Pregnancy is a time for practising self love and care, nurturing your body so that you may bring another into the world. It can also be a rather daunting time, you question every action you take and wonder if you are doing the best for you and your baby (note: this doesn’t stop once the baby comes out!). The fact is, if you are questioning what you are doing then you are already doing your best! I didn’t do anything wildly different when I became pregnant, but there were a few more items in my shopping basket and activities in my day which weren’t there pre-pregnancy, which I am going to share with you now.
“Are you sure you’ll use it?”, asked Daddy-to-be when I mentioned I wanted to buy a birthing ball during my pregnancy. We live in a two-up, two-down medieval cottage so space is scarce and by this time, about halfway through my pregnancy, the house and attic were starting to look rather full of baby-nalia. “Of course!” I replied and my word did that ball get a lot of use. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I found it quite uncomfortable to sit on the sofa and this ball was a welcome respite! When sitting on the ball correctly, the weight of the baby comes forward, taking the pressure off your back and internal organs. I found this a great relief from lower back pain and I could sit comfortably through a Netflix binge.
You can also use the ball to encourage optimal foetal positioning (read more here), for your pelvic floor exercises, and my birthing ball (bought from Natural Birth Fitness) even came with a booklet of prenatal, labour and postnatal exercises.
I didn’t learn about episiotomies until well into my second trimester. When my friend said the word to me I had to ask her what one was. Having grimaced at the explanation, I found myself quickly Googling preventative measures. I bought Weleda Perineum Massage Oil, and the massage became a once or twice daily ritual in our house from around 35 weeks. I escaped childbirth with a first degree tear (not sutured) in my notes, described as a graze in the postpartum inspection of my lady-bits. Not sutured means no stitches, in case you were wondering!
Was my outcome down to the massage or pot luck? Well, according to a Cochrane review of four trials (2497 women) perineal massage, which was undertaken by the woman or her partner (for as little as once or twice a week from 35 weeks), reduced the likelihood of perineal trauma (mainly episiotomies) and ongoing perineal pain. “By her partner?!” I hear you cry! Well, you try reaching down there and applying any forceable pressure (which is what you need for the massage to be effective) with a sizeable baby bump. Whilst it might seem like a romance killer at the time, partners will be thankful they complied in the future!
Dates (and Raspberry Leaf Tea!)
But that’s two things I hear you cry! Well these were two foodstuffs added to my shopping cart that I didn’t always buy prior to pregnancy. Dates were sometimes in the house but raspberry leaf tea, never! The reason for my grouping together these two items is whilst dates have a couple of highly regarded studies into their health benefits during pregnancy, with raspberry leaf tea there research is limited and results unclear.
One study found that consuming 60-80g of dates in late pregnancy was effective for decreasing the length of labour processes and reduced the need of oxytocin for labour acceleration. Another study found that women who consumed dates had a significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared to non-date fruit consumers and a significantly higher proportion of intact membranes. Spontaneous labour occurred in 96% of those who consumed dates, compared with 79% women in the non-date fruit consumers. Use of synthetic prostin/oxytocin was significantly lower in women who consumed dates (28%), compared with the non-date fruit consumers (47%). The mean latent phase of the first stage of labour was shorter in women who consumed date fruit compared with the non-date fruit consumers (510 min vs 906 min). This study concluded that the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome.
Raspberry leaf tea is thought to help improve blood supply and tone the muscles of the uterine area however as mentioned studies are limited. Due to its effect on the uterine area, it is not recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy, and ideally to be introduced around 32 weeks with 1 cup a day building up to 3 cups. Despite limited data, I drank my raspberry leaf tea religiously from around 32 weeks. To be honest, I got to love the taste and it was a refreshing change from glass after glass of water!
You can read all about the supplements I took during pregnancy here, but my advice would be to consult a qualified nutritionist if you have any dietary concerns. When it comes to supplements, always buy the best quality that you can afford, which isn’t always the most expensive. Again, it is always best to seek professional advice.
My baby was born in a heatwave, and the final month or so of my pregnancy was the beginnings of said heatwave. I love the sun and hot weather, but even I struggling with the extra load. One item that I bought in preparation for the birth but ended up using way before was this USB charging handheld fan with a mist function. I put my anchor scent in for hypnobirthing and this fan became my companion wherever I went for a good month, and was a blessing when labour was in full swing!