Congratulations! You just found out that you have conceived, or are planning to conceive (or might as well have gone through the drill a few times by now and reading this). Sadly, our society and culture do not encourage much communication regarding gynecological concerns of a woman. Pregnancy and childbirth are spoken about behind closed doors in a hush-hush manner, despite the fact that it’s the most natural process of reproducing and lack of right information gives rise to a lots of serious health issues in our women.
Most women simply jump into this journey unprepared to encounter a lots of surprises which come their way. It’s mostly trial & error, with girls gaining experience only as they go with the flow. A plethora of information is lying over the internet for those who can access it, but not all of it can be deemed suitable to our environment, culture and situation. Pakistan, unfortunately has a lack of specialized gynecologists, and not everyone has access to good health care professionals who would give each patient a proper time to answer their queries and concerns with utmost responsibility. Therefore, being well-informed and educated about the basics of pregnancy and motherhood is your best bet.
For all of you young desi girls, we have compiled a list of the most essential pregnancy basics…..stuff that not many will tell you about. Taking care of these will lead you towards a stress free and healthy pregnancy. Enjoy!
1. Pre-natal Doctor visits
It is very critical for your peace of mind to carefully choose an excellent gynecologist that you are comfortable with. Your pre-natal visits begin as soon as you have missed out your period, which is when you should immediately rush to a doctor to get a Beta HCG test (Blood) which is most commonly used to determine pregnancies and can show the results at earlier stages too. You can also opt for a home based pregnancy strip test (urine) which detects the presence of HCG in your body, but blood based Beta HCG Test is considered far more reliable and accurate and at some instances a urine strip test may not give you accurate results depending upon the quality of the strip or other situations.
Pre-natal visits include general examination to determine your and baby’s well-being during the pregnancy. The doctor will perform blood tests, urine tests, heart beat, ultrasound scans, weight and many other tests as and when needed to assess the pregnancy and any existing complication or abnormality. Your gynecologist will examine you in detail at few intervals during the pregnancy and will answer all your concerns, so it’s best to MAKE FULL USE of these appointments and bring forward ANY query that you might have without being shy.
In our desi culture, it is very easy to get into family’s, in-law’s or peer’s pressure while choosing the gynecologist. Our advise is that you should go for somebody that YOU are comfortable with, and preferably a doctor who responds well to text messages, e-mails or phone calls at any hour of the day.
2. Morning sickness
We have all heard of it and associated pregnancies with that nauseous feeling, an urge to vomit, general fatigue, dizziness and tiredness. Let’s admit it that whether or not we have encountered a real life pregnant woman, we have seen pregnancies projected this way in all those Bollywood movies and desi soaps, so ‘morning sickness’ is not a novel concept for us desi moms.
Morning sickness occurs due to an upsurge of hormones in our body (which is a completely healthy sign of pregnancy) making us queasy and nauseous. As the name suggests, it does not necessarily occur in the morning, as is the popular belief too. You can feel nauseous anytime of the day. About 20-30% pregnant women might not even feel any morning sickness at all during their pregnancy, so if you are one of them, feel blessed.
3. A good Balanced Diet
A BIG NO to eating junk and fatty food, even if that’s all you have thrived upon all your life. Eating a lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, starchy foods (preferably whole grain), proteins, dairy, greens, smoothies and staying hydrated will benefit you a lot in staying fresh and active throughout the next few months.
For your good health’s sake, A-V-O-I-D people who tell you that you now have to ‘eat for two…equivalent to double your normal meals’. This is a very unhealthy myth common among desi folks, and probably one of the reasons why desi women are so inactive and lethargic during pregnancy. The baby inside you is too little even at the ninth month to be able to accept the double amount of food you take. A girl needs no more than 300 extra calories, that as well only during the last trimester, to maintain a healthy balanced diet to keep up with the pre-natal nutrition requirements of the baby. This is equivalent to a single light snack in between your meals. Try to keep these calories coming from healthy sources ONLY. Remember it is your body and no matter how bad you crave all the junk right now, you will eventually also CRAVE the body you had before the baby. EAT WISE.
(PS: In case you want to act all sneaky, your doctor will be keeping a record of your weight gain from the very first trimester and will guide you best on how much is excess and how much is a normal for you )
4. Keep that body moving, ladies!
Shake off all those advises of desi people telling you to stick to bed, because you are pregnant. Pregnancy is NOT an illness. There is a good amount of muscle strengthening and yoga exercises online that you can perform till the last day of your pregnancy. Feel free to follow them after you get a go ahead from your doctor of course, as each pregnancy is different. If you don’t feel the energy and heart to follow cardio or yoga exercises at home, simply go out for a WALK. Incorporate a 30 minutes walk regime into your routine.
Remember that any kind of exercise during these nine months is an instant mood booster and will keep all those pregnancy blues away. It will also help fight away lethargy, body aches and excess weight gain. Exercising prepares your body towards an easy labor too by strengthening your muscles and endurance level.
Pregnancy multivitamin supplements which are most commonly recommended to be taken are Folic Acid and Vitamin D. Folic Acid (400 mcg) is prescribed to be taken in the first trimester and help minimize the risk of neural tube defect in the baby. On the other hand Vitamin D is essential to regulate the levels of Calcium and phosphate in your body, critical for both you and your baby.
With now a new being extracting nutrients from your body, chances are you might develop some sort of deficiency during the pregnancy no matter how careful you are in term of your diet. Your doctor will identify any such deficiencies from your blood test results and will prescribe you supplements accordingly. For instance, iron deficiency is commonly heard of in the last trimester. Many doctors in Pakistan do prescribe Iron/ Cal supplements by the Second or third trimester.
To avoid any such situation, try to maintain a very healthy and balanced diet and take your supplements religiously. Remember, YOU are responsible for your health, strictly follow what you are told to.
6. TOO much Wisdom around
Every single person you will encounter in this period and post birth, will have some golden words of wisdom to dispense. Sadly, in our part of the world, myths dominate more than a doctor’s word or a fact would. Be careful whose advise you are buying. If possible, strictly stick to your doctor’s words as she knows your case the best.
Well in advance!
Many desi people feel very superstitious when it comes to pregnancies and childbirth. They don’t believe in finding out the gender, or starting the preparations till the time the baby does not arrive in fear of catching ‘burri nazar’ (evil eye) or avoiding any unforeseen situations where the odds might turn against you (God forbid). While this might truly keep you away from any heart breaks later on, it is still best to remember that you will NOT find even a tiniest bit of time with a new baby at hand for at least first few weeks, and the last trimester drains an expecting mother enough to allow her any preparation, so better get on your feet somewhere in the second trimester, especially if you already know the gender and start collecting the basics. Our blog posts on the baby basics (coming soon) and Hospital Basics will help you plan out the essentials which will help you pass the first few weeks easily.
So set the nursery or the baby ‘s area (if that is inside your room as is the case mostly in our country), shop for the baby’s and mother’s essentials, get the house chores done, stock food items in fridge and pantry and be ready well in advance.
8. SLEEP, SLEEP, SLEEP
Not a lot of people will advise you this, but you might not get a good night’s sleep for perhaps the rest of your life now, (we didn’t mean to sound evil :)) and especially the first few years with the baby, and other babies coming subsequently. SLEEP while you can and while you have the luxury to.
9. Enjoy your ME time
It is very difficult to take out time for yourself once the baby is there for at least first few weeks/ months. Many babies do not respond too well to going out and socializing with people for a long, long time. Be prepared to be devoid of your personal time, and especially the time alone with your spouse, and while you do have it….enjoy the max of it.
You are doing a BIG thing. This has to be most definitely your BIGGEST achievement and the most essential milestone in life.
Pregnancies are very stressful, with fluctuating hormones and physical unrest. Don’t let anyone ruin it for you. Celebrate your pregnancy every single day.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS AND THE BEST IS YET TO COME 🙂