Frequently Asked Questions: Pregnancy

What an exciting journey you have just started! Being a mum-to-be, you'll have so many questions about what to expect when you're pregnant (....and beyond).

Here are answers to some of the more common queries that may be on your mind.

Frequently asked pregnancy questions

Having a newborn baby in your home is an experience like no other, but getting as organized as possible will definitely make it easier to settle into your new routine.

Here are a few things to think about before your baby arrives:

Your tiny fashion icon – in the early days simple vests and sleep suits are probably the easiest for your baby to wear. Make sure you’ve washed any new clothes beforehand– your baby’s skin will be very delicate!

Going places – now is the time to work out how to fit the capsule seat in the car and assemble the buggy. This is not something you’ll want to struggle with some time when you’re really exhausted.

A spot for baby –set up your baby’s bassinet or cot in your house.  Many parents choose to have a cot in their bedroom right beside their own bed; it’s a safe place for a newborn. Think about getting blackout curtains too. This can help babies learn the difference between day and night.

Stock up on storage  - invest in a few baskets or containers and fill them with nappies, a changing mat, wipes and spare outfits. You can keep a couple around the house, maybe one upstairs and one downstairs if you have a two-storey home. These are handy for on-the-spot nappy changes as there are likely to be times when you’re too tired to hunt down the various things you need separately.

Fill that freezer - it can be a good idea to devote a whole day to cooking before the baby comes. It’s really important to keep eating well after you’ve given birth – your body has been through a lot. If you’re breastfeeding you also need to be getting the right nutrients to properly care for your baby.
You can make some heat’n’eat meals to keep in the freezer for when you don’t have time to spend in the kitchen, or buy ready-made meals from the supermarket.

Shampoo and snip  it might pay to grab a low maintenance hair cut now, as it’ll be hard to find time when you have a newborn around.

The right bra for the job – yes, you’ll need nursing bras! If you get measured after 37 weeks it’ll ensure they fit properly after the birth.

It’s all about the people you know  think about a list of essential phone numbers (like your doctor's surgery and a breast feeding helpline) so you can get help easily with any postnatal concerns. You can also swap phone numbers and email addresses with your antenatal friends, and make a date for meeting up after the birth. It’s good to have other mums around as they’ll really be able to empathize.

Grocery shopping from your couch – tackling a trip around the supermarket may be the last thing you feel like doing when you have a newborn at home. Think about setting up an online grocery shopping account so you can have everything you need delivered right to your door.

Resting up – now’s the time to make the most of any long lie-ins you have. And, if you’re not too tired, find some time for you and your partner to go out together for dinner or a movie. It could be difficult to spend time with just the two of you for a wee while.

Cravings might seem like a cliché but a lot of women get them, and they can create some bizarre combinations of food. Some experts also believe that cravings are your body's way of telling you it needs more of certain nutrients.

A lot of women will experience a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy, and since aroma can shape taste you might find this affects what you feel like eating. The smell of fried onions, which used to be heavenly, might start turning your stomach when you’re pregnant.

You might also notice your favourite perfume smells different on your body too. This is because hormonal changes can alter your skin's chemistry.

During pregnancy some foods you used to love can suddenly seem like your worst enemy. This is because your sense of taste and smell changes. Some women also get a metallic taste lingering in their mouths, which can make a difference to what you eat. Foods with sharp or tangy flavours like citrus fruit or vinegar can help sometimes help cut through that metallic taste.

Excess saliva production can affect some mums-to-be. It’s especially common in the first trimester, and when you have morning sickness. It won’t last forever, and in the meantime try sucking on a lolly to help you swallow.

From the first day of your period, right through to the end of week 12, you’re in what’s called the first trimester. There are some common body changes that happen around this time, but bear in mind that no two pregnancies are identical. In other words, don’t worry if your experiences differ from the ones mentioned here, or from the ones your friends are talking about.

If at any time you do feel something isn’t right, the best thing to do is see your GP or lead maternity carer. Try not to spend a lot of time dwelling on it, when there may be nothing to worry about.

Morning sickness always hits me in the afternoon

A big surge of pregnancy hormones arrives in your first trimester. Unfortunately this can trigger a feeling of nausea, commonly called morning sickness. It generally peaks around week 10, and it should settle down by weeks 12-13.

While it’s named ‘morning sickness’ it can actually hit you at any time of the day. You might find yours is more like ‘after lunch’ or ‘early evening sickness’. There are also some mums-to-be who experience morning sickness right through till the very end of their pregnancy. Try to remember that it’ll all pass.

Here are a few ways to reduce the nausea:

  • Ginger is good for relieving nausea. Try ginger biscuits or ginger ale
  • Have a milky drink before bed
  • Try sniffing a fresh lemon. Citrus smells can help 
  • Avoid tight waistbands – pressure on your tummy can often make you feel worse 
  • Being tired can also add to feelings of nausea, make sure you get plenty of sleep 
  • East small meals and snacks, rather than big meals. Toast and salty crackers are good. 
  • Get out of bed slowly, so your body doesn’t change positions too quickly. You can also try a cuppa and a small, dry snack before you get up.

Today’s a good day to unwind

The first trimester means you’re in the most critical growth stage for your baby. It’s when all their tiny vital organs are forming. Your hormones will be going crazy, and it can take a toll on your energy levels. It’s perfectly normal to feel run down and emotional during the first trimester, so just relax and take it easy. Try catching up on some reading and DVDs – you’re more than entitled to some downtime!

Gentle exercise works wonders

You might find that light exercise actually increases your energy level. Sport and Recreation NZ (SPARC) recommend that pregnant women engage in some moderate physical activity at least three times a week. Walking, jogging and swimming are all good options. You can also try yoga and low impact aerobics. Avoid anything so strenuous that it gets your heart racing as this could deprive your baby of oxygen. If you’re measuring your heart rate, make 140 beats per minute your maximum.  Now is not the time to start a strenuous exercise regime and always check with your GP or lead maternity carer before starting to exercise.

Ditching the lace for comfy cotton

During the first trimester your breasts may start to feel sore, swollen or tingly. Your body seems to act on its own as, even at this stage, it prepares for breastfeeding. Make sure you have some comfortable bras to get you through. If you were planning on buying new ones, just be aware that your breasts will continue to change so you may not want to splurge.

My mouth seems to be watering all the time

Excess saliva production can affect some mums-to-be. It’s basically a by-product of your changing hormone levels during pregnancy. It’s especially common in the first trimester, and when you have morning sickness. It won’t last forever, and in the meantime try sucking on a lolly to help you swallow.

Stage two of your pregnancy is known as the second trimester, and it runs from around 13 to 28 weeks. Happily, this is when a lot of mums-to-be really start to enjoy being pregnant. Your baby bump will become much more obvious, with any luck your morning sickness will be subsiding, and you might have more energy. 

Stretching is all part of the process

Stretch marks can be common for all women – and not just during pregnancy! This is definitely nothing to worry about, with your baby bump growing it’s inevitable that your skin will stretch a little. You might also get stretch marks on your thighs and breasts, but these will usually fade after the birth. You can also find creams and oils designed to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, or help stop them from forming. These are usually available in your local pharmacy.

Getting a glow on

You’ve probably heard people talk about the glow that pregnant women have, and there’s definitely truth behind it. During your second trimester you’ll have increased levels of a hormone called progesterone. Your skin retains more moisture and your blood volume increases, these are all things that can give your skin that radiant look. You might also find your nails grow much faster and your hair seems thicker.

I’m getting a few funny colored patches

You might have noticed a couple of dark patches of skin showing up on your face. This is caused by melanin, the natural pigment in your skin, darkening because of hormone changes. It should fade after birth, but in the meantime use plenty of sunscreen and follow the regular sun safety rules.

You may develop a dark line that runs vertically down the middle of your baby bump. Don’t panic – this is normal too. It’s called the linea nigra and will probably fade after birth too.

I’ve got a tiny sports star in the making

Baby kicks are something you can look forward to during your second trimester. You could be feeling these any time from around 20 weeks. If this isn’t your first pregnancy it’s not uncommon to start feeling kicks even earlier.

I’m a little blocked up....

You might find you get constipated during pregnancy. Drinking plenty of water (six to eight glasses a day) can help. You should also get plenty of fibre in your diet. Wholegrain breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables are all great.

Tips for including more fibre in your meals:

  • Swap white bread for wholegrain
  • Choose cereals like wheat biscuits, muesli or porridge
  • Snack on fruit and nuts
  • Add baked beans to mince dishes, or as a topping on your baked potato
  • Bulk up your dinner with veges and salads
  • Have plenty of frozen veges on hand. These are easy to add to stir frys
  • Add fruit to your breakfast. Sliced banana on wholegrain bread is delicious 

Heartburn always gets me at night

Unfortunately heartburn and indigestion are common during pregnancy, especially in the later stages. It’s that burning sensation you get when acid moves out of your stomach and into your oesophagus . Eating small amounts more often can help, as can having a milky drink before bed. Avoid spicy, fatty foods as they can make the problem worse.

Final stage! The third trimester runs from 28 weeks until birth. It’s during this time that your baby’s weight will triple and you should be eating well to fuel you both. Let’s not mince words, the third trimester can be uncomfortable at times, but remember it’s only temporary and you’re about to get a bouncing wee baby. 

It leaves me breathless

If you’re feeling a little puffed there’s a reason why. Your expanding uterus is pressing against your diaphragm. Just relax and take it easy. Now is not the time to be attempting anything too strenuous.

I’m carrying enough water to fill a lake

During your third trimester most mums-to-be are likely to retain a fair bit of water. Your ankles, feet and fingers may all swell, and you probably won’t want to stand for any long period of time.

The only time you should be concerned about this is if swelling is very severe and accompanied by headaches, dizziness, nausea or visual disturbances. If this happens you should see your lead maternity carer straight away, as it could indicate something more serious.

I’ve got the urge to scratch

As your skins stretches over your bump it can get a little itchy. Using a gentle moisturizer on the area can help ease this. It’s unlikely, but if you find the itching is severe, especially at night, make sure you contact your lead maternity carer as it may indicate something more serious.

 

Weight gain is completely normal during pregnancy. It varies a lot from person to person, but around 12 to 16kg is average for a woman who has a healthy weight before getting pregnant. Your appetite might increase to make sure you’re eating enough too. As well as fuelling your baby, your body needs to lay down energy stores for breastfeeding later on. You also need plenty of nutrients for the increased tissue in your uterus, your placenta and your red blood cells.

Remember that while you’re eating for two, only one of you is full sized - you’re only aiming for around 200-300 extra calories a day which is equivalent to a sandwich and a piece of fruit, or a yoghurt with crackers and cheese. The third trimester is when your baby’s weight will triple so be sure to get a good balanced diet, but you don't need to eat lots more. 

Gaining weight is a natural part of being pregnant. While it’s also true that too much weight gain can affect your health and increase your blood pressure, it’s not a good idea to diet while you’re pregnant. This is because it can leave you low in nutrients like iron and folic acid, which can have side effects for both you and your baby. A well balanced diet that leaves you feeling satisfied is what you're aiming for-not food restriction.

This is an essential B-vitamin that is important during conception and pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Your GP or lead maternity carer will recommend a supplement to take before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is found in some foods like green leafy vegetable, wholegrain breads, cereals and brown rice, but you don’t get enough in your diet during pregnancy, and that’s why you need to take a supplement.

The NZ Food Safety Authority has detailed information about safe eating during pregnancy , including which foods to avoid. Here is a quick list of foods to stay away from during pregnancy:

  •  Certain types of cheese – avoid soft pasteurised cheeses e.g. brie, camembert, blue, ricotta, mozzarella because these can contain listeria, a bacteria which can harm your unborn baby. Stick to eating the harder yellow varieties like Edam or Tasty for now.
  • Cream and custard  – avoid pre-prepared foods e.g. bakery items with custard or cream used as an ingredient, and avoid ready-made chilled custard as well.
  • Hummus  – avoid store bought or homemade hummus - this includes tahini and pre-packaged chilled dips. It’s best to avoid these altogether during pregnancy as these can contain bacteria. 
  • Paté -  avoid as this can contain listeria too - even vegetable paté isn't safe.
  • Raw or partially cooked eggs –  eggs can contain salmonella, which is a major cause of food poisoning. You should avoid any food that contains uncooked egg, like homemade mayonnaise. That doesn’t mean you should avoid eggs altogether, as they’re great source of protein. Just make sure the egg yolk and white are both well cooked before you eat them. 
  • Raw, cured and undercooked meat – switch that extra rare steak for something less pink. Raw, undercooked, or cured meats like ham and salami, or other deli meats, increase the risk of food poisoning and parasitic infections. These can affect your baby's development.  Be extra careful of chicken as it can contain salmonella and other bacteria. It should be well cooked, right the way through. You should also watch out for smoked salmon, as this hasn’t been through a traditional cooking process and can still carry bacteria. It’s a good idea to avoid this during pregnancy. 
  • Liver - liver contains large amounts of Vitamin A, and too much of this vitamin can harm your baby. Be selective with vitamin or mineral supplements too, if you think you need one, always check in with your GP or lead maternity carer for advice.
  • Some types of fish – fish are an amazing source of vitamins, minerals and protein. Fish is also high in omega 3 fatty acids, which help your baby's nervous system develop. Most common fish varieties are safe, but some may contain higher levels of Mercury. Check out the foodsmart.govt.nz website for more information on fish varieties to avoid .
  • Raw shellfish  – avoid all raw shellfish these can contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
  • Pre-prepared chilled meals and leftovers - make sure you keep all cooked foods in the fridge and then cook them at high temperatures to kill off any bacteria. The whole dish should be piping hot.
  • Alcohol - safe limits are unknown, so many health professionals say it’s best to avoid alcohol completely. 
  • Caffeine - too much caffeine can lead to low birth weight, and it’s also been linked with miscarriage. Limit your intake for now or choose decaffienated versions of your favourite hot drinks.
  • Sushi – it’s best to avoid sushi altogether for now.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health makes recommendations about healthy eating for pregnant women (Ministry of Health.2006.Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant and breastfeeding Women: A background paper. Wellington: Ministry of Health).Generally what you need to eat during pregnancy is a wide variety of nutritious foods, with a little bit extra to fuel you and your growing baby.  Make sure each day you choose a variety of foods from each of the four food groups: fruit and veges, breads and cereals, meat/high protein foods and milk and dairy products:

  • Fruit and veges – whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned, they are full of nutrients and fibre.
  • Starchy carbohydrates - bread, pasta, rice, kumara and potatoes. Not only do they taste good, but they’ll give you plenty of energy too.
  • Fibre – you can find this in wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, fruit and vegetables. Constipation can be a common problem in pregnancy and fibre can help to get things moving.
  • Protein - lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, legumes, seeds and nuts are all good sources of protein, and provide your body with iron and zinc.
  • Fish – aim for at least two servings a week as part of your protein rich foods. Fish, particularly oily fish, is a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which is essential for normal growth and development.
  • Milk and milk products – foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are a great source of calcium and protein. 
  • Water – try and drink plenty of fluids, nine glasses of water or other fluids each day if you're pregnant, or ten glasses of water or other fluids each day of you'r breastfeeding
  • A vitamin and mineral supplement – the only supplement you definitely need to take is a folic acid supplement and your diet will supply the rest of the important nutrients you need.  If you are really concerned that you’re lacking in a certain nutrient like iron talk to your GP.

A few nutrients to note:

  • Protein – this is important for your baby’s growth and development. The amino acids that make up protein are literally the building blocks of all the body's cells. Sources of protein are lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs that are well cooked, legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Folic acid (folate) –this is an essential B-vitamin that is important during conception and pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Your GP or lead maternity carer will recommend a supplement to take before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is found in some foods like green leafy vegetable, wholegrain breads, cereals and brown rice, but you don’t get enough in your diet during pregnancy, and that’s why you need to take a supplement.
  • Calcium - between weeks four and six of your pregnancy, your baby’s bones will start to form, so it’s important that you have enough calcium in your body. Calcium is also important to help your baby’s muscle, heart and nerve development.  Great sources of calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese (go for the pasteurised kind) and yoghurt. You can also find it in some nuts and seeds e.g. sesame seeds, brazil nuts and almonds, as well as vegetables like broccoli, and kale (a type of cabbage). Canned fish (with bones) like salmon also has plenty of calcium. 
  • Having enough Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and the main source of this is simple sunshine on your skin. That doesn’t mean you should spend hours catching rays in the back yard and risk getting sunburnt, especially not here in NZ where our UV count is very high. Stick to the sun safe rules, wear sunscreen, and stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.  However, you do need to expose your skin to some sunlight to get enough Vitamin D. In winter it can be hard to get enough Vitamin D, so make sure you spend time outdoors and show your skin some sunlight. The exact amount of sun you need to produce enough Vitamin D varies from person to person, but if you spend most of your time indoors, or cover your skin with clothing all year around, you may need to chat to your GP about whether you need a supplement. 
  • Iron –that magic mineral that helps so many functions in your body, including helping produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients through your body to your baby. During pregnancy, your baby will be taking lots of iron from you, so it’s important that you make sure you have plenty of iron in your diet, so you both get enough.  Iron is found in a range of foods like meat, green veges, dried fruit and legumes like baked beans. But by far the best source of iron is from lean red meat, chicken and fish, and the redder the meat the higher the iron. Aim to eat lean red meat three or four times a week. Green leafy veges, legumes, fortified breakfast cereals and eggs all contain iron, but your body doesn’t absorb it very easily. A trick to helping you absorb more iron is to eat food that’s high in Vitamin C at the same time, fruit and veges like oranges, kiwi fruit and yellow capsicums are all good. Avoid drinking tea with your meals as the tannins reduce iron absorption.  If you are concerned you are low in iron, have a chat with your GP who may suggest an iron supplement.

We’ve all heard that fitness and nutrition work hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle, and this is even more important during pregnancy. In fact, it can help keep your weight under control, give you more strength for labour and even make it easier to recover after the birth. Just take it easy and consult your GP or lead maternity carer before you start any exercise program.

You’ve possibly had heart burn some time in your life before now, but it often increases during pregnancy. This is mainly due to hormonal changes which relax the valve to your stomach so acid can pass back into your oesophagus.

Your growing uterus pressing against your stomach can also cause heartburn, especially in your third trimester. It’s more likely to strike you after a meal, but don’t be surprised if it sneaks up on you at other times too.

Heartburn and indigestion aren’t dangerous to you or your baby, but that doesn't make it comfortable for you! It can be painful and it can make it difficult for you to relax and get a decent night’s sleep. There are a few tricks you can try to ease it, but if it’s a major problem you can ask your lead maternity carer for advice, or talk to a pharmacist about over-the-counter options that are safe for pregnant women.

In the meantime, try these tips to be more comfortable:

  • Perfect posture – as tempting as it might be to laze on the sofa during a meal, sitting up straight while you’re eating can help by taking pressure off your stomach.
  • Take a break from rich food – things like fried or spicy foods can trigger an attack of heart burn, try foods with less fat, and spices.
  • Graze – try eating smaller meals more often, rather than three big meals a day.
  • Love milk – a cold glass of milk can work wonders for soothing heart burn.
  • Sit up and snooze - sleeping in a semi-upright position can sometimes help, just make sure you’re well propped up on pillows so you’re still comfortable.

Morning sickness is a feeling of nausea triggered by a surge of pregnancy hormones. It is perfectly normal in many pregnant women and usually strikes in the first trimester, but eases after week 14 in most cases.

A big surge of pregnancy hormones arrives in your first trimester. Unfortunately this can trigger a feeling of nausea, commonly called morning sickness. It generally peaks around week 10, and it should settle down by weeks 12-13.

While it’s named ‘morning sickness’ it can actually hit you at any time of the day. You might find yours is more like ‘after lunch’ or ‘early evening sickness’. There are also some mums-to-be who experience morning sickness right through till the very end of their pregnancy. Try to remember that it’ll all pass.

 

Try to remember – morning sickness will pass. In the meantime here are a few tips to help ease the nausea:

  • Easy does it - get up slowly in the morning and try a plain snack like a cracker or toast before getting out of bed.
  • Rest up - being really tired can sometimes make your feel worse. Try to get plenty of sleep, if there’s ever been a time to take it easy it’s when you’re pregnant.
  • Snack away - eating little amounts more often can help to balance your blood sugar and help you feel less ill. 
  • Sip on a smoothie – having a chilled smoothie made with milk, yoghurt and fruit in the fridge can give you something tasty and full of calcium to sip on over the day if you don’t feel like solid food.  Adding a supplement like Complan can help provide some of that extra nutrition you might be missing out on.
  • Hydrate – drinking lots of fluids can make a difference, it’s also important to keep hydrated if you’ve been sick a lot. 
  • Hold your nose - avoid smells that make you feel worse. Cooking odours, perfume and cigarettes smoke are common triggers for morning sickness
  • Get a kitchen helper – if you can, have someone cook for you when you’re not feeling so great. 
  • The blander the better – if you’re having trouble keeping food down, go for plain high carbohydrate options like potatoes and pasta. Be wary of spicy, fatty and highly flavoured meals as they can make you feel worse.
  • Grab a bite before bed – having a light, plain snack before you go to sleep can sometimes help, just don’t overdo it as late meals can also give you a bit of heartburn.
  • Get your stretchy pants on – go for comfort all the way. Clothing that’s really tight around your waist can add to the nausea. 

A few things that might make you feel better:

  •   Food containing ginger
  •   Toast
  •   Sparkling water
  •   Natural yoghurt
  •   Plain crackers or biscuits
  •   Salty snacks
  •   Fruit juice
  •   Raw vegetables
  •   Chamomile or peppermint tea
  •   Glucose drinks
  •   Lollies or chewing gum

By eating a well balanced diet, with a variety of foods form the four food groups each day, you’re providing your baby with good nutrition for healthy growth and development.

There are some nutrients you need a little more of during pregnancy (and breastfeeding), but by following the suggestion above you should be covered. For more information take a look at the section on healthy eating during pregnancy.