Let’s face it, this mom gig is hard in 2021! For some moms, “villages” have gotten very small these days. Pregnant moms have a few extra things to worry about and these can lead to anxiety and fear. And everyone has a horror story or opinion to give you, but this isn’t their pregnancy. The first step towards enjoying your pregnancy, bonding with your baby, and enjoying your new family is to separate fact from fiction, deal with things rationally, and know where to get help if you still have questions or need support.
One of the first things you will deal with as a pregnant mom is your diet. Everyone will tell you what you shouldn’t eat from the moment you announce your pregnancy. The fact is that there aren’t very many things that you should avoid completely- even the infamous caffeine! Less than 200 mg of caffeine a day is safe. Be aware of the many different forms it can take: tea, coffee, health water drinks, soda, cocoa, even some candy, and gum!
Things to avoid completely are high mercury fish (tuna, swordfish), raw sprouts, and alcohol.
Things to eat in moderation after washing well, verifying pasteurization, or cooking until well done: low mercury fish (salmon, cod), meat, eggs, deli meat, hot dogs, unpasteurized dairy products, and unwashed produce. Processed foods (chips, cookies) should be eaten in moderation, if not eliminated completely.
This leaves a long list of healthy foods for you and your baby to enjoy, such as fruits, berries, vegetables, avocados, beans, cooked meat and seafood, pasteurized dairy and juice, cheese, yogurt, whole grains, nuts, sweet potatoes/yams, eggs, and more. Starting your baby off with a healthy diet in your tummy will decrease his chances of poor health later. It will also make you feel good and have more energy. Who doesn’t need more energy during pregnancy?!? Don’t feel guilty if you indulge in the occasional treat though!
Another diet-related worry is gaining too much weight or not being able to lose it after the baby is born. Weight gain during pregnancy is not a cookie-cutter issue. The rules change for each mama and her unique situation. Comparing yourself to other mamas and negative self-talk isn’t helpful. You’re the only you there is and you’re all your baby needs. Talk to your provider about their recommendations for you. Follow the suggestions above for a healthy diet. Follow an exercise plan approved by your provider, or just focus on getting moving and stretching. All of these will help you gain the right amount of weight and be able to lose it afterward. Also, give yourself grace. This is a hard time and perfection isn’t realistic.
A big concern, especially in the first trimester, is vaginal spotting/bleeding, miscarriage, or not hearing a heartbeat. Light vaginal bleeding is common as the embryo attaches to the uterine lining. Early miscarriages are mostly caused by chromosomal abnormalities. Light vaginal bleeding can come after intercourse or a vaginal exam. If a heartbeat is seen on a 6-7 week sonogram, the chance of miscarriage drops below 5%. If you’re having worries, remind yourself of the good or enjoyable parts of your pregnancy. Let your feelings out to a supportive partner, friend, or family member. However, if the nagging feelings won’t go away, trust your mama instincts and see your provider for an exam. Heavy bleeding means you should see your provider right away or go to the hospital.
Feeding the baby is another thing mamas think about. Am I going to breastfeed, formula feed, pump and bottle feed, or a combination? The truth is that a FED baby is best and you can’t sacrifice your mental health over it. Any way you choose to feed your baby will be fine. If you’re concerned about how to get started breastfeeding or how to reach your goals, and antenatal hand expression seminar might be right for you. You’ll learn to feel comfortable with your breasts, get your colostrum supply started, and have your own stash of “liquid gold” to feed your baby after the birth. You’ll already know how to hand express and stimulate milk production if your baby doesn’t eat right away or you are separated. Your colostrum is also the biggest barrier between your baby and all of the nasty germs going around right now. In the end, feeding is a personal choice and there is no wrong answer.
The thought of pain during and after the birth makes a lot of moms stop and think. There are lots of techniques that you can practice before birth to prepare. Even if you’re not planning on natural childbirth, it’s good to know a few of these techniques as pain relief can sometimes take a while to achieve. Options while in labor include changing positions frequently, breathing exercises, birthing balls, hydrotherapy, oral or intravenous pain medication, nitrous oxide, and epidural. Please talk to your provider about the options available to you at your birth. If you have a loose plan in place for the birth and are prepared, you can be relaxed during your labor, which will also decrease your pain perception. A rigid plan with no plans for changes in your situation will only lead to disappointment when your “perfect” birth isn’t achieved.
Lastly, to address the elephant in the room, Covid safety. This is a situation where it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you. You must decide what you are comfortable with in terms of protecting you and your baby, isolating, family/visitors, and the plan for the pregnancy, the birth, and afterward. Whatever you choose, include your support person and have them back you up during your vulnerable time. Tell all of your friends and family your plan and ask for their support and understanding. Set your boundaries early and don’t let anyone push you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Most hospitals are only allowing 1 support person during your stay.
Breathing exercises are a good way to lessen your anxiety. Breathe in for 10 seconds, breathe out for 10 seconds, and think “let it go” as you relax your body. Breathe in, breathe out, let it go. Repeat as many times as needed to calm yourself. This breathing technique will get you through many challenging situations as a mama and the rest of your life. Just wait until your sweet baby is a teenager. I do this breathing several times a day!
Contact your local Mama Coach, who can prepare a professional, personalized prenatal and antenatal hand expression class just for you. We also offer postpartum/newborn support and lactation counseling. We are registered nurses and we give scientifically proven advice, along with big doses of empathy and no judgment to help make motherhood easier for you.
If you are still having anxiety and negative thoughts that persist despite these interventions, you may have intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts take over your mind and inhibit your ability to function. The thoughts insist that something bad is going to happen. The first step is to label these thoughts. “This is an intrusive thought. Thoughts are only thoughts and they can’t hurt me or my family. Thoughts aren’t actions and they’re not real.” If you still need help, Postpartum Support International is a wonderful resource to help moms and dads around the world to deal with mental health in the childbearing years, not just postpartum. They help you find local specialized support. They also have support groups for parents of every kind. They do not handle emergencies. Call 911 in an emergency. Go to www.postpartum.net/resources or call/text the Warmline at 800-944-4PPD (4773) and they will get back to you within 24 hours.
Congratulations on your pregnancy and you got this mama!