So, you’re thinking about having a baby. Maybe you’ve already decided that the time is right, or perhaps you have a one, two or five year plan to expand your family. Either way, you’re comfortable with your decision to have a little one of your own, you’re ready for it and you’re certainly excited about it. Now what you really need is some good information. With this in mind, we’ve put together some of the best resources for each stage of planning for pregnancy and pregnancy itself.
Is there anything you haven’t thought of?
It’s normal to worry about the timing of having a child, particularly the first one. There are careers, social commitments and financial considerations and all the natural concerns about how a baby might affect a relationship. You’ve seen sleep-deprived friends turn into zombies, you’ve baulked at the sound of a screaming child in a confined space, and you’ve heard horror stories about the delivery room. You know these are all part of the package, but you also know that parenthood and a family is something you want and that the pros far outweigh the cons. Psychology Today outlines the advantages and disadvantages of parenthood, which is a fantastic resource for anyone experiencing any fear or doubt.
Resolving any personal issues
Making the decision to start a family can be a clear cut “Yes!” or swamped with insecurity and questions. If you’re trying to make a decision, the scenarios below could signal that it could be best to wait. We’re not saying any of the situations listed will result in unhappy parents and an unhappy child, but working these things out before baby comes leaves you freer to tackle the incredible journey that awaits.
1. Money matters
You and your partner are in serious debt or cannot agree on financial matters. This is not referring to a mortgage or a car loan, but instead to an uncontrolled financial situation that threatens your security. Money issues are the primary cause of relationship stress, with Psychology Today reporting a whopping 70% of couples reporting financial tension within a partnership. Maxed out credit cards, an inability to save and excessive personal loans are a few examples of things bring stress to a relationship, making further financial commitments such as a family more difficult.
Are you eligible for family assistance? If you really want to nut out the numbers, here’s a report by the University of Canberra showing how much having a child really costs in Australia. Seeking financial advice and budgeting diligently can help you bring renewed financial security to your relationship so you have one less worry when the baby comes.
2. Mental health
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s definitive report on mental health in Australia states 1 in 5 of us have experienced a mental health condition in the previous 12 months. A mental health condition does not preclude a person from parenthood, nor should it.
However, if either partner has a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder, ensure it is properly diagnosed and treated before baby arrives. An expectant mother will have additional monitoring of any medication and symptoms of worsening mental health. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has some excellent resources with more information.
3. Relationship stability
Are you drifting apart and hoping to reconnect through the love of a child? Stop! It’s rarely the solution. Parenthood relies on shared goals and values. If you want different things now, a child won’t change that. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, it may just make things worse.
4. Shared vision
It may sound self-evident, but you need to agree with your partner on how you will parent. Will you attachment-parent, free-range or helicopter-parent, teach violin from aged 2, choose a private school or public education? How you decide to parent is up to you, but a shared vision of parenting will ensure your relationship will stay strong. Essential Kids breaks down the art of negotiated parenting.
Pregnancy.com.au is your definitive resource for getting your body ready to conceive. They’ll take you through routine tests like blood pressure, glucose testing and STIs, review any medications you may be on and prescribe pre-natal vitamins such as folate for Mum and zinc for Dad. You’ll also get thorough advice on how to care for your body through diet, exercise, stress management, and things to avoid (like alcohol and dehydration). And pre-conception healthcare isn’t just for her – sperm mature over the course of three months, so good health practices apply equally to the male, he is providing half of the genetic material after all!
Re-focusing on health
Although the old mantra “I’m eating for two now” has long been myth-busted, as described by The Conversation. They explain you are consuming the nutrients for two, and you’re also exercising for two. The nutrient requirements for a pregnant woman certainly does increase, making the focus on daily fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrains important to baby’s growth, but serious deficiencies are rare in western countries. Instead, excessive weight gain is a more common scenario, which makes a exercising and eating moderately and appropriately a hallmark of a healthy pregnancy.
To keep in line with standard weight-guidelines for a healthy, pregnant woman, the current recommendations as outlined by Dr. Susie de Jersey for The Conversation, are as follows:
- Underweight women (a BMI of less than 18.5) should gain 12 to 18 kilograms throughout the pregnancy
- Women in the healthiest weight range (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) can expect to gain 11.5 to 16 kilograms
- Larger women (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain around 7 to 11.5 kilograms
A registered dietitian is qualified to help you achieve a satisfying, healthy and balanced diet throughout your pregnancy if you need some guidance along the way. The focus will be around fruits and vegetables, lean meats for those who are not vegetarian, wholegrains and pregnancy supplements. A dietitian with a special interest in exercise physiology may assist with your exercise regime too, but it is likely to reflect the standard guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
The importance of moving
Babycentre.com.au has produced an excellent guide to exercising during each stage of pregnancy. You’ll find detailed explanations on the benefits of exercise for both you and baby, the most effective exercise to control the more unpleasant sensations associated with carrying a child and the precautions you need to take to ensure your movement is appropriate for your general state of health. A very gentle pregnancy yoga may be a safe way to keep moving, but do be sure to seek out specialist advice first. There is enough quality advice available so you can make the right decisions for your situation in consultation with your doctor or specialist.
The pre-natal exam
Congratulations! You’re expecting! According to whattoexpect.com, your first pre-natal exam should take place at around the 8 to 10 week mark, or from whenever you confirm your pregnancy. This may seem early, but this appointment will establish a due date, a timeline for future examinations, and a full health history. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll have an ultrasound this early, you will undergo some of the routine physical tests again, such as a blood glucose check (to monitor for gestational diabetes), full blood tests, a pap smear, a full health history and a blood pressure check (to ascertain risk for preeclampsia). It’s also an opportunity for the expecting parents to ask questions about what to expect and how to care for the developing bub.
Surprise, you’re expecting! While the unexpected can be daunting, it’s an exciting time in your life and there are plenty of resources and services available to help you along the way. Although you may not have gone through the pre-pregnancy check-up and supplement regime of a planned pregnancy, there’s plenty of time to play catch-up. According to the non-profit organisation Children By Choice up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, meaning there are many surprised parents-to-be out there. They report more than half of unplanned pregnancies result in the parents choosing to keep and raise the child. While a pregnancy may come as a shock, all of the standard questions come into play – are you ready? Is your relationship strong and do you share values? Do you agree on parenting styles? Once that’s sorted, you can launch into action.
The rules of expecting
Every month or so, you’ll read about one more food, chemical or environmental toxin that will harm you and your baby, Some of it may have validity, but much of it will sensationalised for maximum media engagement. Choose your sources wisely and if you have a concern about something you’ve read or just heard through the grapevine, be sure to discuss it with your physician. There are still standard, science-based reasons to avoid certain substances during pregnancy, and they are extensive and exhaustive. Baby Centre provides a list of the major considerations and culprits:
- Raw fish
- Fish with high levels of mercury
- Raw or undercooked meat, including poultry
- Refrigerated smoked or pickled fish, unless cooked until steaming
- Cured meats like salami or pepperoni
- Raw or undercooked eggs
- Unpasteurised or raw dairy products
- Pre-made salads or buffets
- Unwashed fresh produce, particularly sprouts
- Picnic food that has been exposed to the elements for more than 2 hours
Consume with caution:
- Limit tuna
- Eat plenty of fish, but cook it well
- Ensure eggs yolks are cooked until solid
- Although soft cheese should be avoided, pasteurised soft cheese is fine (check the label)
- Small amounts of coffee or caffeine-based substances like Coke, tea and ice-creams
It’s an exhaustive list, but it is designed to protect you and the baby from infection and developmental problems.
You’re ready for birth
Your back is sore, you’re tired, your sleep is disturbed already and you can no longer work unless you are extremely fortunate. You are well and truly ready to meet the little beauty who has taken over your life for around 7 months. You may have a preference about where you’ll deliver, but if not, this resource from Baby Centre may help. Good luck with the new bundle of joy, and remember – there are invaluable resources at every turn.