Ultrasounds scans are definitely the highlight of pregnancy. Seeing your unborn baby moving about (or in my case, lying calmly) in your belly is a very exciting and magical experience. I’ve had both my scans already (I wish there would be more), but my Baby G (yes, it’s a girl!) is developing well and my husband and I are very happy!
“Just found out you’re pregnant and not quite sure what to do next? Why not start with these first trimester essentials?”
I kid you not, being pregnant is exhausting. Sure, it’s exciting – you’re bringing another life into this world after all; and sure, there are some magical moments that you’ll never forget, like when you first see your baby on an ultrasound or when you first feel your baby kick. But that doesn’t change the fact that being pregnant is exhausting, both physically and mentally, and the first trimester is the worst (at least for me): that’s when my energy level was at it’s all-time low and my morning sickness was at its prime. If you’re a first time mum-to-be like me, chances are, you’ll also find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the amount of information available about pregnancy.
So, I thought I’d create a list of first trimester essentials based on my personal experience, and I hope it would provide a useful starting point, especially for first time mums-to-be, to get organised.
1. If you haven’t already, start taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement
These supplements are really important for your baby’s development. Ideally, you should start taking them when you’re trying to conceive, but if you haven’t done so, then start as soon as possible. You can buy them separately, or if you prefer, you can take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet – that way, you can be assured that your body will get all the vitamins it needs. I’m taking Pregnacare, but there are quite a few all-in-one pregnancy tablets out there – just pick the one that you like.
2. Book your first antenatal appointment with your midwife
Get a referral from your GP or if your local hospital has a midwife hotline you can call (mine do), by all means, refer yourself and save the trouble of having to make a trip to the GP. Ideally, you should do this between 8 weeks and 12 weeks as it can take up to 2 weeks for them to give you an appointment (possibly longer if you have to first made an appointment with your GP). At your first antenatal appointment, you’ll be given a record book (that is, your pregnancy notes, which you have to bring to all your subsequent appointments) and a Bounty pack, which contains money-off coupons, a mum-to-be pack voucher you can redeem at Boots, Argos or Asda, and a week-by-week pregnancy guide. Your midwife will take your weight, height, blood and urine sample, check your blood pressure, and calculate your BMI. She’ll also ask you about your medical history, lifestyle, etc, and give you information about eating healthily, exercising, who to call if you have any questions, and where to go in case of an emergency. Although, you won’t be able to see your baby or listen to your baby’s heartbeat at this appointment. If you haven’t heard from the hospital about your dating scan, tell your midwife and she’ll sort it out for you.
3. Follow up on your dating scan appointment
If one week has passed since your first antenatal appointment and you still haven’t heard from the hospital, call the antenatal clinic! I’m glad I did. The first time I called, I was told that they were dealing with a backlog of scans, but my name was on the list and I should receive an appointment letter from them within the next couple of days. One week later, I called them again; this time, they couldn’t find my name on the list. By then, I was almost 15 weeks and anxious. So, I was told to come in the same week. The scan itself lasted about 20 minutes. It was magical – I saw my baby for the first time and saw (not only listened to) its heart beating! Don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby (mine was £4 each). At the scan also, you’ll be asked if you want to get your baby tested for down syndrome. If you’re too advanced in your pregnancy (like me), you’ll be offered the quadruple blood test instead of the combined test. Either way, you should receive your result within the week (earlier if your baby is in the high risk category).
4. Decide if and when you want to share the good news with friends and family
I’d wait until after you had your first scan, just to be sure that everything is okay. Not to be mean or anything, but sadly, miscarriage is an all too common event, particularly during the first trimester. It happened to me and it happened to some of my friends. That’s why most people prefer to break the news when they’re in the second trimester. Of course, the decision is ultimately yours.
5. Watch what you eat and listen to your body
No alcohol (or if you really must, limit it to no more than 1 or 2 units, once or twice a week). No raw or partially cooked meat, fish, eggs, etc (I think it’s easier to just avoid anything raw and make sure your foods are piping hot; I even grill cold cuts, like ham, etc!). No liver. No pate. No soft cheeses with white rinds. No soft blue cheeses. No unpasteurised milk. No vitamin A. No fish liver oil supplement. No shark, swordfish or marlin. Cut down on fish with high mercury level. Cut down on oily fish. Cut down on caffeine (limit it to 200mg a day). Cut down on foods that are high in sugar, fat, or both.
Other than that, I’d say, listen to your body and eat whatever makes you feel good. For example, certain kinds of food (like, cold sandwiches) make me sick, so, I avoid them; starchy foods, on the other hand, help with my morning sickness and keep my energy level high, so, I eat more of them. Seafood has no effect on me, so, I continue to eat them (despite people telling me that I shouldn’t be eating shellfish – but hey, as long as it’s properly cooked and piping hot, I don’t see why not). For me, there’s really no right or wrong way of eating when you’re pregnant. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I can say this because I had a miscarriage back in April and I did everything ‘right’. Go figure. Oh, and it’s a known myth that you have to eat for two.
6. Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicine
Certain medicines are not safe for your baby. If you’re not sure, ask. Better be safe than sorry. Paracetamol is fine (I’ve confirmed it with my midwife) – that’s about the only medicine I take ever since I found out I was pregnant.
7. Get a flu jab
Just because there’s a higher chance of developing complications if you get the flu when you’re pregnant. And it’s free, so why not? You don’t have to go to your GP if you don’t want to or if it’s not convenient to do so; I got mine at Boots during my lunch hour and my husband got his at Tesco. Remember to tell them you’re pregnant, otherwise you’ll have to pay.
8. Keep yourself active
Exercise! It’ll help maintain your weight gain, combat fatigue, and prepare you for labour. To be honest, I’d do anything that would help ease labour! Wouldn’t you? Be safe though – this is certainly not the right time to try out some adventure sports! I do yoga once a week and I cycle to work every day. Other kinds of activity that you could try include walking, jogging, and swimming. And don’t forget to do your pelvic muscle exercises daily.
9. Get enough rest
You’ll be exhausted… really exhausted… all the time… I know I am, and I’m in my second trimester. Yes, it’s worst in the first trimester (blame the rapid change of hormones level!), but it never truly goes away. So, rest whenever you can! Lounge in front of the TV, relax, sleep, or get a massage (pure bliss!).
10. Wear something comfortable
Chances are, you’ll feel hotter and you’ll sweat more than usual. So, wear comfortable clothing to stay… well, comfortable.
11. If you smoke, stop!
It’s bad for the baby. Enough said.
12. Take extra care when you clean the house or handle chemicals
My husband freaked out the first time I cleaned the house as a pregnant woman! I had to assure him (Google was my friend) that most cleaning products are safe to use during pregnancy. As far as I know, the only two things that you must absolutely avoid when you’re pregnant are oven cleaners and insects’ killer. Just make sure that when you clean, the room is well ventilated, and wear protective gloves (obviously).
13. Start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival
It’s never too early to start. In fact, start now to get your hands on amazing bargains. You’d be surprised at how much you could save. Let this post be your guide: “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“.
You might also want to start looking into life insurance (if you don’t already have one). Some companies (such as, Asda and Post Office) offer up to £10,000 free life cover for new parents effective from the day you apply until your baby’s first birthday. Let me say it again, it’s free, so you’ve got no excuse!
14. Start looking into antenatal classes
There are NHS-run classes, which are free and held in your local hospital, and there are NCT-run classes, which can be quite expensive and held in a number of your local community centres. The NCT-run classes are supposed to be the Queen of all antenatal classes (at least, that’s what people say). Based on my research online, I decided to sign up for these; I can tell you it’s quite pricey: my husband and I paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. But, our first class is not until January 2015, so I can’t tell you yet whether they are worth the price. Nevertheless, start doing some research – apparently, these classes get booked up very quickly (I booked mine back in September). You might also want to start looking into pregnancy yoga. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the benefits of doing yoga. Even if you’re not a fan of yoga or have never done yoga before, this might be the perfect time to take it up – why pass up something that would help increase your strength, flexibility and muscles endurance needed for childbirth? After all, I thought we’d agreed that we’d do anything that would help ease labour, right?
15. Get dad-to-be involved
It’ll make your journey easier if your partner is aware of and understands what’s going on with your body when you’re pregnant. As I’ve said earlier, being pregnant is exhausting – physically and mentally – so, don’t do it alone! He’s sharing your joy, why not let him share your pain as well? Get him to download your favourite pregnancy apps on his phone or buy him a book. I bought 2 books for my husband: “The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need To Know” and “Pregnancy for Men: The Whole Nine Month” – they’re now his bedtime reading; he said they’re not particularly good, but at least, he’s ‘in the know’ and I’m sure he’ll find some of the information useful at some point.
16. Educate yourself about pregnancy, follow your baby development, and talk to other mums-to-be
It has never been easier to do all the above today – there are plenty of great apps you can download, newsletter you can sign up to, websites you can go to, forums you can join and even free books you can order. Here are some of my favourites:
- Mobile apps: Baby Centre and Ovia Pregnancy.
- Websites: NHS, Baby Centre, Mumsnet , Netmums (one thing I like about Netmums is that you can search for news and events within your locality), and Tommy’s.
- Free books: Tommy’s Having a Healthy Pregnancy (they’ll post it to you if you order it from their website), Bounty‘s Pregnancy Guide (which you’ll get at your first antenatal appointment) and Baby Product Guide (included in the Bounty’s mum-to-be pack), Boots’ Bump, Birth and Baby catalogue (you can get this in store), and Babies R Us catalogue (you can order this online). I know the last two are catalogues, but they are pretty good and there are quite a few money-off coupons in there.
- Forums: Baby Centre Community and Birth Clubs (where you can connect with other mums-to-be, including those due in the same month as you, and share your experiences).
- Newsletters: NHS, Baby Centre, and Bounty (which includes weekly offers on maternity and baby products).
17. Call your midwife if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms or if you’re just feeling anxious generally
I suppose that’s it. I hope you find this post useful.