Midwife, author, blogger & mum-of-four Clemmie Hooper* reveals her pregnancy tips for keeping tabs on your bump
Have you ever had a funny little twinge but been unsure whether to trouble your midwife? You’re not alone: according to a survey from baby charity Tommy’s, 60% of pregnant women worry about wasting midwives’ time by voicing their concerns. Which is why in 2017 they launched #AlwaysAsk, a campaign to encourage women to do just that. And it’s not just the medical profession urging us to be more vocal. The Department of Health aims to halve rates of stillbirths by 2025, saving more than 4,000 lives, by informing mothers-to-be about looking after themselves and, when things have gone wrong, offering independent investigations to find out what happened and why. Here’s Clemmie’s advice on how to look after your baby-in-waiting:
Be aware of your baby's kicks
“Somewhere between 16 and 24 weeks, you should start to feel the baby move, and these movements increase up until around 32 weeks, after which they stay roughly the same until birth. Don’t get hung up on numbers though – the old advice was to count the kicks, but we don’t recommend this anymore, as every baby’s movements are different. What’s important is that you get to know the pattern of your baby’s movements."
“One thing to remember is that babies don’t ‘run out of room’ in the latter stages, so they shouldn’t kick less. Reduced movement may indicate a baby in distress (though this isn’t the only cause), so it’s essential to speak to your midwife or maternity unit immediately – rest assured, they would rather be safe than sorry!”
Plan for the scan
“Many women think of the 20-week scan in terms of the exciting one when you can find out if you’re having a boy or girl. However, its main purpose is to check for abnormalities in your baby’s growth. It can take over an hour as the sonographer is checking that everything is as it should be and looking at the baby in lots of detail. There may be a few long silences as they take measurements, so try not to be alarmed. And there may be more than one doctor present so they might use terminology that you don’t understand. Lots of women come away from this one feeling as though they should have asked more questions – to seek reassurance, for example, as to whether the heart and other major organs look OK or to check if the placenta looks as though it’s in a good position, so it’s worth writing down any questions you have beforehand and speaking up while you’re there. Feel free to write down the answers.”
Almost two-thirds of pregnant women felt they weren’t given enough information to understand their 20-week scan before they went to it, according to research by baby heart health charity Tiny Tickers.
Look out for leaks
“Most of us aren’t massively keen on examining – let alone discussing – the contents of our knickers but, when pregnant, needs must. Women can confuse the leaking of amniotic fluid – which means their waters have broken – with urine. Urinary incontinence is especially common towards the end of pregnancy as the pressure of the baby and placenta pushes on all the muscle and tissue around your pelvic floor and bladder. Sneezing, coughing or laughing can mean a leak. But if you are at all worried that it isn’t urine at any stage of your pregnancy, it’s vital to seek help. Amniotic fluid smells different from urine and if you think your waters have broken, call your midwife or labor ward.”
Watch the pressure
“High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 10-15% of pregnant women. In a small number of cases, it can develop into pre-eclampsia, a condition that can, if left untreated, be dangerous for both mother and baby. During pregnancy the added blood volume puts pressure on your body, which can cause your blood pressure to rise. Your midwife will check this at every antenatal appointment (which is why it’s essential you don’t miss any!) and look for changes in the reading. If your midwife has any concerns, she may refer you to see an obstetrician to discuss monitoring and treatment.”
If you have concerns about your blood pressure, your first port of call should always be a medical professional. But if you want to keep an extra-close eye on it, plenty of at-home blood pressure monitors are available.
Keep up your iron
“About one in five women develops iron-deficiency anemia in pregnancy because the body demands extra iron for the baby. Without enough iron in your blood – it needs around 14.8mg per day – your organs and tissues won’t get as much oxygen and you may feel tired, even breathless. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs and transports it throughout your body. Panic not – anemia is something your midwife will be alert to, and a blood test will tell you if your hemoglobin levels are too low, which can be a sign. The test is done at your booking appointment at around 10 weeks and again at 28 weeks. If you are found to have iron-deficiency anemia, it is likely that your GP will prescribe iron tablets and suggest an iron-rich diet. With this, as with everything above or any further concerns you may have – if you’re worried always speak to a midwife or GP, not to Dr Google or a friend.”
It’s particularly important to eat a healthy, varied diet when you’re pregnant. If you sometimes struggle to do this you may wish to consider a pregnancy-supporting supplement, which can help support your iron intake and will also include other important nutrients such as folic acid** and vitamin D†. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
*Clemmie Hooper is the author of How to grow a baby and push it out (Vermilion)
**A daily supplement containing 400mcg of folic acid should be taken from before becoming pregnant until the 12th week of pregnancy
†Consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D during autumn and winter