you should consult your doctor for advice about continuing pregnancy care and travel health.
X-RAYS: large amounts of radiation may harm your baby so x-rays should be avoided unless there is a good medical reason.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When am I due?
Pregnancy normally lasts 40 weeks (9 months & 1 week) from the date of the START of the last menstrual period. It is still considered normal if the baby arrives any time between 37 and 42 weeks. 78% of babies are born between 40-41 weeks. Conception has usually occurred about two weeks after the last period but particularly if your cycle is irregular it may have happened before or after this. Things can be further confused for example if you skip a period before becoming pregnant or if you have a bleed in early pregnancy which resembles a period. Your doctor will give you a due date based on a combination of information from your dates, the findings when you are examined and your ultrasound scan.
How long can I work?
Most women can safely continue working until about 34 weeks. This may be cut short or prolonged based on how you are feeling and whether any problems arise in your pregnancy.
Is Sex OK?
It is normally quite safe to continue having sex during pregnancy, but check with your doctor/midwife if you have any concerns.
How much should be baby be moving?
Most women first notice their baby’s movement around 20 weeks of pregnancy. Every woman experiences her baby’s movements differently, both how they feel and how often they happen. You would expect to feel at least 10 movements in a 12 hour period, say 9am -9pm Baby’s movements are a sign of its well-being and it is very important that if you feel that your baby is moving less than usual that you phone your doctor/midwife or the hospital.
How do I know I’m in labour?
Many women have a ‘show’ of a small amount of blood and mucus and some women find their waters break before going into labour. Labour pains feel a bit like period pains, only stronger. When they are strong (ie so much that they stop you walking and talking) and regular (about every 5 minutes or closer) then you are probably in labour. If in doubt phone the delivery suite of your hospital or your midwife or doctor.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT …..
Morning sickness, nausea & vomiting?
This common complaint usually lasts until 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. Keep some plain low fat biscuits by your bedside to have before getting up in the morning. Eat frequent small meals, stay well hydrated and keep low fat snacks ready to hand. You may have strong cravings for foods you do not normally eat. Be ready to experiment. Listen to your body! Extra Ginger or Vitamin B6 may help. If these things do not help and you continue to vomit see your doctor. Severe vomiting in pregnancy affects approximately one woman in 100.
Eat small frequent meals and do not eat within 2 hours of bedtime. Try raising the head of the bed (1 brick under each side). Over-the-counter heartburn remedies used as directed are safe. Plain yoghurt has also been known to provide relief. If pain is severe or persists see your doctor.
Constipation and Haemorrhoids
Constipation is common as pregnancy hormones make the bowel sluggish. Aim for a high fibre diet (fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain breads, figs, prunes and high fibre cereal) with plenty of fluids (10-12 glasses per day) and moderate exercise for 30 minutes daily. If constipation or haemorrhoids persist see you pharmacist for preparations safe to use in pregnancy.
Your body is working very hard at this time maintaining your pregnancy, growing the baby and preparing your body for breastfeeding. Most women will need more sleep and rest than usual, especially in the first and last months of pregnancy. Listen to your body; rest when you feel tired and eat well. A midday nap may be helpful.
A small amount of vaginal bleeding in the first 3 months of pregnancy is common and usually does not lead to miscarriage. This causes worry for many women. If the bleeding persists for more than 2-3 days, gets heavier or becomes painful contact your doctor straight away. If you have any bleeding after 12 weeks of pregnancy you should see your doctor or contact your hospital immediately.
As the ligaments soften and stretch in preparation for birth you may experience lower back, thigh, groin or buttock pain. Try an afternoon rest and wear low-heeled shoes. Heat, massage and paracetamol may help. If pain is troublesome see your physiotherapist as specific exercises and aids can be very helpful. In the case of 2nd or 3rd pregnancies wearing cotton/lycra bike pants may give added support!
This often felt in the first and early second trimester as the uterus grows and rises from the pelvis stretching the ligaments in the groin and lower abdomen. Women often experience stitch-like pains which usually subside in about 15 – 20 mins. Hot packs may help. If pain is prolonged or severe see your doctor.
Avoid prolonged standing and aim for an afternoon rest with your feet up. Swimming is a very good exercise as it relieves the pressure on the legs and allows the leg muscles to work well giving good relief. Support stockings may help if the veins are painful
The GPNNT would like to thank the North West Tasmania Division of General Practice as much of this information has been taken from their Antenatal Shared Care booklet.