It feels like everywhere you look at the moment, there’s an abundance of bouncing babies and toddlers in prams and pushchairs.
But what about if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or think you might be already? What do you need to know? What should you be doing to help yourself have a safe and healthy pregnancy? And what do you do when you think you might be pregnant?
Firstly, if you are looking to become pregnant, make sure you have a healthy varied diet and try to keep a healthy weight.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol as this can cause permanent developmental damage to your baby, and cut down or stop smoking to reduce the risk of a range of problems including low birth weight and breathing problems for your baby.
Next, are you pregnant? If you think you might be, you can purchase a pregnancy test kit from your local pharmacy or main supermarket, or alternatively you can discreetly collect or request a free pregnancy testing kit from the drop-in Health Information & Resources Service at Stornoway Health Centre, tel. (01851) 701545.
You also need to think about Folic Acid – before, during and after your pregnancy. Folic Acid is needed as it helps to produce red blood cells, and can be found naturally in certain foods such as spinach, asparagus, and broccoli, as well as being available in vitamin form.
Many breakfast cereals and orange juices are also fortified with Folic Acid, simply read the label to check.
Folic Acid is also very important as it helps protect your baby from developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which is a cause of disability.
During the early part of your pregnancy babies develop very quickly, and Folic Acid is particularly important for their development.
Most women don’t know they’re pregnant during the first few weeks – when folic acid is most important for baby, so this is why taking foods containing folic acid should be included into your daily eating habits.
As a rule all adults need 200 mcg of Folic Acid per day. Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant, or who are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy need 400 mcg per day.
If you’re already pregnant you should start taking Folic Acid supplements and talk to your Midwife or GP about how long you should continue taking them.
When you first find out you are pregnant, there’s no need to see your GP – you should contact a Midwife through your local Maternity Team for your first appointment – Lewis and Harris, tel. 01851 704704; Uists, tel. 01870 603354; and Barra tel. 0758 038 4601 or 01871 810 282.
On your first appointment you will meet your Midwife who will explain the screening options, tests and care available. Booking to see your midwife within the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy will help you get the best start for you and your baby.
If you have any issues about your pregnancy, a discreet meeting can be arranged outwith hospital premises before your first appointment by simply contacting the Maternity Team’s anonymous text service, tel. 0776 993 2189.
There’s a lot to think about in the coming months, and having the right information can help you make some important decisions.
Your Midwife will be happy to answer questions as your pregnancy progresses, as well as offering information on maternity leave, benefits, and tips on caring for your baby for the first year. You can also visit the Ready, Steady, Baby! website or download the RSB app at: www.readysteadybaby.org.uk
Local Parentcraft classes are offered to parents-to-be from 28-30 weeks, and this can also be a great opportunity to meet other expectant parents and make new friendships.
Information on the importance of eating a healthy diet, weight management, and avoiding unsafe foods such as raw or partially cooked eggs, meats, and certain types of cheeses during pregnancy, is also provided.
Additional information on breastfeeding classes is also offered, as well information on free dental care while you’re pregnant, and for one year after the birth of your baby.
Alcohol and smoking during your pregnancy is harmful to both mum and baby, and can cause risks within your pregnancy and labour.
There are also added risks of smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke, which include miscarriage, stillbirth, cot death, and chronic conditions including asthma.
Drinking alcohol in pregnancy should be avoided as this can lead to an increased risk of development issues and physical disabilities including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
FASD effects can include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities. Alcohol can also be passed from your bloodstream into your breast milk, which can reduce your supply of breast milk and affect your baby’s sleep patterns.
Have you also heard about the benefits of Healthy Start? Healthy Start is invaluable to parents-to-be, and families of children under four, and helps you save money on your shopping each week.
With Healthy Start, you may be entitled to receive free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children aged 6 months to 4 years, are also entitled to free Healthy Start Pregnancy Vitamins (which contain Folic Acid) and Children’s Drops, which can be collected from your Midwife, GP surgery, or the drop-in Health Information & Resources Service.
To find out more about Healthy Start and how you and your family could benefit, simply ask your Midwife or Health Visitor, or visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk
Finally, don’t forget your local ParentingWI website, which is simply a must to visit.
ParentingWI is regularly updated and features information from your local Maternity and Health Visiting teams, and offers links to Ready Steady Baby and Ready Steady Toddler, as well as information on local events, mother and toddler groups, and croileagans. Simply visit: www.parentingwi.scot.nhs.uk