Her health in pregnancy: the basics
During pregnancy your partner's body will change drastically over a short time. As well as the obvious, visible changes to her body as her stomach and breasts grow, there are hidden, hormonal changes as her body protects and nourishes the baby. Essentially your partner's body has to support another human being and this will take its toll on her health. But there are certain things you can do to make it more comfortable for her and give your child the best start in life. Here are a few things to consider....
- By the time she's missed a period she may be feeling the early signs of pregnancy - tender or swollen breasts, tiredness, a need to pee more often and mood swings.
- Morning sickness (which, actually, can strike at any time of the day) may soon follow.
- If you're at her side, going to antenatal classes, bringing her dry biscuits and giving her the chance for a siesta or lie in, not only do you help her, but you are also involved in your child’s life right from the start.
- Women can also suffer headaches, a stuffed nose and even nose bleeds when pregnant.
OK, it’s inevitable that she will gain weight but it varies – some women put on around ½ to 1kg a month in the first three months, some don’t show at all at this stage.
- As the bump begins to show, around 12 weeks, nausea usually (although not always) lessens and she may (again, but not always!) experience a rush of energy.
- Her skin may show some changes: a dark line can come out from the navel to pubic bone and she may get the pregnancy glow or come out in an embarrassing rash of teenage spots.
- Stretch marks (silver lines on the skin) and spider veins (often star shaped, slightly raised and blue) are common. Everyone has magic cures for these, which are unlikely to work but a soothing massage with cream or oil will always be welcome.
LUMPS, BUMPS AND ACHES
- As the pregnancy progresses, your partner may find it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep, need to make regular trips to the loo, and may suffer heartburn.
- Help her by arranging pillows so she can sleep in a comfortable position and support her to eat little and often, sitting upright during and after meals.
- Offer back rubs for the inevitable backache.
- At around 20-24 weeks, is when a first time Mum is likely to feel her baby move for the first time. You too can have the joy of having your hand or ear kicked a fortnight or so later.
- Her breasts may leak colostrum (the thick, rich early milk).
Does she need to change her diet?
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is an important at any time, but especially so for a woman during pregnancy, to help support baby to develop and grow.
While it is not true that women have to ‘eat for two’ she may find that at points in her pregnancy that she is hungrier than usual.
There are some food which are not recommended during pregnancy – for up to date information on foods to avoid, check out the NHS guidance.
By taking folic acid during the first trimester she will reduce the risk of conditions such as spina bifida.
WHAT EXERCISE CAN SHE DO?
It is safe for your partner to continue most exercise if she wishes, if she has been used to doing it before she became pregnant. If she is not used to exercising, gentle exercise like walking and swimming will boost her circulation, control weight gain, improve digestion and prepare her body for birth
Exercise can be a good way for you both to spend time together, but there are also specific classes aimed at pregnant women, that are great for meeting other expectant mums as well as keeping active. These vary from area to area, so research what is local!
SHOULD WE GIVE UP SMOKING?
Your unborn baby’s health can be negatively affected by anyone smoking nearby. Nicotine decreases blood flow to the womb and carbon monoxide cuts oxygen levels in the blood, reducing the baby’s size and increasing the chance of miscarriage and later developmental problems.
Expectant mums are less likely to be able to give up if their partner continues to smoke. So, if you smoke, quitting now will support her to do the same and cut the risk of problems with the baby.
While there are a number of options open to you to kick the habit such as nicotine patches, inhalers and gum, nicotine substitutes are not suitable during pregnancy so your partner will need to use will-power. Your GP or NHS Direct can advise on other methods of giving up smoking, such as support groups in your area.
WHAT ABOUT DRINKING?
The recommendation in the UK is it is safer to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Miscarriage, low birth weight and complications during labour are linked to alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Your partner will find it easier to stop or cut down during pregnancy if you also do so.
Consuming high levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight, and in some circumstances also link to miscarriage. Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods, such as coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate, and is added to some soft drinks. Your partner does not need to cut out caffeine completely, but guidance is to try avoid any more than 200mg a day, which is equivalent to three cups of tea or two cups of instant coffee.
It is recommended that your partner aims to drink eight glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration and improve the supply of nutrients to your baby.
DOING DRUGS SUCH AS COCAINE OR CANNABIS HARM THE BABY?
Pregnant women who regularly use cannabis are increasing their chances of premature birth and a lower birth weight for the baby. Cocaine use increases the chance of birth defects. Essentially, any drugs your partner takes are going to be passed onto the baby through the placenta and may cause problems for both mum and baby.
WHAT IF SHE CATCHES A COLD, FLU OR A STOMACH BUG?
Sometimes your partner will not only have the changes of pregnancy to deal, but also being ill. A woman’s immune system is suppressed during pregnancy (which allows the baby to grow and develop) making her more susceptible to everyday germs… To make it even trickier, many of the over-the-counter remedies which are commonly used to treat minor illnesses are not recommended for use in pregnancy.
In general, the pregnant woman’s body will ensure the baby’s nutritional needs are met first and foremost, so as long as your partner makes sure she stays hydrated, baby is likely to be ok. However, as with anything, if either you have any concerns, it is always best to consult a medical professional like your GP or midwife. If you are worried, make an appointment, don’t wait until your next check-up.